A generation ago, the enemy of the “effective” in advertising was the “cool.” After watching four or so hours of the U.S. Open Golf Championship on Sunday, I have come to understand that the “effective” has a much more potent enemy today, namely “the woke.”
“Cool” was bad enough. Having worked in advertising for 15 or so years, I saw plenty of it. On one occasion, an executive at Sprint called me in to consult on a full-page Wall Street Journal ad created by Sprint’s hip West Coast agency. Underneath the headline, “How to Use an Automatic Weapon,” was a blueprint of some new technology. The exec was worried that the headline was too militaristic.
The real problem wasn’t the ad’s militarism, I explained. The real problem was that it was impossible to tell what Sprint was selling and to whom. Upon learning it was a new high-end Fax service, I asked who makes the purchasing decision, men or women. “Usually women,” I was told, which made the “automatic weapon” headline, however cool, even dumber.
I redesigned the ad. Under the new headline, “Send a Thousand Faxes to a Thousand Customers in Less Than a Minute,” was a photo of an attractive young woman feeding a fax into a machine. The race of the person faxing was irrelevant. The sex was not. The ad won no awards, but it produced great results. This was Marketing 101.
The advertising for the U.S. Open on Sunday, Father’s Day, was CRT 101. Never before in the history of advertising has so much money been invested so counterproductively. “Cool” advertising may have mystified its intended consumers, but the advertising on Sunday aggressively offended them. Other than the ads for golf equipment, the commercials routinely either slighted or insulted the dominant demographic of the Open’s TV audience — right-leaning white men.
In selling time to its advertisers, PGA execs boast of their audience, the most “Affluent, Educated & Influential” in all of TV sports. According to the PGA, 65 percent of that audience is male, but the actual viewership is likely higher. In my house, for instance, my wife watches because she thinks Rory McIlroy is cute. As long as he was in the mix on Sunday she paid attention. Otherwise, she left me unbothered in front of the TV because it was Father’s Day. Not coincidentally, the U.S. Open final always falls on Father’s Day.
Numbers on race are harder to find. But with Tiger Woods sidelined, I would guess roughly 90 percent of the TV audience is white. The photo of golf fans on the PGA Tour promo page shows 50 or so whites and two Asians. Given this audience, one has to ask how it is that of the 45 non-golf equipment ads that I documented, only two showed white men in a role that was something other than foolish or subservient.
Having only TV ads to gauge the culture, an observing Martian might conclude that women run America. They fly the airplanes, drive the luxury cars, put out the fires, manage the IT, run the factory floors, cure the sick, and even — are you serious, Ford? — man the F-150s. Although some of these women are white and a few are black, most are a congenial mocha-color of some indeterminate race. Men of color help out, but the white men are either too dumb or cowardly to be of much use. Fortunately, women and POC are usually there to straighten them out.
In a Geico commercial, for instance, a white man abandons his family and climbs a tree to save himself when a bear threatens a picnic. Geico ads are at least amusing, but in these ads writ large white men have a near monopoly on embarrassing themselves and an absolute monopoly on committing crimes.
Some of the ads imagine a world in which white men exist only on the margins. An ambitious ad for a privacy app created for Apple and T-Mobile has a cast of dozens. All of the 10 or so key roles in the ad are reserved for white women and people of color. Someone made the conscious casting decision to trivialize white men. Others approved the decision. Still others decided to place the ad during the U.S. Open, all the better to show their contempt for T-Mobile customers and Apple product users like myself. (Hey guys, I just switched to Pepsi after a lifetime of Coke. Don’t take anything for granted.)
Ads like the above were the norm on Father’s Day. The Lexus ad features two women drivers, one a woman of color. The Dewars ad has but one character, a woman. The Jardiance ad tells three stories — a white woman’s, a black woman’s, and a black man’s. The Deloitte ad shows a mixed-race couple. The U.S. Open’s own ad features Don Cheadle, an aggressively leftist black actor who famously mocked then-President Trump on Saturday Night Live. Who made that decision?
The “creative class” got woke before the rest of us. “The objectification of women in advertising has been drastically reduced in the last 10 years, replaced by a wave of empowering ‘Femvertising.’ And more and more brands are featuring gay and interracial couples in their ads. It’s a beautiful thing,” the online trade publication Digiday boasted five years ago. “How about the white man as de facto dummy? Ha, yeah no. Sorry, no progress on your front, dudes.”
In the five years since, especially in the year of George Floyd, what was once edgy has become oppressive. The cultural mind rot has so thoroughly metastasized that even Joe Biden has noticed. “I challenge you,” said the reliably artless president on the occasion of his Tulsa speech, “find today, when you turn on the stations, sit on one station for two hours, and I don’t know how many commercials you’ll see. Eight to five. Two to three out of five have mixed-race couples in them. That’s not by accident. They’re selling soap, man.”
Biden is half right, a high percentage for him. This movement is “not by accident.” But he is half wrong. They are not selling soap. They are not selling anything. They are reeducating, or at least trying to. The audience of The View may appreciate the brain rinse, but the viewers of the U.S. Open do not.
Most are Republicans. They know what they are seeing. Many are quick to reach for the “last” button on the remote when the ads come on or even take screenshots of the most screamingly woke commercials to text their friends. Corporate shareholders need to wise up. So does the PGA.
Jack Cashill’s latest book, Barack Obama’s Promised Land: Deplorables Need Not Apply, is now on pre-sale. See www.cashill.com for more information.