So God Made a (White) Farmer

Relax white people – we should respect farmers, but no need to steal thunder from marginalized and underappreciated Latinos.

First thing’s first – hats off to the Richards Group and Chrysler for putting together a gem of an ad. It is masterfully crafted and manages to be simultaneously understated and in your face. And Paul Harvey’s words really are remarkable. Unfortunately, the ad is a warped distortion of the country we currently live in.

There are 35 photographs used in the commercial. Twenty one of them have people in them, of which 16 have some visual indication suggesting race/ethnicity (the rest are either zoomed out or show pictures of hands only). Of the 16, there is one black guy, and anywhere between one and three with Latinos. Now normally, a commercial with a bunch of white people doesn’t bother me. In many ways, white is still the “normal” and it’s not surprising that companies want to take the safest route in terms of marketing. But I draw the line at farming. Nearly 80% of farmers in the US are of Hispanic/Latino heritage. When it comes to crop workers, the figure is 83%. It’s like making a commercial about basketball in America and showing only white players.

If this commercial was your introduction to farming in America, you’d get the impression that most of it is carried out by white people. Continue reading “So God Made a (White) Farmer”

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Thoughts on Epic Super Bowl Ads

Every year, there’s one Super Bowl commercial that seem larger than the rest. Amidst the foolishness associated with selling beer and chips, there’s usually one ad that is unapologetically dramatic and downright cinematic. They cost tens of millions of dollars and will likely air just once. They’re not commercials – they’re short films. And that’s exactly how the companies want us to perceive them.

Given the pomp and spectacle that is the Super Bowl, it’s remarkable that these ads manage to captivate us at all – and yet they do, sometimes for an entire two minutes. They do so by being the opposite of the event that they interrupt. They are eerie, powerful and almost impossible to ignore – like a calm during a storm.

In 1984, Apple put out what is perhaps the greatest television ad ever.

This is the ad that changed it all and made the Super Bowl the event to showcase your brand to the country (fun fact: the commercial was directed by Ridley Scott). Continue reading “Thoughts on Epic Super Bowl Ads”

Obama Slings Mud – Republicans Offended

Using wartime accomplishments to castigate the opposition is disgusting and unpresidential (except when your own guy does it).

A year after Osama bin Laden was killed by US Navy Seals during a raid on a private compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, President Obama’s 2012 campaign released this ad:

If it makes you feel uneasy, you’re not alone. It’s boastful, celebratory and awkward. The ad goes on to suggest that a President Romney would not have  gone after bin Laden. If Obama’s opponents wanted to criticize him for crassness, that would be fine, as long as they weren’t guilty of the same crime on countless occasions earlier.

The entire Fox news machine has come out swinging. As usual, Jon Stewart calls out their hypocrisy by pointing out that “Republicans are unaware that the frontal lobe of the cerebral cortex allows people the ability to store and recall past events”.

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There seems to be a total lack of consistency in political language. To say that the discourse is dominated by ideology would suggest that the parties are defending firm ideologies, which I do not believe is the case. Other than the reflexive calls for fewer taxes and more God, most of what is espoused by the mainstream American right seems more like a dramatic battle with trivial roots. Sure they want lower taxes, but more than anything, both parties want their side to win – politics is increasingly becoming a sport.

Few fans have ideological reasons for supporting a particular team. Instead, they rely on random justifications such as place of birth, or favorite color or animal. This is fine for sporting loyalty, but in the political sphere, it makes for senseless conflict, both figuratively and literally. This is nothing new though –  almost 300 years ago Jonathan Swift lampooned this sort of discord in Gulliver’s Travels, in which the nation Lilliput is torn apart by the dispute between Big-Endians and Little-Endians, who fight over which end of the egg to crack.

The platforms of current political factions are so riddled with inconsistencies that I must conclude that they are based on something other than ideology. It’s common to hear that politics has degenerated into a horse race – a 24 hour public relations campaign that never ends. Obama’s ad was a bit much, but the criticisms offered by John McCain, Ed Gillespie and others are no more meaningful than moral critiques of horses.

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.