As we head into June I have a lot on my mind – especially as it relates to advertising and marketing.
We’ve seen the memes year after year about corporations pandering to the LGBTQ community for 30 days every year, only to discard them the moment the clock strikes 12 on July 1st.
For years, we’ve seen the rainbow logos and the special edition merchandise pop up for a month for our favorite brands, and seen ridiculous, overwrought campaigns about how Cheez Itz are fighting homophobia and how Windex is committed to telling queer stories.
And for most of my life, I didn’t mind it or pay much attention to it.
But as we’ve watched the Bud Light fiasco unfold over the past few weeks and a new brand seems to follow in their footsteps every day, I can’t help but think about what this says about us as a country and as a culture.
Yes, it’s alarming that even as Bud Light stumbles and fumbles through this public relations disaster, companies continue to embrace an obviously unpopular and divisive tactic, because it means they’re more interested in trying to dictate behavior than maximize profit by understanding their customers. In other words, big businesses are now so invested in the Left Wing agenda that they’re willing to lose money in the short term to promote their political interests. And the only reason they’re willing to take these losses now is because they’re banking on a future where there are eventually no unwoke alternatives. If policies like ESG succeed in a meaningful and permanent way, they’ll be able to artificially prop up businesses no matter how vehemently you boycott them, and corner their markets by financially starving and ultimately eliminating the businesses unwilling to play ball.
All that to say I acknowledge that this is bigger than our colleges, or marketing and communications majors that graduated after 2010. But I think it would be a mistake to dismiss this phenomenon, or underestimate how it contributed to the current state of affairs.
As I’m sure you know by now, Alissa Heinerscheid was the Vice President of Marketing for Bud Light. In a podcast interview that’s since gone viral, she spoke of the “clear mandate” she had to “update a brand in decline.”
Alissa Heinerscheid is supposed to represent the best of the American mind. She attended the most prestigious schools in the country, and landed a leadership role at one of the most iconic brands in our nation’s history. Of course, the real value in attending schools like Harvard is the network, and I have no idea if Alissa got into Harvard because she was brilliant or because she knew the right people, but for all intents and purposes, we should be able to assume she received the best education that money can buy in the continental United States.
And with all that considered, her masterplan for reviving a blue collar beer company was “let’s collab with the Tik Tok cross dresser.”
Sorry, not sorry, but “what if we made it gay?” is a marketing proposal I’d expect from a sophomore at a dumb hot person school like ASU, not a graduate from the highest ranked university in the world.
I can’t think of a more damning indictment of higher education, or how far we’ve fallen.
I love advertising and marketing because it gives creative types the opportunity to use their hearts and their brains in their work while making real money.
In college, I constantly found myself in awe of the different ads I studied, and the incredible vision and execution some people in the industry had.
This is one of my favorite ads of all time.
Your average “artist” will mostly dismiss the people that work in fields like marketing and advertising as corporate sellouts that “don’t get it” – but good ads are art.
Good ads, like good art, say something about the human condition, and speak to our most base motivations and emotions.
More often than not, the challenge lies in tying that into a brand in a way that makes sense – which makes the Lacoste commercial all the more remarkable to me.
The ad does a beautiful job of visualizing the fear and turmoil that accompany the risks worth taking, and ultimately what makes life worth living. It gives meaning to the mundane, and brings everything back to the brand at the end with one short, simple, and thought provoking sentence: Life is a beautiful sport.
It illustrated something so integral to our nature that only the sentence at the end needed to be translated to be understood: the rest of it was something that we could all feel, no matter what language we spoke or what country we lived in.
I bring up this ad because it provides such a stark contrast to what we’re seeing across the board from major companies.
Once upon a time, there was something interesting and revolutionary about being proud to be gay, or black, or any other “marginalized” identity. But we’re long past it.
Every company from North Face to Netflix seems to think putting a man in a dress and makeup is profound, or “contemporary,” or “bold” when it’s actually the least inspired thing a marketing department could do.
And what’s even more maddening is that it seems like not even basic market research or business acumen is applied to these projects. It would be one thing if it was just brands like Sephora and Anthropologie; there’s a reason to believe their core customers would support these campaigns – but Bud Light? North Face? The LA Dodgers?
As we’ve embraced identity politics and Left Wing dogma, we’ve abandoned real art, we’ve abandoned real thought, and we’ve abandoned real creativity.
This is evident in every form of media.
From literature to cinema to sculpture, the more we focus on diversity for diversity’s sake, the less we have to show for it.
Instead of heart wrenching novels that reframe death and morality and change entire generations, we have boring, repetitive self indulgent drivel published by androgynous narcissists with no sense of self or purpose beyond their pronouns. Instead of thoughtful, well written movies and shows that ask the viewer subtle questions, striking the delicate balance between intellectual challenges and emotional affirmations, we have clumsy scripts that break out into DNC speeches and Ted Talks about patriarchy that sound like they were generated by AI. And instead of overwhelming statues forged out of stone, marble and bronze honoring the complex historical figures that built our civilization, we have monuments of ugliness erected in our public squares in confusing arrangements of plastic and scrap metal with titles like “Unity” and “Liberation.”
Like I said, I know there’s more going on here. The most powerful people in the world are invested in stripping consumers of all of their power, dragging us kicking and screaming into their “progressive” dystopia – where everyone has pronouns but no one can afford eggs. I can also admit that the right wing has an elementary grasp of art in general. But the more control the most radical elements of the Left have of our institutions, the less imaginative and exceptional we become as a people.