Tag Archives: TV commercials

Major League Baseball’s Hypocritical Effort To “Speed Up The Game” Gets Sinister

extra-innings

When I was a kid, listening to Curt Gowdy describe the discouraging daily travails of the Boston Red Sox of Chuck Schilling, Frank Malzone, Gene Conley and Pumpsie Green over WHDH in Boston, sponsored by Atlantic Refineries (“Atlantic keeps you car on the go,go go,GO!”) and Narragansett Beer (“Hi, neighbor! Have a ‘Gansett! Straight from the barrel taste!”), most baseball games were done in two and a half hours. Now three hours is average, and for Red Sox games, four hours is not unusual. For those of us who enjoy baseball, this is hardly a tragedy, though it can be an inconvenience, and in my case, a major reason why my two languishing ethics books are still incomplete.

The honchos of the game, however, worry that the increasing time of games limits the game’s appeal to the younger generations, whose attention span resembles that of kittens, except for the relative few who can appreciate such features as drama, compelling narratives, suspense, character and probabilities. Thus MLB has been for years trying various measures to pare some of the time out of the modern baseball game. The baseball execs also act and talk as if they have no idea why the games have lengthened. They know. Anyone who follows the game knows. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, History, Sports

“Start The Car!” Ethics

“Start the car!” shouts the woman in a ubiquitous IKEA TV commercial for its “Winter Sale.” She has received her receipt, and  the total is so low that she assumes there has been a mistake.  She quickly exits the store with bags of purchases, and while running calls to her husband in the car outside so he will pick her up and hit the gas before someone comes to reclaim the merchandise or demand more payment. As they drive away with what she thinks are her ill-gotten gains, she lets out a whoop of triumph.

The narration explains that IKEA’s sale prices are so low, this how you will feel.

The commercial is unethical. It trivializes and normalizes theft, and rejects the ethical values of honesty, integrity and responsibility. Apparently the ad has been running internationally for a long time (it only just started showing up in my region) and is very popular. Writes one industry commentator, “People relate to the message because at one point or another while shopping we’ve all had that feeling that we just got away with something.”

Really? I haven’t. My father didn’t either (my mom was another story.) I’ve told waitresses and clerks that they undercharged me. I’ve returned excessive change. I’ve handed back money to tellers when two bills stuck together. You don’t? What the hell’s the matter with you? Were you raised by Fagin?

Though the commercial was a hit and positively accepted in all of the nations where it was viewed, there is hope:  it also received many negative comments and complaints. An Advertising Standards Board—I cannot for the life of me find out which; the U.S. has no such board. I’m guessing Sweden— thus considered whether this advertisement breached   its Advertisers Code of Ethics.

The breach would be that the commercial isn’t socially responsible, since it represents taking merchandise from a store that hasn’t been fully paid for as normal and acceptable conduct. The Board viewed the advertisement in light of the complaints and decided that the ad was ethically inoffensive.

Guess why.

No, go ahead, guess.

Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Business & Commercial, Marketing and Advertising, Professions

From The Ethics Alarms Mail Bag: A Reader Asks, “Is The Verizon Wireless “Can You Hear Me Now?” Guy Unethical For Going Over To Sprint?

Question: Is the former Verizon Wireless spokes-character  whose tag line was “Can you hear me now?” unethical to star in commercials for Verizon competitor Sprint?

Answer: No, because that character, “the Test Man,” wasn’t real.

The real actor who played him, Paul Marcarelli, was playing a character and reading a script. He was acting the role of someone who told the audience how good the Verizon Wireless network was. He didn’t have to believe what he said was true. His loyalty extended no farther than his contractual obligations. The actor wasn’t ethically obligated to use Verizon Wireless, like it, understand it or believe in it, any more than Dos Equis’s “most interesting man in the world” has to really be interesting. Once the first ad series was dropped, he was a free agent.

Verizon could have included some kind of non-compete provision in the contract, forbidding Marcarelli from doing ads for a competitor, at least for a while.  It definitely could have prevented him from playing the same character as he played in the Verizon commercials, because that character is owned by Verizon. However,  Marcarelli uses his real name, Paul, in those Sprint ads, so he can argue that he’s not playing the Verizon character, but himself, and he owns the rights to “Paul Marcarelli.”

However, I do think the Sprint ads are unethical, and so obviously dishonest that they reflect poorly on Sprint. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Marketing and Advertising, Professions

More Culturally Subversive TV Advertising: FarmersOnly.Com’s Bigotry

Farmers Only

The latest strain of divisiveness to become virulent in American society is resentment and anger against “elites,”  those pompous know-it-alls who have money, education, power, influence, go to work wearing suits, and listen to NPR. Certainly the Elites have asked for this backlash for a long time and in many ways, deriding “fly-over” country, mocking religion, demonizing communities that are slow accepting sudden cultural shifts like gay marriage, and reflexively using accusations of racism and xenophobia to mark conservatives as a blight on mankind. Nonetheless, the backlash is taking the form of outright bigotry, with elites now under cultural assault as “the other” in some shockingly blunt ways.

A dating service called FarmersOnly is running a series of national TV commercials that portray “city folk” as unfit for human association. These ads started off  as benign—my initial reaction that it was just strange to be slicing the dating pool this thin. Here is an example from the first wave…

I can understand Christian Mingle, which aims for a market of singles who regard religion as central to their lives, but occupational dating restrictions seemed like a Saturday Night Live skit. What’s next? PlumbersOnly? AccountantsOnly? TerroristsOnly?

Then the ads turned nasty. First there was this, trading in pure negative stereotyping: Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Marketing and Advertising

Final Thoughts On The “Turn Back Time” DirecTV Ad, The Response To My Post, And Callousness Toward Life

It’s not on TV any more, but to refresh your memory:

I’m usually a poor judge of the posts that attract controversy here.  The Ethics Alarms commentary about the Jon Bon Jovi DirecTV ad showing the fading rock star singing the virtues of a “turn back time” feature that will allow subscribers to the satellite service to watch shows from the beginning after they have already run is now five weeks old, and it is still drawing traffic and–I also didn’t see this coming—abusive responses. I haven’t changed my mind about the ad being gratuitously and smugly callous and promoting societal indifference toward children, but I have learned some things from the responses to my pointing it out, especially the angry ones.

This blog isn’t called Ethics Alarms for nothing. Its objective is to help people be more sensitive to ethical issues and the right way to handle them, as well as to give them tools to keep their ethics alarms in working order. My ethics alarms were always unusually sensitive–being raised by my father will do that—and have become progressively more sensitive with attention, trial and error, and study. They aren’t perfect, but when they go off, they go off. If I can find out what they are ringing…training and experience help with that…then I will often write a post about the reason they rang out. My alarms went off every time that DirecTV ad came on, but it took me about four viewings to analyze why.  Then I wrote the post.

The commercial has Bon Jovi explaining what’s so great about being able to “turn back time”: in addition to letting you watch the show you missed, he notes that you can have the mild salsa you turned down for a spicy variety, and retroactively decide not to have that second child you now regret. The child is shown drawing on the wall with crayons, and he vanishes as the crayons he was holding fall to the floor. The parents smile. Bon Jovi smirks.

I wrote,

“Why isn’t it immediately obvious that this shows antipathy to children, boys, and human beings generally? The human being who was made to go away because he was inconvenient and burdensome couldn’t have been a girl, because it would be a “war on women,” and the family couldn’t be Hispanic or black, because that wouldn’t have been funny, but a white couple erasing their son from existence because he misbehaves—now that’s comedy gold.”

The comments to the post made me realize that there is antipathy to children, and the concept of turning back time to eliminate an unwanted life is acceptable, and thus no big deal, to a large portion of our culture. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Gender and Sex, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

From The “I’ll Take My Tiny Victories Where I Can Get Them” Dept., A DirecTV Update

DirecTV is now running a new version of the “Turn Back Time” ad featuring Bon Jovi. It looks just like the earlier one, except that now turning back time re-unites the female side of the satellite TV-watching couple with her old boyfriend, as her current partner looks on in horror. This is a major improvement over the first version, as it doesn’t make a wall-drawing kid vanish into the ether as his parents smile at ridding themselves of an unwanted child.

Maybe this is just an effort to vary the theme. I’d like to think, however, that enough ethics alarms went off among viewers and maybe even DirecTV executives that they realized that the original ad was more ugly than funny, and pulled it for a more ethical version that doesn’t tell us that this corporation thinks vaporizing children is hilarious.

Don’t disillusion me. I can’t always feel like I’m screaming in the wilderness here.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture

DirecTV Apparently Thinks Promoting Child-Killing Is A Cool Way To Sell Subscriptions

Six years ago, I flagged an ugly series of DirecTV commercials. One showed police casually tasering people, yet another approved of stealing stamps from one’s employer. Then there were a series of commercials promoting the satellite company’s NFL package, with the theme that hate is hilarious. Among the incidents featured:

  • In Wisconsin, a Green Bay Packers fan welcomes her 49er fan neighbor by leaving a cake on his stoop. The cake reads “DIRT BAG.”
  • A group of Patriots fans in wintery Foxboro, Mass. grumble about the Miami Dolphin fan next door (“Moron!” says one woman). One of them throws a shovelful of snow on the Miami fan’s door.
  • A Dallas Cowboy fan sends her dog to trash and pee in her Redskin fan neighbor’s house.
  • In another Dallas setting, a diner, the waitress expresses her contempt for Philadelphia Eagles fans by secretly squeezing her dishrag into their beers.

That was mild, however, compared to the vicious sentiments being sold in a new DirecTV commercial.  A married couple sits down in their living room to watch some television when the husband realizes he forgot to record the show. Jon Bon Jovi appears behind them and sings about the power to turn back time with DirecTV, with its new feature that allows viewers to track down and watch  shows after they have been broadcast. to  That’s not the only magic they can accomplish by turning back time, the aging rocks star sings.  For example, they can go back in time and reconsider having their second child, who looks about 7, and is drawing on the walls.

Poof! He’s gone! His crayons fall to the floor. The boy is erased, and the two parents smile at each other as Bon Jovi smirks. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Family, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Marketing and Advertising, Popular Culture