BIGfrontier’s Steve Lundin discusses the future of social networks and social network “gurus” in this interview with Jay Baer, author of The NOW Revolution.
Advertisers collectively figured out the secret sauce for attention at this year’s Super Bowl, and it’s not Bob Parson’s cheese-whiz version of sex, but the dreaded “R” word. If you listen to the pundits, both Coca-Cola and Volkswagen have crossed the color barrier and traded bikinis for blackface.
The first culprit to throw a KKK hood into the ring was VW America. They trusted the visionaries at Deutsch LA with enough money to produce an ad featuring a jolly Minnesotan with a Jamaican accent who runs around his office extolling the virtues of happiness. Here it is. Well – first and foremost, this ad is clearly not racist – it’s set in an alternative universe where there are happy Minnesotans, so it automatically falls into the realm of science fiction. Anyone who has seen the cantina scene in Star Wars knows that when it comes to Sci-Fi, all bets are off. Did we see race riots after the release of Men In Black over Frank, the Caucasian-intoned pug dog wearing blackface? Of course not! Sci-Fi gets a pass.
In keeping with the new “play early and often” mentality that seems to rule Bowl ads these days, VW released their new masterpiece days in advance of the game. This was probably to insure that the maximum amount of sci-fi haters could be offended, like NY Times columnist Charles Blow who declared the spot “Blackface with voices,” in a critique that aired on CNN. His sentiments have been echoed by none other than Barbara Lippert who proclaimed it “so racist,” and hundreds of other lesser to unknowns who decided their opinions would add something to the predictable “firestorm.” And what was VW’s punishment for this attempt to cite a race riot? 680 dislikes out of 4,013,021 views, just 1.3 million views shy of the entire population of Minnesota.
The second culprit is none other than that famous rabble rouser, known universally for having a controversial brand that does little more than inflame passionate debates wherever it’s found. Truly – who hasn’t been involved in one of those legendary and bloody Coke vs. Pepsi fracases? Even their logo is red: the first clue that a brand is up to no good. Well, this time naughty Coke, under the guidance of Wiedgen + Kennedy, produced a spot featuring Vegas showgirls, cowboys, Mad Max type road warriors and an Arab with a camel. Before you could play side one of Sheik Yerbouti, several Arab-American groups derided the ad as offensive. As an equal opportunity offender, can similar cries from Clint Eastwood and Mel Gibson be far behind?
Critic Imam Ali Siddiqui, president of the Muslim Institute for Interfaith Studies, claimed the ad portrayed Arabs as “backward and foolish Camel Jockeys.” If Samuel L. Jackson can make a career as a serial “N” word user, it seems that Arabs can publicly refer to themselves as “Camel Jockeys” with impunity. This sentiment was amplified by Warren David, president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, who asked, “Why is it that Arabs are always shown as either oil-rich sheiks, terrorists, or belly dancers?” Of course in this spot the working stiff Arab in question is neither a sheik, terrorist or belly dancer, so Mr. David must be referring to the either the multi-award winning TV show Homeland or the equally lauded 24! Coke’s punishment for this transgression: 1,119,058 views and 396 dislikes.
What would a Super Bowl be without commercials that offended someone somewhere? 2012 was the year of controversial sexist ads, with offerings from M&M, Toyota, Fiat and Teleflora triggering the “someone’s making fun of me alarm.” We can thank Groupon for leading the charge in 2011 with their Timothy Hutton “insensitive” to Tibetans (among others), ads. And then there’s GoDaddy, which sticks out like a thumbed through copy of Hustler behind a National Geographic, so dependably absurd and grotesque it defies categorization as advertising and should be regarded as cultural phenomena, like Anna Nicole Smith or Pet Rocks. With all these “offensive” entries, isn’t it time the Addy’s added a category?
There’s no mystery that advertisers love these teacup typhoons that seem to last about as long as the hoopla surrounding the game. In the long run there never seems to be any brand damage and the real casualties are with the agencies (Groupon fired Crispin Porter + Bogusky after their 2011 ads aired). In this year’s spirit of racism theme it’s too bad that the big picture trailer being played is Star trek, not D’Jango Unchained; a little tweet up flash mob protest riot would have added to the Half Time show. With racism, sexism and cultural insensitivity recently covered, candidates for next year’s theme might include jingoism, ageism or religious discrimination. We’ll just have to wait until a couple of weeks before the game to find out.
BIGfrontier’s Steve Lundin and celeb CMO Jeff Hayzlett discuss Jeff’s books, the Mirror Test and Running the Gauntlet, along with Kodak, Facebook’s marketing issues and Spirit Airline’s recent PR debacle! Do not miss this expansive and engaging conversation with one of the most sought after marketing voices in the industry!
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