Those of you who are fans of AMC’s hit TV show Mad Men will remember that’s its central character, ad exec Don Draper, holds a philosophy that was indeed quite prevalent in the advertising game back in the Swinging Sixties: commercials run on happiness. Make the consumer think that they can only achieve happiness — or at least come a little bit closer to that mental ideal — by purchasing your product, and they’ll keep putting it in their baskets for years to come.
Like so many capitalist ideas, it was at once clever and exploitative, because in order to make it work, you first had to convince the public there was something wrong with their lives. To sell them security, you had to first make them insecure. Does your husband like your coffee? Does your date like your breath? Does your boss like your hair? Are you sure? Can you be sure? Buy this and you can be sure. And now back to our program.
In this century, however, potential customers are bombarded by data and images all day long, not to mention choices, and so Madison Avenue has taken to first silliness and then outright stupidity in an effort to make you notice their message. Those commercials you think are so stupid? They’re supposed to be. Got you to watch, didn’t it? Look! It’s a pig with a pinwheel! It doesn’t make you seriously consider who offers better auto insurance, but it does make you remember the word Geico! Whee!
You might also remember that Miracle Whip, that awful-tasting sandwich spread that your mom used to accidentally buy instead of mayonnaise, tried rebranding itself a few years back with its hilarious “We Will Not Tone It Down” ad campaign, which attempted an Orwellian rewrite of history by contending that the sweet-and-sour glop — a mixture of mayo and salad dressing developed by Kraft during the Great Depression, because starving people couldn’t afford to buy actual mayonnaise — was simply misunderstood by old farts. It was actually too wild for mom and dad, a marketing concept that David Cross must surely have appreciated. The topper was paying Lady Gaga to put the stuff in one of her videos, presumably in order to help her eat her dress of meat. Go to bed, old man!
Some people like Miracle Whip. But then again, some people like anything. My older sister once dated a guy who ate mayonnaise and peanut butter sandwiches. I myself once dated a dominatrix who made a living by — well. I can’t tell you, or your appetite would really be ruined. Suffice to say that if it happened to most people, they would consider it a very, very bad day. It’s some real Zed and Maynard shit. Yet these rich old men paid for it, over and over again.
So there’s no accounting for taste. I get that. In fact, having sunk that ship, the mcgarrybowen agency (not to be confused with the tomandandy agency) saddled with Kraft’s Miracle Whip account next attempted an eminently reasonable “It’s Not For Everyone” campaign*, which acknowledged the strong feelings people have towards the stuff without mentioning that the likers are very much in the minority. But that false equivalency didn’t turn things around either. So the agency, which is the hottest in the industry, has now tried a new tack: shame. Did you know that if you hate Miracle Whip, it’s because you have a lynch mob mentality? Oh, it’s true. Check it:
Now, as you may have guessed, I don’t like the stuff. But I have tried it. Sadly. More than once. And my opinion appears to be shared by many. Yet I do have a very small cadre of friends who like it, and that’s fine. Some of my friends might even enjoy that thing my dominatrix friend does for money, and I wouldn’t dream of hating on them if they did. What I certainly wouldn’t do is get a smug little girl and have her try and shame them for doing it.
Usually I try not to get too worked up over being constantly bombarded by messages like these, even though I know they’re attempting to control my behavior (and probably succeeding more often than I’d like). But then I remember the words of Banksy:
People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you…
You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.
He’s right. Dear Miracle Whip: eat my ass. Come on, eat it. Hey, you might like it! Have you even tried it? You Nazis.
*Well, they did offer troubled married couples $25,000 towards a divorce if they say they split up because they couldn’t agree on Miracle Whip. But mostly reasonable.