Europe’s Enlargement Fail

European leaders prove once again that they have no clue on how to proceed with enlargement, integration and overall identity.

What is America? Who is an American? These are difficult questions that demand a certain level of nuance and a willingness to listen to people with whom you disagree. We often don’t agree, but something tells me that everything will be OK in the long run. When I think of Europe, I’m not so sure. I’ve recently come across two advertisements that have been in the news, both of which capture a certain mood and cultural outlook.

The first is the Chrysler spot entitled “Halftime in America” that ran during the Super Bowl. It features Clint Eastwood (life-long Republican) arguing that even though “division, discord, and blame made it hard to see what lies ahead…after those trials, we all rallied around what was right, and acted as one”. The commercial, in spite of its cheesiness and aggressiveness, has been well received – some Republicans have come out against the ad, claiming that it gives credit to the Obama administration’s auto industry bailout. Also, you can’t get much cooler than Clint Eastwood. Halftime was created by the same company (Wieden+Kennedy) that made a similar and equally famous ad with Eminem for last year’s Super Bowl. 

That brings up our next ad, called “Growing Together”, which was released by the European Commission (EC). The ad was taken down almost as quick as it was put up. See if you can spot why. 

Where to begin? Did they all make up in the end? Did she defeat them? Does it matter that it’s a woman and a bunch of aggressive non-white men? Are the men foreigners or immigrants? Is the EC rallying support for an invasion of China and India? Does Quentin Tarantino know about this? Is it OK that I find it ridiculously hilarious?

My initial feeling was that it was a hoax, but according to this official statement on the EC’s website, it’s the real deal. Part of me still doesn’t believe that the ad could be real, but assuming that it is, it unintentionally captures the anxiety and awkwardness of European identity as it expands, in spite of it’s already shaky foundation. It’s halftime in America, and in Europe, it’s the halftime show – zing!

At the end of the day though, these are just two commercials. Europe’s road ahead is much more challenging than America’s because the latter is already a politically integrated entity. It’s unfair to use these commercials, or any others as exemplars of American or European culture. On the one hand, it’s easy and fun to jokingly poke across the Atlantic, but on the other, I think a bigger and more integrated Europe is in everyone’s interest – if only the EC could figure out better ways to market it.


6 thoughts on “Europe’s Enlargement Fail

  1. That is the most ridiculous ad ever – very condescending and reinforcing stereotypes!! Is that even a real Indian?? WTF- seems that like the woman seems exasperated!! Wrong Wrong Wrong- on so many levels.

  2. I have to admit that at the beginning the video did not seem too bad to me, it was almost a display of athletic efforts. Then the ending and the final mantra definitely solved the question: yes, it is a very unhappy/unhealthy way to talk about integration. More than an ad to promote tolerance and fraternity it seems to bring up the well-rooted concept of Fortress Europe, and the struggle that the EU has to control its borders and the fluxes in/out of them.

    However there are a couple of things I’d like to share. First, I am not fully sure that one should compare a US-made corporate ad with a social media ad, both for the target, the language and the means behind them.

    Secondly, I don’t think that the US add brings a very different message. America is portrayed as that self-made country, deep in its Splendid Isolation, and able to turn the wheel of fortune and stand up once again. But when Clint the Cool says “If we can’t find a way, we’ll make one” or “the world will hear the roar of our engines”, I have to admit that the message is definitely not a peaceful, posed, Buddhist one. To me it sounded like the cliché of Hollywood movie final speech, or a video game intro.

    Who can be sure about the future of the US or the EU? However Europe is shaping its identity precisely today, and I like to think that I feel much more European that my father, as much as my children will be more than me.

    I hope the people of all countries try to think of better ways to express their unity, using a language which is not the one of hooligans or of testosterone-controlled teenage video gamers.

    To conclude, I think a better message would have been that the world is one and only as one entity we can solve issues afflicting society. In fact they forgot to mention that a European company contributed to save Chrysler from bankruptcy.
    But I agree, it is not cool.

  3. @Rocco, you’re right in that my juxtaposition is a bit unfair – corporate marketing versus intergovernmental public relations bureaucracy. The former will always come out on top. And yes, it’s easier to forge an American identity than a European one because the US, almost by definition is an entity that compels its people to give up a part of their past to create a new future – this is something new for Europe, and sometimes it stumbles as was the case with this ad.

    I am truly rooting for successful European expansion and integration. i think it is in the interest of individual European countries and the United States. It’s difficult to forge a unified continent with so many disparate parts, each with it’s own heritage, some of which stretch back thousands of years. BUT I have no problem calling out the anxieties expressed above, which are based on ludicrous stereotypes and fear-mongering.

    As for Chrysler being controlled by FIAT, etc., the Clint ad could have been about anything, but there is a clear message of unity (and yeah, there’s the kick ass tone and all too, but it’s Clint and a car commercial, during the Super Bowl – considering all that, it was surprisingly subdued) and perseverance as opposed to fear of outsiders.

    Obviously I have picked these two ads because they tell a story and i happen to come across them. I would be interested in seeing if there are any ads showing the inverse – fear mongering American identity (Republican campaign ads don’t count) compared with those of unified, harmonious Europe to see if the point can be made the other way around.

  4. The European Union ties up together countries with different perspectives, economies, goals, geopolitical strategies…for the sake of the international bankers and the dehumanized law of the maximum profit and of the global market…No wonder why it keeps failing! Also many presidents like Clinton, tc. were the ones pushing for the EU idea for decades, because the EU is in the interest of Wall Street, not of the impoverished European peoples (Eurozone = least growth on the planet!).

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