December 8, 2013

Holiday Inc: From Louis Vuitton's Red Square to Amex's Obama-Powered Small Business Saturday

LV Red Square

With America Inc. having already turned Thanksgiving this year into a full blown consumer holiday, you might have also noticed how Louis Vuitton installed a holiday season temple to itself in Red Square. (Yes, the public balked and the temple was removed. It’s not because corporations and governments aren’t that incestuously intertwined, however, so much as the luxury products giant dared to flaunt it so unambiguously.)


By the way, there was a little more context to add to that presidential photo op at that Washington bookstore the Saturday after Turkey Day. That was the day Obama and his daughters visited three bookstores acquiring a large cache of books to do their part for America’s small businesses. And where did this “Small Business” promotion come from that falls on the day after Black Friday which the administration was promoting so hard this year? In fact, it’s the brainchild of American Express, conceived in 2010 as part of a post-Turkey trifecta of (big box) Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and (e-commerce) Cyber Monday.

Obama China Wall Dharapak

By the way, do you remember how the White House was up in arms in ’09 when a jacket company used a newswire photo of Obama at China’s Great Wall in an ad immediately after his visit? Besides challenging the ad below, the White House also insisted the company, Weatherproof, remove this billboard.

“The White House has a longstanding policy disapproving of the use of the President’s name and likeness for commercial purposes,” said White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton at the time.

On the other hand, who would even blink over the fact, captured in so many media stories of Obama’s shopping spree the other day, that he made those purchases with plastic? Is it at all interesting, though, that the Getty newswire shot of Obama in the bookstore, above — emphasis on the credit card — would appeared on AmEx’s “Small Business Saturday” promotion on its Open Forum blog that same day?

Obama amex small business saturday

I guess this case is different than the Weatherproof example because its tied into a client services website? Or maybe (thinking as big as the Louis Vuitton trunk) the image is fair game because the company birthed a quasi-official shopping holiday that stealthily interweaves its interests with economic stimulation and the patriotic credo to go shopping.

(photo 1: Pavel Golovkin/AP. caption: Tourists and visitors pass by a two-story Louis Vuitton suitcase erected at the Red Square in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013. Politicians didn’t like it, the public didn’t like it, so the gigantic Louis Vuitton suitcase is being booted out of Red Square. The GUM department store on Red Square, which is responsible for 30-feet (nine meters) high and 100-feet (30-meters) long construction, promised in a statement released Wednesday that it would be dismantled. The GUM is at left and the Kremlin at right. photo 2: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty. photo 3: Charles Dharapak/AP. caption:  President Obama tours the Great Wall in Badaling, China.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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