I don’t watch TV. But I spent the weekend with aging parents so I had the occasion to park on the couch and watch some professional sports. Specifically, I got to see some commercials which are always fascinating as a mirror.
Actually, I was only watching with one eye until I happened to spot an office scene. Given the mind-boggling gap between America’s haves and have-nots, and also how management science and automation has turned the American office worker into a widget, I’ve always been keen on that rare bit of news or documentary imagery that happened to be shot in the office. In this case, it also involves promos for big-time sports programming.
In example one, we have FOX Sports promoting their own coverage of the professional baseball playoffs. It’s quite inspiring actually. You see people in a diner, in a bar, in a laundromat, and above, in what looks like a taxi garage and dispatch office. In every one of those settings, you see people, glued to the TV, tracking a long fly ball and then an amazing catch as if they were all at the stadium (hopefully in a luxury box or some other megabuck seat) and that ball was sailing through the air in slow motion.
The second spot I noticed was for Hanes, the underwear outfit. Apparently, their big selling feature these days is that their clothing no longer contain tags. Yes, they’ve been the “bane of my existence” too. In this case, we see a cubicle dweller achieve a whole new level of comfort when Michael Jordan suddenly appears and relieves him of the tag on his pants, casually tossing the animatronic thing in the office shredder. (By the way, that picture on the wall wouldn’t actually glorify the soul-killing LA Freeway system, would it?)
So, what do these ads reflect back these days? (Let’s leave domestic violence and brain injury out of it, at least for the moment.) Apparently, it’s the antidote to being chained to a desk and a phone or a screen. Seemingly, it’s also about parking oneself in front of FOX Sports so advertisers can further contrast the addictive world of play with the daily grind. And in between, they can amuse and uplift you into quickly parting with whatever you managed to squeeze from that skinny paycheck.
(screen grabs: FOX Sports, Hanes)