Monday, February 07, 2011

Glimpsing the future of advertising (one for the kids)

Had someone told me ten years ago that a mainstream auto company like Chrysler would someday choose to have Eminem, a rapper who has had his share of controversy, featured prominently in their 2011 Super Bowl commercial, I'm sure my initial response would have been skepticism. The notion of this angry young man would be determined by those making ads for the conservative company as the best way to convince the largest audience for a commercial to buy their cars would have seemed at least a little far-fetched—in no small measure because on the flip-side it seemed unlikely Eminem would be convinced to do it even if they asked.

However, I like to think that my secondary response would have been an acknowledgment of it as a distinct possibility. Although I wouldn't have the perspective that the last decade has influenced, I do think I would have grasped that the pattern for such things is that today's disaffected youth who elicit apprehension in the establishment are tomorrow's mainstream society members.

It's not that they dive willingly in to the pool of the majority, but that the pool widens to accept them; both sides move toward the other, as the youth get older and have children of their own, start to see the world in more shades of grey than black and white, etc., and see the need for stabilizing society that seems to be counter to the way they sought to shake it up, but in the end serves to take what had been their outside position and integrate it into the inside position.

Thus, to think a decade would be sufficient time for those who were Eminem fans to have progressed to the point of being an attractive demographic for Chrysler, and that he could be convinced by the right commercial to do it, would not have been that preposterous. No matter what one thinks of his music and general demeanor there's no quibbling with his strong association with Detroit, and the link to the Motor City does make him into a spokesman of sorts regardless of whether a car company takes advantage of that or not.

Had that me from ten years ago been told this Eminem ad for Chrysler would be emotionally powerful and arguably the best of the Super Bowl spots, I suppose that second response would have led me to conclude that such an angle is the only way Em would agree to do it. A reeling Motown would need him advocating for them.

Had you told that old me that he'd also do an ostensibly self-aware ad for Brisk Iced Tea, I'd have thought, Oh, now he's just sold out.

But that, too, is part and parcel of the path to participating in mainstream culture.

There's no use pretending it's not going to happen, kids. You will be assimilated, just as your parents were after their rebellious period, and their parents (after their rebellious period) before them, and so on and so on. And rest assured: Some of what you consider part of your counter-cultural pantheon will someday be employed by Madison Avenue to try to sell you something. But don't fret: By the time that happens you will no longer be bothered by the notion of that happening. Well, as long as it's done well.


Case in point: Judas Priest was considered dangerous by parental groups in the '80s—even being put on trial as contributing to a suicide (for which they were exonerated)—and now their song "The Hellion" is used to make mini-vans seem cool… presumably to former headbangers who cut their hair and had kids and now need a vehicle to transport them… but still feel like they're cool.

Which, to be fair, we all like to fancy we still are from time to time.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I liked the Brisk ad but the Chrysler/Detroit one wasn't as much fun.


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