Wednesday, February 5, 2014

All Things Interrogated: Horror of Authority, and Deconstructing the Superbowl Commercial Industry

I am taking a great class called Leading Strategically. The professor is very human, and spends most of the class engaging in class discussion. We began class for today talking about the Superbowl as a strategic entity. The class demographics are about half sports coaches (for the schools sports teams) half MBA majors and three social workers. Without going to deep into the full conversation I'd like to tap into a line of argument I presented to the class.

I began my shouting out what I thought.

What is the ad industry? It began when the United States imported the propaganda tactics that the Russians were using to make revolution in in the 1910's. The United States first experiments were in using posts to spread patriotism and gain buy in for World War I. Then the Ad industry spread to the major corporations. An ad is essentially a thing that gets someone to do something. The Russians used it to make revolution, then later to control the temperament of the masses. The US has always had two primary goal; to make money and manufacture consent.
So what is the Superbowl for the Ad industry? It is a launch program to dig their ads into the public consciousness/unconsciousness. The Superbowl is not just a game of football. It is an economic and social event. Zillions of people globally celebrate this event by going to the game, tail gating, excessive drinking, creating zillions of individual and collective memories around this event. Therefore, a commercial isn't entering into someone's mind haphazardly, its constructively placed into our leisure, social and private time. The event is then reinforced socially through intense,  invasive and complex social pressures where many are sharing in constant dialog online and in person (or as Foucault would say discursive practices) for weeks after the fact. The media then constantly engage us around the games and it's ad's for weeks; reviewing and making/continuing controversy. Solidifying the event and the ads in our mind and memories. Not just with the fact that you watched a commercial, but that you watched it in a socially relevant and emotional way, as if you were part of some global community sharing a special moment. Let's take For instance, take the Coke-a-Cola ad: (I had a link to the ad here but the video Got Removed From YouTube. Go Capitalism!)

Now what I find truly insidious about this ad is that it tells a story about a delusional view of America. It's as if our relationship with the purchasing of a can of coke, somehow brings about or at the very least is related world peace. It's as if drinking the sour carbonated liquid unites us in some kinda collective experience. The story coke tells, is a story where your relationship to coke is a unifying force in the world that solves Racism, Classim, Sexism, Immigrant-o-phobia, Islamophobia, and Homophobia. This simply has nothing to do with the United States that we live in. We live in a country with the highest prison population in the world, huge disparities in class, race, and gender. Same sex couples are fighting on a daily basis just to have a scrap of dignity, and live their life. So why would coke portray such a delusional world? Because by and large the American citizenship have already bought into this vision of radically diverse melting pot. It is an easy idea to sell. Put simply the coke utopia is the white male privileged perception of what the world looks like. This perspective is important for coke because it is one of the key dominate ideologies in America. So deeply rubbed into us by the education system, and media system, that thinking outside the 'melting-pot' ideology is down right traumatic.

The question I had for the class was: Ok, so ads serve a purpose of motivating to someone to do something. Where does authority come into play? I mean zillions of TV commercials, billboards, posters, flyers, events, Superbowls have plaster Coke-a-Cola so far into the American ideology that Coke can have the audacity to make an ad that implies that it is a fundamental sustaining the dream. Are we all just lemmings, or are people making rational free decisions about what they would like to drink?

On another level, what is the moral and health risk involved in Coke? Because we are never talking about one individual and their choices, but zillions that make a long series of choices that make Coke the zillion dollar a year money machine that it is. On a long enough time span, it a product that could end up fattening the human race to dangerous proportions. The magic trick here is how Coke has pulled the cover over peoples eyes, to passively ingest their advertising in such a way they can view an advertisement like this and not see the economic and political agenda, or to see the economic/political agenda in a way that obfuscates from cokes profit motive. Its nice, and cute like kittens playing a game of football. It is compelling us avoid critical engagement with the world and just ENJOY!

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