Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Par for the course...

So it turns out there's a big hoopla about the Super Bowl Snickers Ad that showed two men kissing each other. More specifically, people are upset about the ad's additional web content that allowed the audience to vote on the commercial's ending. Now I saw the ad and I laughed--it seemed pretty silly--but when I looked over the web content I can certainly understand why gay rights groups would get upset, since it's obvious that some of these endings were insensitive, and perhaps downright violent.

But before everyone starts talking about how this is a political and anti-gay attack from a Pro-Republican company, I would like to mention a personal story in regards to the advertising industry.

Once I participated in a focus group for a Beck's beer series of ads. For those unfamiliar with a focus group, it's where a group of people from some particular demographic is gathered in a room, watches an ad, and gives feedback. (And for an hour or so work, the 100$ ain't too shabby). Anyway, the ads we saw were supposed to be focused on the idea of men who make choices. The one I remember the most was a guy who's at a concert with his friend and his friend's girlfriend. The friend goes to get a beer and the girlfriend comes on to the guy. His choice: does he kiss her or tell his friend. If he kisses her then she blackmails him, and if he doesn't then his friend is caught on the big screen making out with some other girl--the implication being that his friend passed up an opportunity.

The focus group voted down this one citing that it was just plain depressing. But I was wondering why in this ad (a theme continued throughout all the ads) were women cast as shrews and whores. In the other ads women were either breaking some guy's heart by sleeping their their friends (and in one sick case, their Dad), or leaving them for not being wealthy enough. Sure, beer might be consumed by a majority of guys but is this the male image of women? Is it the company's image?

But then I realized that the advertisers aren't concerned with political correctness, and their feelings about women are irrelevant . Their primary concern is creating controversy. Get enough people heated, sickened, or feeling anything strongly and you've sold the product. Regardless of what we (the focus group) thought of the ads we all agreed that we'd remember them, and sure enough I bought a Becks on the way home. What all these gay rights groups don't understand is that by protesting this ad they're only helping Mars Co. sell more candy. We're all mind-slaves to the idiot box, and, like a Chinese finger-puzzle, our revolting only strengthens our bonds.

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