Whereas comedians or artists may want to ostracize a large group of people, an ad exec can lose his job for offending even one person. This makes sense, because a commercial is a short film meant to please everyone in the world. As a result, advertising agencies are drowning in capitulation.
The hot new thing for advertisers is viral comedy videos. Companies know that funny sketches that cost virtually nothing get millions of views, and they want to recreate that reaction in a lab. But pleasing everyone while making them laugh is virtually impossible. I run an ad agency and find this challenge pretty fun. We did a shoe ad about public urination that got 1.7 million views. We got 11 million views when we depicted a rapper as too incompetent to promote his new album.
Those were the highs. The lows are having entire campaigns canceled because the spokesman had the word “boner” in a Tweet last year or someone decided some random accent is offensive. Alarmists thrive on apologies, and they get way more than they deserve when someone’s job is on the line. This is why feigned outrage does so well when applied to commercials. It’s also why it’s only a matter of time before the entire country turns on these overly sensitive pussies and revokes their Indignation Licenses for good.
1. TYLER THE CREATOR FOR MOUNTAIN DEW
Earlier this month, Mountain Dew was accused of making “the most racist commercial in history.” It featured a battered woman too scared to press charges against a goat who was standing in a lineup amid black thugs. This retardo joke was the brainchild of a very popular rapper named Tyler the Creator who has more than 1.6 million Twitter followers. He obviously speaks the Beavis and Butt-head language of today’s youth, but that doesn’t stop the Thought Police from accusing this black man of being racist toward black men. Mountain Dew has devoted an entire website to their apology. Tyler’s manager issued a statement that said in part, “Offense is personal and valid to anyone who is offended.” I would have added, “but it is only valid to that one person and is not our problem.” Tyler called his critics “IDIOTS.”
(It’s been pretty bad recently for rapper endorsements, as Mountain Dew had to explain why another spokesman, Lil Wayne, used the lyrics “beat that pussy like Emmett Till” to describe a sex act. And Reebok dumped Rick Ross for a song seen as supporting date rape.)
2. FLAPPER FOR GENERAL MOTORS
A time traveler is listening to old-timey music as he checks out how awesome 2013 is, but the lyrics are apparently so painfully out of date, a Chinese newspaper has labeled them racist. The “Land of Fu Manchu” is mentioned in the song and then we get the line, “ching, ching, chop-suey” which is racist because, well, actually, we’re just supposed to know. The closest the South China Morning Post gets to explaining its outrage is saying the song “might have been considered acceptable, even amusing, when the lyrics were originally penned in the US in the 1930s.” Yes? And? GM scrapped the track and released the commercial using a different song.
3. SOME ARAB GUY FOR COCA-COLA
This one’s a stretch. In this year’s big-budget Super Bowl ad, we see an Arab walking through the desert and discovering swarms of different groups chasing down a giant bottle of Coke. When they get to the bottle they realize it’s a sign and the race continues elsewhere. Arab-American groups decided this was racist because the Arab isn’t in the race. Imam Ali Siddiqui, president of the Muslim Institute for Interfaith Studies, claimed the ad says Arabs “have no chance to win in the world.” Instead of asking, “What the fuck are you talking about?” Coca-Cola apologized.
4. WHITE GUY DOING A JAMAICAN ACCENT FOR VOLKSWAGEN
During the same Super Bowl, Volkswagen got in trouble for allowing white actors to do Jamaican accents. This is racist because it implies Jamaicans are known for being laid back, even though they are. Nobody had to explain what’s wrong with doing a goddamn accent. There are plenty of Jamaican whites, from the island nation’s “Founding Fathers” to Bob Marley’s dad.
5. ASHTON KUTCHER FOR POPCHIPS
Popchips is a tiny company, but they spent over a million dollars last year getting Ashton Kutcher to promote their snack. The ads did pretty well until a tiny group of infants decided to be offended by Ashton’s Indian accent. One brown gentleman claimed the depiction was “extremely offensive” and said Popchips were racist “subconsciously.” Popchips apologized, and as is always the case with these things, nobody was asked to explain why an actor acting like he’s someone else is wrong.
6. BLACK CRICKETER FOR KFC
In 2010, Australia showed a West Indian cricketer appeasing his rivals by sharing some delicious fried chicken. When the commercial made it to America, KFC was forced to apologize. It is wrong of them to imply blacks enjoy fried chicken. Regarding this awful stereotype, black comedian Dave Chappelle famously quipped, “if you don’t like chicken and watermelon, something is wrong with you.” Apologizing for implying that many black people enjoy fried chicken sounds funny, but it’s kind of scary, too. The Canadian Human Rights Commission recently declared that hate speech can include things that are true, AKA “hatefacts.” Soon censorship will be entirely based not on what a smart person said but how it made some irrational idiot feel.
7. MARY J. BLIGE FOR BURGER KING
Last year Blige got in hot water for appearing in a commercial that mentioned chicken. African Americans did not react favorably to the ad because they are sick of being portrayed as leather-clad greasers who stand on tables in restaurants and sing about chicken wraps, even though Mary J. Blige is the only black person on Earth who has ever done that.
8. MONKEY FOR ANIMAL PRACTICE
Last year NBC was accused of racism not because they aired a racist ad but because the time they chose to air it was racist. The ad depicted a monkey gymnast shortly after we saw an African American gymnast compete at the Olympics. This controversy is proof the outraged don’t really think the people they vilify are actually racists. This outrage is all about not being sensitive enough. It’s all about your subconscious and knowing how that might make other people feel.
9. PETE HOEKSTRA FOR PETE HOEKSTRA
Last year, the Republican Senate Candidate made a campaign commercial that criticized America’s investment in the Chinese economy. The commercial shows a woman living in China who does not speak perfect English. Despite this being the norm over in Asia, Hoekstra’s commercial “sparked outrage” mostly because…oh, Jesus, I give up.
Basically, if you depict actors playing anyone but themselves or show any group doing something they tend to do, you are enforcing racist stereotypes and you need to apologize. Only a minute fraction of the population sees all these commercials as anything but harmless. They are usually white and educated, but technically they are a minority. The problem is, this minority is very loud and the more we kowtow to their shrill hysterics, the more powerful they become.