Super bowl backlash

We all know this year’s Superbowl commercials displayed a less-than-shocking theme of masculinity under attack by women/harpies–and men’s resulting desperate need to bolster it through muscle cars and micro-televisions:

Does anyone else find it kind of heartening that even the ad-men think that such versions of gender roles are making their “last stand” — and acknowledging implicitly that they’ll fall like General Custer? (Of course, they’re probably relying on another problematic subtext: it’s just a battle lost, not the war. Though that might be giving them too much credit for self-consciousness.)

It’s been great fun to have the rampant sexism in advertising called out in the mainstream media (Slate, the Times, even USA Today— especially in light of studies suggesting how unsuccessful these ads were. And I’m ready to enjoy the potential for wittier and far cheaper responses:

I dig certain parts of this: “I will make $.75 for every dollar you make doing the same job…I will catch you staring at my breasts but pretend not to notice…” In some ways, I can see that it’s pointing out how the assumptions behind these duties are equally ridiculous. Those accepted by the men in the Dodge commercial are, for the most part, basic measures of maturity (“I will shave… I will be at work… I will sit through meetings”) undertaken not as a man but as reluctant partner (“I will take your calls”?!). But the spoof’s duties suggest that what women do for the sake of their men is not about basic hygiene, but self-subjugation: “I will diet, Botox, and wax–everything… I will allow you to cheat on me with younger women”?! Hmmm. If this spoof is looking to encourage identification among women, then depending on such assumed “duties” is disconcerting. And if it’s trying to challenge the sexism of the original, isn’t falling back on superficial standards counterproductive?

I’m not sure. I’m happy to see some talk-back to those ads, and can only hope we see more discussion as a result.

In the meantime, I leave you with SNL’s hilarious take on the powers of a Dodge to recuperate the male ego:

It’s 2010 and You’re Fat.

Well, that’s what you’d think by watching anything on TV lately. If there’s remotely any down time then Jillian what’s-her-face or P90X is telling you how to get in shape. I understand that some people make resolutions (I’ve never really taken that kind of thing too seriously) and I also understand that losing weight is one of those top resolutions. So, naturally comes the barrage of work-out commercials in the beginning year. Strike while the iron’s hot!

Let’s have a bit of fun breaking some down, eh?

(Disclaimer: I am all for being fit and healthy. I just think most exercise commercials are cheesy as all get out. So, yes, look out for your nutrition and exercise regime, but have some fun with these commercial critiques too.)

(By the way, I tried looking for some youtube videos of these commercials and the first ones I got were all for funny exercise commercials. I suppose our ideal workout is to laugh our butts off.)


Sooo, yeah. The photos are fantastic, aren’t they? But, uh, none of those people looked particularly bad to start off with, do they? Just average sized people who consequently get crazy ripped by using this system. So, I guess you know who their audience is, eh? Perhaps, average sized people who fantasize about being crazy ripped? The thing that always makes me chuckle at P90X is how they glance over their Nutrition Plan. They have one and it comes with the DVDs, but they always stress the workout, which is kinda funny, because no matter how much muscle someone builds up, if they’re eating in a particularly bad way, then there will always be fat over top that muscle. So, the nutrition aspect is important, but apparently not important enough to point that out.

Jillian Michaels

I couldn’t find a video for this, so you’ll have to trust me on this one. From what I’ve seen, she’s marketing the “Jillian Michaels QuickStart and Detox & Cleanse Combo™” right now. In this commercial, Ms. Michaels stands next to a picture of her product and assures us that this product will give us a great start to our diet. It’s absolutely, positively dependent on credibility. We should listen to Jillian Michaels, because she’s that lady who helps people lose weight on The Biggest Loser. She is a professional trainer, but by using the product she won’t personally yell at you. Hooray.

Wii Fit

Oh yes. I’m including this game, because it’s taking advantage of this time of year just like everybody else. I actually like this for its “get off your butt while playing a video game” quality and their marketing strategy? Fun. Everyone looks so happy! And it’s a family thing! Dutch Angles! Whoo!

Your Shape featuring Jenny McCarthy

My guess for picking her specifically is because there are still men out there who fantasize about Jenny McCarthy circa Singled Out era. She might also be that representative Mom figure to reach the women folk. I know that it’s been nice to see her mature just a little bit in the recent years as she focused more on the well being of her child and less on, you know, fart jokes.

Total Gym

Chuck Norris. Need I say more? (When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.)

Alright, I can’t think of any more, but I know they’re out there. Plus, there’s a load of diets and diet machinery being advertised as well. ‘Tis the season. Hmm, I wonder. Are any of these decidedly better than others? For me, I’d probably be most persuaded by Wii Fit. Why not? It’s a game, right? 😉

Comparing Apples and Windows

Last week, Microsoft unveiled its first television commercial in its new $300 million campaign to “highlight how Windows has become an indispensable part of the lives of a billion people around the globe” (Microsoft press release). I’ve been amused by the Mac vs PC ads that have been around for a bit, and Windows has been working to counter them with a this new advertising scheme that features the comedian, Jerry Seinfeld.

Some of the responses I read, including a blog post by David Zeiler of The Baltimore Sun, give responses that I think are just a bit too negative (but some of the comments on Zeiler’s post expand the conversation in really smart ways). Is this the first ad that sells a product without showing the product? Certainly not. It’s risky, but sometimes it works. (For one of my favorites, take a look at what Haagen Dazs is doing these days.) I think in this case the ad is more powerful than some are giving it credit.

Just recently, a member of a listserv to which I subscribe posted a link to a very interesting episode from Frontline called “The Persuaders.” I watched only the first chapter (which was really good, and I’m looking forward to the rest of it), and what it presented resonates with the Apple and Windows ad campaigns: When our culture is already imbued with advertising, creating a flavor that pops out from the rest is difficult but is what every ad agency tries to do, and as those agencies continue to compete, they increasingly blur the (already unclear) distinction between culture and advertising. That’s precisely what Microsoft is doing with this first commercial and apparently what it will do with its entire campaign.

So far, however, I’m more a fan of the Mac vs PC ad campaign. The commercials do well in their simplicity, comedy, and visual representation of the two operating systems/software/hardware bundles (I’m not quite sure how to describe them when “Apple” refers to all three components and “Microsoft” refers to the first two). The Mac guy is confident but not pompous, competitive but sensitive, and very human and fun. The PC guy is the nerd with glasses who could use some exercise, needs to get out of the office, and should work on catching up with the times. Would I take such a simplistic approach in identifying people in real life? No. But I do think it works here.

But I’ll let you decide.