Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Super Bowl advertising revisited...

According to a recent Reuters report, the PC Shocktroops are at it again...

Reuters reported that several special interest groups have demanded that certain ads never be shown again. The advertisements included GM's suicidal production line robot, the Snickers ad with the two mechanics ending up in a "Lady and the Tramp" kiss, and the Nationwide ad featuring Kevin Federline working the fries at a fast food restaurant. It also noted an issue that arose from the ad campaign for the new Hannibal movie.

Let's address each complaint:

1. "GM became the subject of sharp criticism when The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention complained about the insensitivity of a commercial by the automaker that showed a factory robot leaping from a bridge after it was fired for a making a mistake.
The group said in a statement the commercial 'is offensive to the tens of millions of survivors of suicide loss nationwide. In its carelessness, it portrays suicide as a viable option when someone fails or loses their job.'"

GM responded by saying that they did not mean to offend anyone, but they will not change the spot.

Is the criticism justified for their spot? Yes - but not by the AFSP. In their complaint the AFSP comes off as the parents that sue MTV or Warner Brothers because they haven't imbued their children with enough common sense to realize that Beavis & Butthead or Wile E. Coyote are cartoon characters. It's a frakkin' robot - and if you can't make that distinction when contemplating suicide, maybe - just maybe - you have a serious mental issue that needs 24 hour care...not an hour per week with a therapist, but serious effing observation...y'know, 24-7-365.

Now employees and the recently unemployed in Detroit's motor industry have a legitimate complaint that the spot is insensitive and in bad taste based on this little snippet reported on February 1 by David Shepardson of the Detroit News, "GM and Ford have lost more than $25 billion since 2006, while cutting more than 55,000 hourly jobs and thousands of salaried jobs. GM wants to close nine plants by 2008, while Ford is in the process of shuttering 14 factories by 2012. GM's accounting is the subject of an SEC probe." For the full story, click here.

Makes me question my desire to ever buy American again.

2. "This year's advertisement by Masterfoods, a unit of privately-held Mars, showed two auto mechanics locked in an accidental kiss while eating a Snickers candy bar, then ripping out chest hair to prove they are 'manly.'

"'The makers of Snickers and its parent company at Mars should know better,' the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement. 'If they have any questions about why the ad isn't funny, we can help put them in touch with any number of Americans who have suffered hate crimes.'"

The ad was pulled the next day.

Justified? Only if they were defending homophobes, because, and let's be honest, this ad made fun of the homophobic, not the homosexual. I guess making fun of prejudice that is without base is off-limits now as well.

Somehow, in light of their faster-than-light-speed we're so sorry to have offended response, I find myself respecting GM for not caving to special interest groups, in spite of the fact that GM had the more offensive ad. If they pulled the ad because they deemed it unfunny, or decided they didn't like it, that would have been one thing, but because you offended a few people? Hell, I do that everyday...usually by the time I've had breakfast.

3. "Even before the Super Bowl aired on February 4 on CBS, drawing the third largest U.S. television audience ever, the National Restaurant Association called an ad featuring Kevin Federline as a fast-food worker demeaning to the industry.

"The commercial by Nationwide Financial Services had not even aired when the group called for it to be dumped."

I won't even ponder whether this one is justified as it is by far and away the most ridiculous of all the complaints - unless the Restaurant Association felt Kevin Federline as a fast-food worker was demeaning to the industry, not the fall from grace that the ad implied (it is my understanding that the music industry does indeed consider it demeaning that people consider K-Fed part of that industry).

Let's take a minute to ponder the joke that is the world of, "do you want fries with that?" It is a minimum wage world with a huge profit margin. While employment in the industry is okay in high school, and it is honest work, there is a stigma that goes with working fast food world that is there not because of ads like this, but because of the refusal of mega-corporations like McDonald's and Burger King to raise salaries to living wages in order to keep prices down (in spite of the fact that people at corporate make a very comfortable living off the sweat equity of those in the kitchen making minimum wage).

4. From the ridiculous to the ludicrous, "CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves told a conference this week the network turned away millions of dollars worth of ads it deemed unfit for this year's game.

"In one case, he said, the network discussed changing the wording of a film critic's endorsement of the feature film 'Hannibal Rising' to remove the word 'terrifying.'"

When society has gotten to the point that changing a word in the endorsement of a HORROR film (for Christ's sake) from "terrifying" to something else we have gone way too far as a society.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Weighty matters...

Well, I seemed to have plateaued at 179.5 for the time-being. And on to other things, it's been a busy couple of days...

Andy Reid is taking some time off to deal with personal issues. Better too late than not at all in this case.

It was announced this morning that the relationship between Marty Schottenheimer and AJ Smith finally came to a head. With five members of Schottenheimer's coaching staff headed elsewhere for next season (offensive coordinator and strength coach will be in Miami, defensive coordinator in Dallas, tight-ends coach in Cleveland, and linebackers coach is heading up to San Francisco), ownership decided that it is time to end the dysfunction that is the brain-trust of Charger land.

I have to admit to a level of uncertainty in regards to this move. I think it was foolish for the front office to assume that Marty's staff was not going to pursue other openings considering the fact that the Chargers didn't offer Schottenheimer an extension, they offered him an option year (the team's option, not his as I understand it). In essence, the Chargers sent a message saying, "we don't really want you back, but the NFL braintrust has said that it would be an embarrassment if we fired you after taking our team to a 14-2 regular season record. So here's a cosmetic offer to make us look good to the general public."

To give an idea of what the Chargers have done - no coach in the history of the NFL has left a team after a season with a higher winning percentage (.875). That list includes John Rauch of the Raiders in 1968 (.857), Dick Vermeil from the Rams in 1999 (.813), Bill Parcells leaving the Giants after 1990 (.813), and Paul Brown in 1975 when he left the Bengals (.786). All of those coaches won at least 11 games in their final season with their respective teams. His post-season record not-withstanding, I think it's safe to say that there is no candidate currently available with Schottenheimer's cache.

I wouldn't be surprised to see the Chargers make the playoffs next year, but they aren't going to have the best record in football. Learning a whole new system will do that to a good team.

The New York Giants new GM Jerry Reese is wasting no time in retooling his roster. The Giants announced the release of LB's LaVar Arrington and Carlos Emmons as well as T Luke Pettigout. With the retirement of Tiki Barber, that's four players that were either opening day starters, or were expected to be starters when last season opened. Arrington, a former first rounder and one-time pro-bowl pick, is becoming more and more likely to go down as one of the big draft busts from Penn State and is probably never going to get another fat contract like the previous ones that have always been predicated on his physical gifts and not his production.

Beer Me -

Okay, so it seems like Boston's newest headline grabbing athlete is grabbing headlines for the wrong reasons. Daisuke Matsuzaka shot a beer ad in Japan for Asahi Beer while wearing a Red Sox jersey. To call the Dice-man in hot-water over this would be overstating things, but there is some warm water involved and the simmering pot smells of hypocrisy.

Matsuzaka was granted permission from MLB to wear his Sox jersey in the ad (the endorsement deal predates his contract with the Red Sox). In the United States players are not allowed to endorse alcoholic products - however, that little tidbit extends only to the U.S. (for example, if a company in Mexico wanted to shoot television ads for Mexican TV with Nomar Garciaparra endorsing problem).

The Red Sox evidently aren't happy about the use of their uniform in the ad and were only made aware of it when it hit stateside on YouTube. My problem? Year in and year out we are bombarded with ads for alcoholic products while watching sports. According to Forbes the four biggest corporate sponsors of both Major League Baseball and the Boston Red Sox include Anheuser-Busch. As a matter of fact, according to Forbes, in 2003 sixty percent of Anheuser-Bush's advertising budget was spent on product placement and advertising during sporting events.

I guarantee that the Sox were a recipient of a fair number of those advertising dollars, so I think it's safe to say that the team needs to get off its high horse in relation to this ad.

Monday, February 12, 2007

And Now For Something Completely Different; The Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy for our occassional reality check

Good for Mr. Shaughnessy over at the Globe to remind the rest of us sports-obsessed meat-heads that we are often given to too much hyperbole in our descriptions of athletes.

I try as often as possible to avoid calling these people heroes, or even (the popular amongst the athlete set) warriors. Too often we are given to the hyperbole of war in order to describe the action of the games we watch, and it takes a sobering moment of true heroism to remind us that it's just a game.

To say that what we watch are just games, I will admit, is probably going too far in the other direction, but by comparison that is all that sports is - a series of games that we watch for our own entertainment and edification.

It can be more, much more. It can be a sublime expression of determination and man's will to compete and overcome. In the minds of writers like George Plympton and the Hollywood brain trust it can be metaphorical, lyrical, and even social commentary.

I had a lot of time to reflect on these concepts this past weekend as I drove six hours (round trip) to bury the last of my grandfather's siblings. Salvatore Ricci, my mother's uncle, served in the Pacific theater of operations during World War II and received a bronze star, the nation's fourth highest honor, for his actions. He later supported his daughter who marched against the Vietnam War. He was, to say the least, a man that always was trying to make the world a better place and understood that what might be right at one time, might not be right twenty-five years later.

When our professional sports are looked at next to the actions of Boston firefighter Andrew Lee who brushed off talk of heroism as "just his job", former staff sergeant Sal Ricci who never talked about the war and his sacrifices, and former Arizona Cardinals Pat Tillman who left the NFL because serving the country was something he felt he had to do, I can't help but feel that all the hyperbole needs to go out the window. We need to remember that the sports themselves are not the metaphor - just that they are a tool to make the metaphor work.

I often feel that we look on the athletes and raise them up to the mythological stature of Zeus and Hercules because it's easy (as a sports writer I am admittedly one of the worst perpetrators). We all know about Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Joe DiMaggio. We know they were amongst the best at what they did. We look at them and say, "there walked giants." and we eventually brush aside the war heroes because there is something horrible associated with them - death and destruction, and we don't want to be reminded of our mortality, only of the promise of immortality and war is too dark a place for us to go for our heroes. And that is the grave injustice of our society.