That’s Us. . . On TV! . . . .

There were a couple of commercials that I saw this weekend. . . several times each. . . that caught my eye. They caught my eye because they are not only creative, but because they caught the rest of me as well. The “rest of me” meaning aspects of who I/we’ve become in our culture, how we live in our culture, and what living in this culture has been doing to us.

The first is one of the ads for the new Windows Phone 7. . . .

I think this ad not only captures the sad reality of how technology has enslaved us, but how over time – a very short period of time relatively speaking – we’ve allowed that technology to hijack us out of deep and meaningful face-to-face relationships. How many times have you been with someone and they’ve been paying too much attention to the technology in their hand, and not enough attention to you. I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of that one. . . both perpetrator and victim. I’ve been thinking in recent weeks about how important it is for us to put it down. Sure, we should still use it, but not in the way we have been using it. When you’re talking to me and I’m talking to you. . . don’t tweet it, post it, etc. Wait until later. And when later comes, use some discretion.

There is one way this ad gets it wrong. . . way wrong. It’s at the end. We don’t need to be saved from our phones. It’s not our phones. It’s us. We need to be saved from ourselves and the ways we’ve gotten locked into living our lives this way. It’s not the phone’s fault. And by the way, a new-fangled phone’s not going to do the saving.

The second commercial is one in a new series of ads for the Toyota Highlander. . .

Watching it reminded me of how automobile manufacturers actually peddle their wares to people who aren’t even close in age to having a driver’s license. They target kids because in today’s world, 65% of the automobile purchases made by parents of children are influenced by those children. Maybe Pontiac. . .who closed down officially today. . . should have taken a cue from Toyota’s strategy in this series of ads. I don’t like the smart kid/stupid parent theme. But it does work. While it’s a stretch, the stretch the ad takes in the direction of the hip kid/lame parent does ring somewhat true when it comes to being media savvy. The kid’s right when he claims to be more knowledgeable of this stuff than his parents, which should serve as a wake-up call for us older folks. But I’m afraid this is one ad that fuels entitlement, materialism, and narcissism. . . all trends that are already firmly entrenched in the soil of today’s youth culture. What messages do kids get when they see this ad?

You’ve heard me say it before. . . culture is a map and a mirror. These ads map out life for viewers, telling them this is the way things are and the way things ought to be. The ads mirror our world to us if we are willing to watch critically with discerning eyes. Hopefully, they’ll spur us on to know what to say, who to say it to, and how to say it when it comes to proclaiming the Kingdom of God and the way things really ought to be.

4 thoughts on “That’s Us. . . On TV! . . . .

  1. I saw both of these ads last night Walt. We must have been watching the same football games! 🙂 Couldn’t agree with you more! After the first (the phone commercial), my 22 year old son said, “THAT’S an interesting way to market!” and after the second (Highlander) I said to my husband, “I didn’t like that kid!” Here’s another that my husband noticed (that I’ve seen many times and never really thought about)–it’s one about SOME phone system that allows you to verify your world. One scene has a little girl in bed telling the monster that he’s not real. Cute. BUT A KID WHO COULDN’T BE MORE THAN 8 YEARS OLD WITH A CELL PHONE? Now that’s an interesting marketing strategy! And unfortunately, more and more common a reality.

    As always, your insights are right on.


  2. I’m interested in knowing what kind of influence the 65% stat reflects. The context leads me to think it’s reflecting the kids cool attitude which influences the parents. Does it take into account parents being influenced by how many kids they have or what they’re kids are actively involved in (eg. sports teams)? Good thoughts.

  3. Classic!

    Thanks Walt. Good insights. The second one reeked of the old “parents are lame” MTV ads (before their 2007 AP parents survey), “…until then you’ve got MTV.”

  4. We are doing the Download curriculum in our youth group right now. I actually used The Windows 7 commercial a couple of weeks ago. it got some good discussion going. I am also leading an adult ed seminar tonight and the Highlander commercial is now on my radar.

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