Selling unity

Illustration of a jeep, democratic and republican logos.

How would you go about selling a car? Would you talk about the mileage it gets on the highway? Maybe you’d talk about how much you could fit in its trunk. There has to be something about the vehicle that holds some sort of appeal. It may be a difficult task, but really, it's pretty straight forward. So, expert advertisers, who undoubtedly know exactly how to make a car seem appealing, made the obvious choice. They had Bruce Springsteen drive around in a Jeep while advocating for political centrism. 

I’m not sure why the people at Jeep thought that people were wondering if their car was a democrat or a republican, but I can certainly take a shot at guessing where their train of thought started. Things are going… well, they’re going. Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand for the past year, you know what I mean. Politics is on everyone’s mind in a truly unprecedented way. The amount of attention devoted to the run-off elections in Georgia were certainly unusual and the events of the following day, Jan. 6, were even more so. The past year has been polarizing and the country is said to be in the middle of a ‘cold civil war’.

So, it might have been a little awkward to just ignore all this.

At least, that’s what I imagine Jeep was thinking. To be clear, they were not the only company to reference current events and/or politics in their advertisement. It was nowhere near uncommon last Sunday to see phrases like “We know things are tough…” and “These are not normal times”. It was an easier task for some (ex: insurance commercials) than others (ex: fast food chains), but the message they were trying to send is clear. 

“We care about you, totally, we’re not just saying that… now would you please give us money?”.

It rings hollow because it very much is so. One survey conducted by Boston.com quoted one person saying as much by calling the ad phony. There’s no sense of crying about where we are if we don’t bother to acknowledge how we got here. However, those tears serve their purpose. They give the company a face- make them something more than just some emotionless robots out for your money. This strategy may work for some and miserably fail for others, but it’s certainly better than being honest.

We all want to get along. We all want to come together under the realization that we stand on the same ground, just like Bruce Springsteen said in the commercial. “...The very soil we stand on is common ground…”, is how he put it. What we don’t want to do is ask is how we all came to stand on that ground. We don’t like thinking about what we did to get it. We all want to talk about just how polarizing current politics are. We don’t want to talk about how we got here. We’re scared of what our morality will tell us about the current state of things and we’re terrified of where our conscience will tell us to go from here. Every choice in that Jeep commercial was made to appeal to a sense of normalcy, but we have to wonder whether normal is good for everyone. Yet, that’s not what was being sold.

That’s the art of advertising. It taps into the abstract things that we yearn for, like unity, and twists it into a new desire. In this case it was supposed to be… Jeep cars. While not terribly well done, all commercials are designed to sell convenience more than necessities. Every camera angle and lighting choice is done with this in mind. Now that politics loom so large in our minds, commercials have just started applying this same method to them. It is just as superficial as pretending to care about how difficult cleaning the house is to sell someone a vacuum. The only social responsibility taken by advertisers can be measured in dollar signs. Peace sells but ignorance sells better.

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