Commentary

The 'So Called' Advertisers Talk Back

First election night and now the The Super Bowl. How often must we, as a nation, witness the triumph of evil? I'd read the Bible for comfort, but I’ve never made it to the end and I'm afraid how it might turn out.

I am happy to report, however, that the Atlanta Falcons were not the big loser of the Super Bowl. (I mean, they're in the top two for sure. A 25-point lead on the cusp of the fourth quarter is supposed to be safe. But when they lost Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, the handwriting was on the wall.)

But to complete the thought, and on the subject of our political troubles, the real loser Sunday night was nothing less than Trumpism, which was repudiated bigly -- not by women’s marches or federal judges or favorability poll numbers, but by the advertisers. Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, Airbnb, Google Home, and -- of all unlikely antagonists -- 84 Lumber filled the very expensive airwaves with messages of ethnic diversity, immigrant dreams, generous open arms and multiculturalism. Yes, some of the biggest companies in the world spent fortunes to voice an alternative to the resentment, suspicion, fear, ignorance and blind hatred that brought Donald Trump to power.

And it began from the very first ad from Coke, to the song “America” stitched together in a dozen languages, showing citizens of many backgrounds, complexions, cultural attire just doing mundane American things from sea to shining sea. Tagline: “Together is Beautiful.”

Take that, you miserable bigots, dopes, alt-right mouthbreathers and Cypress Ranch (Texas) High School. As Keenan Wynn told Peter Sellers in "Dr. Strangelove": Watch your step or “You’re gonna have to have to answer to the Coca-Cola Company.”

Airbnb and Google Home presented similar eyeshadow palettes of ethnicity and goodwill. By the third quarter, Steve Bannon was no doubt rending his brown shirt and choking on his Sauerbraten.

Now, let me just say there was no time in the previous 50 Super Bowls that such commercials would have been worth much than an eye roll. These “I'd like to teach the world to sing” exercises have always been saccharine, tokenistic and generally insufferable. “Kumbaya. Kumbaya. Buy _________! “  At their worst, they're exploitative and insincere. At their best, they are perfunctory and obvious.

Until now.

Tragically, we are at a moment in history where 100 million viewers need to be reminded of our nation's core values of not tolerance but welcome, of ambitious new blood, of comity and cooperation and commonweal. Scoundrels and demagogues have preyed on bitterness and fear to unleash the worst impulses in tens of millions of our countrymen. They have slandered Americanism by calling it political correctness, and they have demonized immigrants by calling them threats.

The Constitution-thumping Republicans in Congress have lost their tongues, but look who's taking a stand.

In the Anheuser-Busch spot, we see a young man just off the boat from Germany in 1857, He is jostled in the streets and insulted, told to go back where he came from. He was Adolphus Busch.

Of course, historically, this is all baloney. Busch was no starry-eyed vagabond. But however fanciful the immigrant story, nobody watching the game could miss its relevance to our time. Likewise 84 Lumber, whose spot was explicitly intended to dramatize the inspiring and often heroic character of immigration -- in this case, a mother and daughter making the arduous journey from Mexico to the U.S. border, only to be confronted by a wall.  

Actually, the wall never showed up on TV. You had to go looking at 84 Lumber's Web destination. And millions did, crashing the site for hours. But in the end, with the help of narrative magic and CGI, a wooden door appears in front of their eyes, and their destiny beckons.

This one's a puzzler, because the western Pennsylvania brand has owners who voted for Trump and a customer base that very much reflects Trump's demographic. But they also have a lot of Latino employees, and -- apparently -- an understanding what this country is built upon.

Your tired, your poor, your huddled masses -- your president wants to turn them away. Your national advertisers, on the other hand, seem to remember the American dream, before it became a nightmare.

19 comments about "The 'So Called' Advertisers Talk Back".
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  1. Brian Kelly from brian brands, February 6, 2017 at 11:40 a.m.

    About 63Million folks voted for DT.  H said, "about half are Deplorable."
    That leaves about 30Million folks who are just folks looking for change.  Just like most POTUS elections since Vietnam ended where the challenger brands won.
    Like most of us, these 30Million folks want a fair deal.  They're not looking to live in Alexander Dugin's dystopian future that informs Bannon.
    They'd be happy living in those dreamy ads.  Giving the less fortunate a hand.
    Lets move away from demonizing all who voted for Trump because it shows a lack of tolerance.

  2. Bob Garfield from MediaPost, February 6, 2017 at 11:47 a.m.

    "Just folks looking for a change"....at the expense of other folks.  Everything he is doing, everything he is, was on full display before Election Day.  Those 30 million people should think very hard about what they said "yes" to.  Take responsibility. You broke it, you bought it.  But the American Way is what's being smashed in front of our eyes, and we're all left to pick up the pieces.

  3. Chris Tinkham from Devito/Verdi, February 6, 2017 at 12:44 p.m.

    Please write about media and not your political views.  Whether I agree or not, I am less and less interested in people who feel a need to pontificate.  

  4. Dean Fox from ScreenTwo LLC replied, February 6, 2017 at 1:02 p.m.

    Chris - I think you missed the point.  This country is more divided than any time since the Civil War.  Therefore, it is remarkable that some companies paid so much to voice their concern and speak to our common values as Americans. In a national event replete with so much energetic flag waving, it is the perfect opportunity to bring those values into the conversation.

  5. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network replied, February 11, 2017 at 9:07 p.m.


    "Please write about media and not your political views.  Whether I agree or not, I am less and less interested in people who feel a need to pontificate."

    Interesting approach; ... a complaint about pontification, following an example of it. 

  6. Bob Garfield from MediaPost, February 6, 2017 at 12:47 p.m.

    Absolutely Chris. You are, as always, my guiding light. Henceforce, no opinionating in my opinion column.

    Bob

  7. John Grono from GAP Research replied, February 6, 2017 at 5:44 p.m.

    Bob, please NEVER stop writing and voicing your opinion.   You give people outside the US at least some hope.   And guess what, our nutters have decided they haven't swung far enough to the right.   1937 was 87 years ago, but the simikarities are forebodingly familiar.

  8. Gina Roach from ArcheMedia replied, February 6, 2017 at 6 p.m.

    Bob, I agree with Chris that you should stick to media topics as this is not a forum for political opinion, regardless of the fact you write an opinion column.  I did not subscribe to hear personal political comments.  Paragraph 3, line 1 takes your content politcial and not about media.  At least you are not hiding your intent and unhappiness with President Trump.  What your article also did was create political discussion, not media discussion.  Given that year over year the studies show ads does not turn into sales, I would much prefer these companies take the $5MM/ :30 second commercial to help the less fortunate as the dollars could go a long way and do so much more than speaking to viewers tuning in to be entertained.  Not sure what country you live in but the great nation I live in currently provides for the less fortunate through many programs from our government and organizations and this great nation already protects our rights including women's rights, gay rights and the rights of every American citizen including immigrants.  Sorry I had to go political but it seems this to be a political column.  So, before you can be condescending to me, as you were with Chris, I will have Unsubscribed because my time is best spent with sources that truly want to provide discussions on Media.

  9. Chris Tinkham from Devito/Verdi, February 6, 2017 at 12:49 p.m.

    Nice snarky reply.  Thanks much.

  10. Mark Hornung from MBrandSF replied, February 6, 2017 at 5:33 p.m.

    Jeez, Chris... who's the "snowflake" now?

  11. Paul Spyksma from P.S. Marketing Resources, February 6, 2017 at 1:15 p.m.

    Tell 'em, Bob!  I have always enjoyed you on the radio (especially your recent deconstruction of a certain Reformed Bigot whose name I won't mention but whose initials are Glen Beck) and I like you even better in "print."  You column is going to be spread on my social media accounts under the heading of REAL News.

  12. David Reich from Reich Communications, Inc., February 6, 2017 at 1:35 p.m.

    This is an opinion column and you are entitled to your opinion (which I happen to agree with heartily.)  If a reader disagrees and then calls your reply a snarky one, no one is forcing him to read you.  He can simply hit "delete."

    Keep it up, Bob.

  13. Ronald Lunde from The Lunde co, February 6, 2017 at 2:44 p.m.

    Bob ...you should really run for a Senate seat.

  14. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, February 6, 2017 at 5:04 p.m.


    The Super Bowl ads after 9/11 were filled with appropriate flag-waving, for a good reason.

    The 2017 Super Bowl ads also had a lot of appropriate flag-waving, and also for a good reason. 

  15. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, February 6, 2017 at 5:05 p.m.


    Oops, I almost forgot; ... great column, Mr. Garfield!

  16. Suzanne Sanders from S2 Advertising, February 6, 2017 at 5:14 p.m.

    With all due respect, you need to sell this opinion piece to the Associated Press. It seems that history has a way of repeating itself. I have been saying since Bush deregulated banks that the American dream is a nightmare to achieve. The lack of tolerance shows with the vote for Rumpo not the other way around. I would vote for you in a New York minute and I am not experiencing a knee jerk reaction.
    If you haven’t already check out Lady Gaga's song set from the half time show. There is a message there too.

  17. Chris Swan from Datastream Media, February 6, 2017 at 6:11 p.m.

    To suggest that the sentiments expressed in Super Bowl ads supporting American ideals and legal immigration or the Lady Gaga songset were meant to repudiate the millions of Americans that voted for the President is full blown Trump Derangement Syndrome.  Thankfully, in between the ads, the New England Patriots completed their Drive for Five!  Though in another shortcoming which I suspect will be the subject of snarky columns and SNL skits, President Trump predicted the Pats by 8 and they only won by 6.  

  18. Kevin Horne from Lairig Marketing, February 7, 2017 at 12:27 a.m.

    @Chris Tinkham - "please write about media." 

    You mean writing about the stuff that allows the majority of media to even exist doesn't count? !! ?

    Spicer could not have done better...

  19. William Hoelzel from JWB Associates, February 10, 2017 at 5:10 p.m.

    You make a terrific point, Mr. Garfield. How painful (and surprising) it must have been for Trump, Bannon, Spicer and Conway to see those inclusive ads during the Super Bowl.  How great it was for America to see messages not based on fear but on hope!

    At his inauguration, Trump tried to launch the nation on  a horrible shift from hope to fear, from inclusiveness to a ban on Muslims (though Trump's too politically correct to call it that).    I'm glad these advertisers did not succumb to fear on our national football holiday, and I'm glad you were not afraid to point out the message they were sending, Mr. Garfield!

    Perhaps national advertisers -- along with Congress, the courts and the Constitution -- are one of the institutions that can help us restrain this demagogue.  Which of our founding  fathers could have imagined that the First Amendment rights of advertisers would be part of the bulwark of democracy?

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