I infrequently watch television, but when I do I’m invariably assaulted by a truly irritating commercial for Crestor, AstraZeneca’s monster $7 billion cholesterol drug. Relying on a disturbing pattern that has become cemented across the TV commercial spectrum, the Crestor ad features a dumpy white man behaving like a puerile imbecile upon learning that Crestor – apparently his favorite home team drug – outperformed some competitor. As a serious black actor portraying a doctor on the television extols the virtues of the product, the white man hops around the living room while his wife and kid roll their eyes. You have to wonder how such an asshole came to be married to a normal-looking woman, let alone figured out how to father a son. (Or maybe the infinitely more well-adjusted kid was adopted.)
For some reason, the men and women of Madison Avenue have latched onto an insulting marketing tactic that portrays white men as foolish dolts. It’s undeniable that humorous ads tend to be remembered longer which is the whole point – but I have to believe these ads risk alienating a big slice of the intended market. I’d rather slough along through life with a cholesterol level of 400 than take a chance that consuming Crestor would turn me into a freaking jerk.
I note that other demographics are rarely the object of such baldfaced derision (at least not in the past 30 years). Imagine if the Crestor ad featured a black husband moon-walking like a jive-ass clown while a respectable, middle-aged white guy played doctor. Or if the wife was portrayed as an Edith Bunker-ish dingbat. Outrage would ensue, and the offended would prevail in not only having the commercial banned, but in extracting a groveling apology from the chief marketing officer.
Here are a few additional samples of “Morons on Parade”:
An early example includes this Tostitos ad in which a goofy guy tries to insinuate himself into a gaggle of gorgeous women at a party. This lowly human scum believes he has permission to actually speak to the girls by virtue of his possession of a salty snack. The chicks go for the Tostitos (naturally) but as for goof-boy: “get out of here.” For some reason there wasn’t a similar ad showing a homely girl getting the combined diss from five studly men.
What kind of jerk talks to an insurance salesman in the middle of the night in the dark? And in such a fashion as to be mistaken for making horny talk with a breathy representative of the phone-sex industry. After the man’s harpy wife grabs the phone from his hands, instead of telling her to cease and desist, he stands there like a chastened schoolboy.
Liberty Mutual wants to be perceived as the caring insurance company, recognizing that people are “only human” and prone to make mistakes. This ad consists of several brief vignettes of minor calamities:
- A white man forgets to put his car in park and chases it as it rolls down a hill, as if that has any hope of success
- A haircut-impaired white man beats on a ketchup bottle like a caveman until he blasts a red glop onto his lunch companion
- A white man drops an air-conditioner from his third-floor apartment onto the roof of a parked car
- A white man falls flat on his ass, hamburgers flying, after he walks headstrong into a closed screen door
- A man’s foot is shown crashing through the ceiling
- A dorky white man dressed like Poindexter from “Revenge of the Nerds” splashes a milk shake all over himself when he forgets to put a lid on the blender
- A white man drives his car into the garage, forgetting he has two bicycles strapped to the roof.
Oh yeah, a woman has her car door torn off its hinges by a passing pick-up truck, but there’s little doubt that calamity was the fault of a careless white male driver.
Discover Card forgives people when they forget to pay their credit card bill on time – especially if the reason for the lapse is that a childish white man bought a puppy instead of making a bank deposit. Mr. Irresponsible is shown carrying the puppy down the stairs, presumably unaware that animals urinate and defecate. The best entry in the comments section for the Discover ad: “I hate this commercial, but I love the fact that everyone else hates it too.”
A white guy flips over a sexy, attractive female…plumber? OK, I don’t buy the “Flashdancer” conceit, but it’s marketing. The white guy desperately wants to meet the plumber, so he tries to plug up his Kohler toilet. He’s shown throwing all form of flotsam and jetsam down the shitter, but everything goes down. He just can’t seem to plug up the Kohler toilet! More to the point, he also just can’t seem to come up with a better, more mature way to introduce himself to Jo the Plumber. Finally, he’s shown pouring dog food into the toilet just as his wife/girlfriend stumbles upon his bizarre behavior. Which begs the question: suppose he succeeded in plugging the toilet, thus contriving a reason to call Jo – what was supposed to happen next? A menage a trois in the bathroom in ankle-deep sewage?