Ads don’t appear by accident.
Least of all television ads, with their high production costs and long lead-times. If you see something in a television ad, especially an “agency” spot (produced by an ad agency, as opposed to something shot at a store or TV station for a local merchant, you may be assured someone thought about the message it was portraying.
As we’ve discussed recently, the high numbers of African-Americans in TV commercials challenge the idea that Americans are innately racist. If an add offends someone on some visceral level, it’s just not going to work.
With that in mind, I direct your attention to the latest round of commercials for “Hy Vee”, the national grocery chain, and what HyVee thinks it says about their customers. Both spots are done to the tune of the ’80s song Our House, by the British ska group “Madness”.
Here’s the first one, which came out over the winter:
Note the imagery (amid all the HyVee products):
- Mom is the executive rushing off to the high-power job.
- Dad is not only getting the kids ready for school. Not only is he kind of a bumbler, like most TV ad dads, but he looks like a buffoon.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with dads taking care of kids. I spent 20 years doing it, 11 of ’em mostly by myself, several more covering the day shift and working nights to save daycare. Fathers pulling their weight is nothing new.
But it’s not an unreasonable assumption that, in the typical family – whether two-parent or not – a woman is still making a lot of the shopping decisions. And HyVee, one of the major retailers, believes that not only is the image of the woman being the high-speed executive bread-winner one that appeals to those consumers, but showing hubby as a hapless buffoon who’d be lost without her appeals as well.
HyVee has a new “Our House” spot out – it’s not out on Youtube just yet, so I can’t post it here just yet. And when I first saw it – with its improbably pretty mom cleaning the house to a fine sheen with her array of HyVee products, and a pronounced “Father Knows Best” vibe, I briefly thought “Ooofda – how did this get greenlit? The feministasi are going to have a cow.”.
Then I mentally caught myself. “There’s going to be a whammy”.
And sure enough – Dad finally came home. And he reminded me of Rip Taylor, if Rip Taylor were playing a Gestapo agent (sans long black trench coat – this agent was dressed like, well, Rip Taylor in a HyVee commercial) – simultaneously petulant and way below Mom’s league.
So apparently HyVee’s marketing department believes that an ad Dad who is a mass of caricatures, coming across as a spoiled, petulant martinet to his improbably gorgeous, clearly put-upon spouse, is not only not going to turn their audience off, but will in fact bring them out to the stores?
What does this say about…
…well, not “society”, per se, but the advertising industry’s view of society?