Friday, October 17, 2008

The Affable Fourth Reich

The Advertising Industry spends millions of dollars each year crafting the the ultimate spokesperson for their product. It's all part of the process of branding - taking a searing hot logo shaped iron to our brains and burning a permanent mark into our collective conscious.

Sometimes the spokesperson is something fanciful or magical, like the Hamburger Helper Hand, or the Energizer Bunny, or the Keebler Elves. These little guys arrive on the package to make our lives easier, longer lasting and more fun.

In other instances, the spokesperson is intended to be a representative of the people. A salt of the earth type who is inoffensive, kind, inviting, with a gentle sense of authority. The Everyman. These guys would not be so easy to find as one would believe. According the amount of play this representative of the masses gets on TV, in film, and on commercials, you'd think that the streets would be swarming with this fella. No...not really. Advertisers send teams far and wide to hunt this rare animal, only to return with the skins of fakers and failures. The huntsmen will prop up their trophies, display them to the tribe and, if the tribe responds poorly, they will gladly pitch the faulty skin aside and try another.

Cell phone commercials have a particular problem finding a trustworthy advocate. For a while, Sprint had a pretty good run with the black-coated government spook sent to calm fears over a wireless bill. T-Mobile employed the impossibly beautiful Catherine Zeta-Jones to inform families of all their wireless options. Cingular used that blob made of orange molecules. After a while, however, most of them vaporized in the blinding glory of the lightening trapped in a bottle by Verizon. The bespectacled "Can you hear me now?" guy has become as much a part our branded landscape as Ronald McDonald.

(Notice I'm not including the shameful campaign US Cellular attached to Joan Cusack. I love Joan. It was like having teeth filed down to see her utilized thus. Everyone's gotta pay the rent, I guess.)

The Verizon Guy did not start out as such a giant icon. At the time of his first appearance, he looked like a satisfying approximation if the Everyman, with plenty of gentle, authoritative inoffensiveness to go around. And then he ballooned up. The ubiquity of "Can you hear me now?" forced him into the role of paragon, rather than representative.

These days, the cellphone landscape has changed somewhat. The ideal Everyman no longer has to carry any gentle authority. In fact, it's best if he doesn't have any authority at all. He just has to be some ambition-free happy-go-lucky guy who makes us feel like we're all included in his vast network of good time buddies. He's that guy we can't hate, because there is nothing to hate. He has no strong opinions, no real goals. Just a mildly chiseled jaw, meticulous yet carefree hair, and a winning smile. Men are okay with him, women maybe want to make out with him at some point, but it's totally fine if they don't.

Enter Alltel. And Chad.

At first glance, there's really nothing to see. Chad, a forgettable nice guy is showing up the geeks with his new all inclusive circle. Easy enough. The commercial is informative and does what ads are supposed to. Sell the product.

But...Does anyone see something mild, yet insidious going on? Like a smiling, bland Hitlerjungend kindly telling the Jews, Homosexuals, Intellectuals and Communists how his brand of messaging is cheap, easy and open to everyone?

But it's just one commercial, and hardly propaganda.


BEHOLD! The Jew in his nest of Homosexual, Communist, and Intellectual cohorts conspiring to bring down the the glory of the Alltel. They are a scheming crew, aren't they? But the Reich shall prevail! COME AND GET YOUR LOVE!

(On an off note, what's it to them if Alltel takes over? These guys work in a mall and have no actual stake in the company do they? Aren't they going to college or have art showings at night? Jesus. Get it together guys.)

And Lo! The conspiracy broadens:

What shall they do with Chad? Where are they taking him? How angry, how resentful! Of course they are. These sub-humans were put on the planet to test our vanilla superman and are jealous of the network he has achieved. Look how calm and self assured he is, and how he fights fire with fire! Chad knows his opponent, and can turn his enemy's strengths to weakness in seconds.

Chad was not made this way. Oh no. Since Childhood he has been able to defeat his detractors.:

Must be the genes. Right?

And with his clean cut and unflappable recruiting power, the streets will be filled with legions of Chads in no time.

(Also, seriously - and I mean this for Chad as well - come ON fellas. The end of the avenue of goals CANNOT be working in a Cell Phone store. It mustn't. Move away, move on, move up. Make discoveries for your innermost selves. Don't waste your turn on this planet hocking wireless services. You may need it for now, to make money for later...there is no shame in that. But PULL IT TO-FUCKING-GETHER. All of you. )

I'm sure Altell would be shocked and horrified to think that their fool ad campaign presents even a remote allusion to WWII Nazi propaganda. I wonder how many of them, working on these commercials unknowingly borrowed from history's shadows. It's not their fault that pretty much any time you pit a blond man with good bone structure against an antagonist of brown haired complainers and rabble rousers that National Socialist images are bound to crop up.

No...not their fault at all.

But I am on alert. Alltel. I have my eye on you.


Crazypants said...

i am surprised a giant advertising firm hasn;t come along and plucked you from obscurity, given your obsession and attention to detail re: all things advert. you could make a killing.

rebar said...

>>The end of the avenue of goals CANNOT be working in a Cell Phone store.

When I was in high school, I worked at the local K-Mart.

That's right. Jealous much?

I was a cashier...then I was promoted to the Books/Stationary section. And in the summer months, I also covered Lawn and Garden. Outdoor duty...sweetness.

My most reflected upon memory of that glorious time, was one day, talking with an employee from another dept - like children's apparel or something.

I can't remember her name, but I remember our conversation crystal clearly.

I was 17. She was maybe, MAYBE, a year older. And she was so supremely happy with her lot in life.

She was engaged to a fella who wanted to be a cop. (Wasn't a cop, wasn't in cop school, but wanted to be a cop.) She LOVED working at K-mart. Loved the discount. Loved working with children's clothes. Couldn't wait to get married. Couldn't wait to have kids.

I asked her about college or travel or seeking anything outside her current realm.

Complete disinterest. She had what she felt was everything. A job she enjoyed. A man she loved. Plans for marriage and a little place to raise rugrats.

Part of me was completely aghast at her. No other goals than to be married and kid-ridden before she was even legal to drink.

But another part of me, and I remember this as such a strong reaction, was kinda envious. While I have my doubts about her contentedness lasting for decades to come, I had never met anyone so happily satisfied with their state of being.

It was like talking to a Martian. A really pleasant Martian.

Maybe Chad is content with his lot.

Or maybe he's just a Martian.

p.s. "You're still a ding dong." does make me laugh. It doesn't make me want to buy into Alltell, but it does make me laugh.

-j-j- said...

Yes, yes...I know it seems awfully judgy of me to poo-pooh their life choices.

But it looks like this choice has brought these guys nothing but anguish.

To those who are satisfied and happy in their work, I raise a glass.

-j-j- said...

That is, brought anguish to all of them but Chad, of course...

Chad, who is happy to bring us into the loving bosom of Der Fuher.

-j-j- said...

Thank you CP.

Just so everyone knows, the going rate for my integrity is $50,000.

Or an iTunes gift card and a package of Fig Newtons.

Anonymous said...

>>But it looks like this choice has brought these guys nothing but anguish.

And this is different from the rest of the exactly?


-j-j- said...

It isn't much different, I don't suppose. I never said it was.

I know how the world works. Most of us are locked into jobs we hate and are frustrated by our colleagues. Sure, everyone feels that way.

I was commenting mostly on how fixated they are on Chad and Alltel, and how they seem loyal to the point of obsession to their retail phone outlets. It looks unhealthy to me.

That is, if these people were real. Which, I know they aren't.

But I don't like the world they are showing me. A world of jealousy, fixation, and obsession that can be cured...if they'd just be more like Chad. If they'd just sign up for Alltel wireless.

Anonymous said...

I guess I forgot to use my sarcasm emoticon in that last post.


Please keep posting from your judgey kaliescope with the poo-pooey veiwfinder.

Then pass it to me when you're done.


-j-j- said...

Did you know that the Sarcasm Emoticon is also the Erection Emoticon?


Anonymous said...

I liked those commercials better when they had that Wizard guy.

Cause, you know...he did magic! In a flamboyant way I might add.


I wish I was a wizard.

Ron K (Hopefull Thaumaturgist).

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