Marketing Thuggery: a case in point

Lots of people comment on advertising only to condemn it.  The Frankfurt School lives on like Frankenstein.

But I’m not one of those people.  Generally, I like ads.  They’re little production houses.  They use some part of their culture.  And they create some part of their culture.  This makes them anthropologically fascinating.  (Here’s a post on advertising I recently did with Bob Scarpelli.)

But today I’m pointing an accusing finger at this ad from DirecTV.

“Are my wires ugly.”

“No, buddy, no!  Your wires are what make you you, little man.”

Advertising is often an act of metaphor.  We find a meaning in one part of our culture and place it somewhere else.  Meanings are released.  Humor, sometimes, is occasioned.

Call it cultural arbitrage, as I did a couple of days ago.

So where do you think this meaning comes from?  It comes from the world of disability and the conversation where the father seeks to reassure his challenged son.

You think I’m being too sensitive?  Try asking a father who has had to have this conversation.  Try asking a son who has suffered this anxiety.

And while you’re at it, try exercising a little cultural sophistication.  It is, actually, what you do for a living.

This ad isn’t funny.  It’s an act of marketing thuggery.  It assigns very bad meanings to the brand. DirecTV as a brand that finds humor in disability?   DirecTV as a brand that would play upon the insecurities of a child and a father haunted by both?  DirecTV as a brand that ridicules a family that must confront ridicule as a matter of course?

Wow.  Hats off to these marketers for this tone-perfect mastery of contemporary culture, for their virtuoso ability to find meanings and make meanings for the brand.  This is marketing malpractice of the first order.  This is marketing thuggery.


Normally, I would name the agency and the creatives responsible for a great ad.  In this case, I will say merely that I think the offending agency is Deutsch.

1 thought on “Marketing Thuggery: a case in point

  1. Ellie Kesselman

    You aren’t being too sensitive, nor is this comparable to your earlier post, “cultural arbitrage”. I read that one. I didn’t watch the videos because I use close-captioning, but I read The Onion article excerpt. I found it amusing. I find a lot of what I read on reddit, even 4chan amusing.

    I did watch this video, with captions on. Even with the cruddy auto transcription, I got the gist of it. I cried. It was cruel, and sad. The setting was too similar to reality. I cried again.

    I always try to choose IBM, because I have had such positive experiences with their products, their customer relations and their advertising. In contrast, after viewing this DirecTV ad, I would rather go without than be a DirecTV customer. Watching that video, it felt like… deception. You’re right: it is marketing thuggery.

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