Elgin Baylor Lumpkin

One of the things that continually fascinates me is the way that companies that maybe don't really need to advertise their products to get people to buy them tend to project their "personalities" to the world through their commercials.

Essentially, mega-brands like Coca-Cola and McDonalds have become so ingrained into our collective consciousness that it seems like their advertising campaigns are more designed to keep their images, jingles, and logos fresh in the public's mind not only as providers of products that are available, but active presences within pop culture itself -- complete with attitudes and personalities that are designed to emulate and therefore appeal the personalities of the people watching at home.
In other words, if Mountain Dew was a guy -- he would yell a lot and always want to go snowboarding.
If The Gap was a woman, she'd have pretentious taste in music and a baby who dresses like a Republican.
Sure if there's a new Mc-whatever sandwich being introduced at Mickey D's they might need to get the word out or whatever, but by and large advertising for companies like this is more about making sure the brand remains relevant and vibrant in peoples minds, lest they start to pine for something new.

In short, Budweiser will always be Budweiser -- but if they were still throwing Wasssup ads at us, there's a good chance people might start to think of their mindsets as tired and lame, and maybe even start leaning away from them when it comes to choosing a cheap beer at the next happy hour.

At the same time, advertising a company's image instead of the benefits of a specific product provides these corporations with the unique opportunity to align themselves with cultural concepts that not only open up new markets to them, but can enable a corporate image to mirror current cultural concerns and even in some cases influence peoples thoughts.
Think about the songs that have been introduced to us in iPod ads that have become hits.
Think about the endless string of annoying catchphrases that you first heard in a beer commercial. Think about all the parodies you see on YouTube and jokes based around advertisements for candy, hamburgers, or toys. Think about all the references that show up in hip hop lyrics that reflect popular products or twists on advertising jingles.
To me these things stretch far beyond decisions people make at the grocery
store or the mall -- creating a world where in many ways consumerism is culture.
And sure, we could go on for hours about the dark side of that; the ways that media and advertising create images that no one can possibly live up to, and even in some instances attempt to shame you into thinking that their products can help hide or change your social shortcomings (Not for nothing, but is anyone else getting a little tired of the Visa Check Card ads that make anyone who can't pay for anything in one swipe of a plastic card look like a leper?).
But sometimes you have to look past all that.
Look a little beyond the dangers inherent and see what something like that can do when they put their mind to damning the consequences and seeing what happens when advertisements start saying the kinds of things a company really wants to say.
For example, you've probably seen this ad for Levis 501 Jeans.
But have you seen this one?
It came on the other night when I was watching Project Runway. The original ad with the girl was one they'd played to death during previous episodes of the show to the point where I didn't really pay much attention to it much anymore. But for whatever reason (probably because the chick in the phone booth is really hot), I always kinda look up when it got to the punch line -- only to find an ending that quite frankly fit a lot better and just made a hell of a lot more sense given the mood of the ad and the type of man they had playing the part of the "pants puller upper."

And while I can't help but notice that essentially what I'm saying is that the dude kinda looked like a Mary, so I actually felt a better sense of closure when the Adam and Steve moment happened, the main thing that happened when I saw the ad was an honestly shocked and surprised smile directed towards whichever suit over at the Levi Strauss company had the balls to greenlight this version and get it on the air.

Not that I'm naïve enough not to realize the potential financial benefits of putting an ad like this on a network like Bravo during a broadcast of a show like Project Runway, but when you get right down to it -- this is still a world where this type of :30 second message is a really big risk for a publicly traded corporation to take.

Being the 21st century and all you'd wish that wasn't really the case -- but think back to that Super Bowl commercial where the two guys wanted the same Snicker's bar and ended up kissing (the ad was played for comedy, and the central joke wasn't so much about breaking boundaries as it was based in homophobia) -- an ad that the Snickers corporation actually issued an apology to its shareholders about.
Which in my mind makes this ad about much more than just hawking jeans to skinny people.
Of course, as cool as I think this commercial is, watching it here on YouTube a few times has made me realize that neither the straight or gay versions address what I feel is the real problem with this advertising campaign -- which is that if you go ahead and purchase a pair of jeans that possess the ability to pull phone booths filled with attractive people through the floor of your Manhattan apartment building without killing them --
What happens when you pull your pants back down?
I mean yeah, I'm all for a pair of jeans that can automatically understand my sexual orientation and then magnetize objects containing hotties that fit my particular preferences, but I'm so not sure I'm as convinced that they're a great bargain if once miss thang gets around to pushing said button-fly's down off my hips (which from where I'm sitting is sort of the whole point of buying expensive jeans in the first place) -- only to send her careening back through the floor?

Plus, what happens to poor Enrique in the phone booth over here when pretty boy decides to toss his jeans in the dryer?
What about that, Levis?

[Listening to:    Ginuwine"So Anxious" ]