That time we all got mad at capitalism for doing its thing

My biggest beef with the Super Bowl is all the people who insist on publicly hating it. And, hating it in the most passive aggressive ways: “Oh, is there some sporting thing on today? I must have missed it.” “Ooooh, sports ball, yeah, jocks!” Yeah, we see you.

Someone I know was trolling the game via their frequent Facebook post commentary and added disenchantment that cell phone providers were making profound statements via their advertisements and wasn’t that awful.

Was it?

Capitalism relies on us buying things.

We’re very picky about what we buy, we think we’re smarter than the advertisers. We spot a commercial instantly (as the Tide series reminded us, we knew the tropes, we have expectations for where these 30-second plot lines are headed).

Here, actors explain this isn’t the insurance commercial you think it is (because we instantly recognize the trope) — instead, it’s an ad for detergent, look at all those clean shirts.

Yet, there aren’t as many pulls to get us to watch a prolonged statement of profound importance. If it’s not a quick six-second video, we skim it. We read in headlines.

What if we need to see a real message about the work of first responders and the human connection? What if we need reminding that race and class and gender and opportunity are present at every turn and maybe children born today stand a better chance to thwart prejudices than we do?

Do you tune in to that? Or do you need a spoonful of sugar (an advertisement during the moment we’ve all agreed to let advertisers talk to us) to pay attention?

And why does the brand matter? Cell phone and mobility service providers like Verizon and T-Mobile arguably hold the attention of millions more of us than any other product. Frankly, imagine the college student who misses class just to run home to get the laundry detergent they left behind. Imagine the harried mother rushing to work, dropping kids off at day care and realizing her stain stick is still at home. Hard to picture, right? No, it’s the phone that is most universal to us. An idea fit for providing some universal messages via a universal product – one that touts connectivity to boot?

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It’s all cheesy, too. It’s all a stretch. Any for-pay service talking about goodness and support and humanity feels icky. But there are two things to think about here.

First, I’m in the business. We don’t like feeling icky. We do all the research, all the creative brainstorming, and hey, we’re humans too – we want the message to be as realistic and emotional as possible. We actually believe many of the products we sell do make life better. Let’s not forget that. There are some earnest people behind the curtain.

Second, capitalism is the system that keeps us all in motion here and for good or ill, it relies on us having affinity for some products and dropping our hard-earned cash on them. And working hard to save up said cash to spend. How do you get us to part with our dollars to keep the system turning? You build trust, allegiance, word of mouth. Grossed out that a phone company taught us a bit about humanity? You paid them to do so. In fact, you made nachos and bellied up to the TV and gave them your attention at a scheduled time and place. You said “Wow me. Make me feel something. Tomorrow, I’ll read about who did it best, I’ll share my favorite on social media.” They aren’t just commercials we view. They are commercial. Of commerce. Of money and capitalism.

So, I found it naïve and whiny when I saw upset viewers mad that they’d been moved by a phone ad. You asked to be. With every dollar you spend, every like, share and comment you deliver, every click, every drop in your virtual shopping cart, every coupon redeemed. You asked commerce to move you.

We measured where and how. We took notes on what you like, what we’re talking about, what resonates, what’s relevant. We did our job. Now, spend your money. Don’t want to buy a phone? Great. Donate trackable, noticeable, data-marked sums to a first responders’ charity. Donate money to the ACLU to continue to talk loudly about the injustice in the world so a phone company doesn’t have to.

Else, be moved beyond Super Bowl Sunday. Be reminded for longer than the shelf life of a tweet. It’s on us, not advertisers. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. Or better? Change the game. Money talks.

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maryt1 View All →

Feminist, activist, outdoor advocate, animal lover, chocolate shake lover, reader, watcher, talker, actor, speaker, worker, writer, urban adventurer, hustler, involved, passionate, excited, ready.

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