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Television commercials go beyond merely informing consumers about products or services: these advertisements sell their abstract ideas that tend to be valued in American society, such as success and patriotism. Two examples are outstanding commercials produced by the car manufacturer General Motors for their Buick cars, and the brewery Anheuser-Bush for their beer, Budweiser. While David Barry, in his essay, “Red, White, and Beer,” humorously describes the connection between commercials and values, Rita Dove and Marie Winn, in “Loose Ends” and “Television Addiction” respectively, are about an addiction to television and how television creates unbelievable ideal of a reality. Analyses of these two television advertisements, not only make a connection between their products or services and the abstract ideas of success and patriotism, but in the process, also sell the ideas as important American values in a powerful manner accomplished only by television, because of people’s addiction to it.
The General Motor’s car commercial features the professional golfer, Tiger Woods, on the golf course. He makes golf shots that seem impossible such as making a shot from a suspended bridge. Also, he is surrounded by famous people. While he is making these amazing golf shots, there is always a Buick vehicle at the background, and in some cases, Tiger Woods uses a Buick as a golf cart. The commercial has no plot, however, the visuals are stunning and the Buick is always prominently displayed in the picture. The fame of Tiger Woods is highlighted through the class of the car he drives as well as the seemingly impossible golf shots he makes with little effort.
On the other hand, the Budweiser commercial features a donkey that is disheartened as he can not be a part of the elegant, beautiful Clydesdale horses which are the mascots for Budweiser. Determined, the donkey practices by pulling a cart with beer, prancing about, and changing his appearance. Finally, he comes before a group of Clydesdale horses to be interviewed; however, he “he-haws” like a donkey and thus thinks that he will be rejected. Despite his fears, he is accepted as a Clydesdale.
These two humorous and classy commercials are aimed at selling cars and beer, in an unrealistic manner; however, they go beyond product marketing to selling the values of success and patriotism in an unrealistic manner too.
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Moreover, the commercial also touts the success of the donkey when he becomes a Clydesdale horse; he is successful because he has attained his goal of being chosen as a Clydesdale horse, even though, he is merely a donkey. Likewise, the car commercial also promotes success in that it shows Tiger Woods successfully driving a Buick and using that car in the context of being a successful golfer. Both of these commercials sell these values by providing examples of people or situations where the American dream prevails, which stirs up feelings of patriotism, and also promoting success as important.
In spite of the fact that these two commercials are so successful in selling these values and, as a result, selling their products because of America’s addiction to television, Winn warns that because of this addiction, “[. . .] the television viewer can never be sated with his television experiences- they do not provide the true nourishment that satiation requires- and thus he finds that he cannot stop watching” (507). Winn’s quote demonstrates the power of television and how people seem to prefer television to reality. This is because television provides a simpler reality that is appealing to them because it is much easier than the reality of the real world, but at times, it can be confusing.
For instance, in an essay on her own family’s experience with television, Dove states, “It is not that we confuse TV with reality, but that we prefer it to reality” (504). In reality, that donkey would not be able to become a Clydesdale horse because in doing so, he would have to change his entire essence; this is something that not only would be physically impossible, but also emotionally, because he would always remain a donkey. Thus, he would need to become something he is not in order to become successful, and this transformation came in a neat, forty-five-second time frame without showing the difficulties it would involve in reality. Also, she follows up the above quote by saying, “the TV offers an easier tale to tell” (Dove 504). Similarly, the commercial which presents Tiger Woods in his Buick shows a very successful man with his car; however, it does not show how much effort and practice his success requires.
Finally, though the commercials show these values of patriotism and success, they do not show the amount of effort it takes to attain their goals. This easy pseudo-reality, presented by television commercials, is so believable to some consumers, because of their desire for something less complicated than life. Therefore, television provides this neatly packaged reality which allows advertisers to take advantage of consumers’ addiction to television, not only to sell products, but also to sell their own version of American values.
Barry, David. “Red, White, and Beer.” The McGraw-Hill Reader: Issues Across the Disciplines. 8th ed. Ed. Gilbert H. Muller. New York: McGraw Hill, 2003. 153-162.
Dove, Rita. “Loose Ends.” The McGraw-Hill Reader: Issues Across the Disciplines. 8th ed. Ed. Gilbert H. Muller. New York: McGraw Hill, 2003. 503-504.
Winn, Marie. “Television Addiction.” The McGraw-Hill Reader: Issues Across the Disciplines. 8th ed. Ed. Gilbert H. Muller. New York: McGraw Hill, 2003. 505-507.