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I’ll admit I enjoy watching the MoneySupermarket.com commercials. The Iranian comedian, Omid Djalili, has great presence, a great delivery and makes an otherwise dry insurance/banking script pretty amusing.

The interesting thing is how well these commercials work at making a very unfriendly industry appear caring and interested in the individual. Historically, the insurance/banking/investment industry is viewed as being helpful until it is time for them to fulfill the purpose that they serve. They are more than helpful when it comes to signing you up, taking your payment and keeping your protected from the things that you need protecting from, but the moment something goes wrong and you actually need to rely on your insurance, they are known for feeling distant, uncaring and uncompassionate. Omid Djalili and his ability to make you laugh during these commercials helps restore faith in these industries, in this case Money Supermarket. This faith is increased when you realize just how many other things they can do for you.

Watching this last Money Supermarket commercial on TV the other night, made me laugh again, particularly when the woman gets swamped by the broken acquariam. I know, I laugh at pretty juvenille things that 13 year olds find amusing…oh well. But I wasn’t laughing much by the end of the video.

Click here to watch the video.

Maybe I’m being oversensitive, but I struggle with the end message of this commercial. Saving a fortune is better than having your life saved? The embedded message in this commercial is that money is of primary importance in our life, reflected by the fact that they have everyone in the resturant applaud following the closing statement and reflected by the fact that most viewers probably won’t even flinch when they hear that statement.

Saving money is good, but is it better than health, community, close loving relationships, an understanding of God working in your life, better than life?

The irony of this commercial is that it doesn’t actually promote saving money. The commercial is for discount vouchers so that you can spend less money than you would have spent otherwise. So you’re not actually saving money…So the commerical is actually promoting spending money so that you can save money. But if you really wanted to save money, wouldn’t you just not spend it anyways? This spending in order to save has actually spawned a new word in our language, it’s called ‘spaving’.

Instead of being focused on ‘spaving’, we need to be more focused on living simply, decreasing our footprint/impact, living within our means, being satisfied with what we have and taking joy from the blessing we’ve already received.

I think the following poem from Wendell Berry summarizes some of my thoughts, feeling, concerns better than anything I can say and gives me a vision of how I would love to live more ‘simply’:

“Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.”
— Wendell Berry

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I’m still in school and a long way from being finished. As part of my research I’ve spent a little bit of time looking at some of Mastercard’s commercials, particularly the ones from their ‘Priceless’ campaigns. They seem to encapsulate our propencity to think that happiness, satisfaction, joy and pleasure can be bought.

The first one was aired in 1997 during the Major League Baseball World Series and was an instant hit.

It’s a fascinating commercial and if I’m honest a bit heartwarming.

The intended message is obvious: use your Mastercard for everything and real conversations with your son are priceless.

But there are a number of unitended messages in this commercial also:

1) That when you buy just the right combination of items, presumably with your MasterCard, priceless moments will happen. In the case of this commercial: 2 Baseball tickets + 2 hot dogs + 2 popcorns + 2 sodas + 1 autographed baseball = 1 conversation with your 11 year old son. Total cost = $123 for something that is priceless. Does ‘priceless’ mean it can’t be bought? In which case $123 is pretty cheap or does ‘priceless’ mean it has no price? In which case $123 is rather costly.

2) That real conversations with your kids don’t happen naturally, spontaneously, and organically. These days, sadly, this is actually quite true.

3) Real conversations happen at baseball games. Can you imagine the real conversation between an 11 year old and his dad at a baseball game?
Son: Dad, why do they adjust their crotch and scratch so much?
Dad: Baseball pants don’t allow for a lot of airflow son.
Son: Dad, what’s all that brown stuff they’re spitting on the ground?
Dad: It’s chewing tobacco son, and if you chew, when you get to be my age the doctor will have to cut out your tongue.
Son: Why do they keep showing pictures of women in the crowd on the Jumbotron Dad?
Dad: Because baseball is a really slow and boring game to watch and all the men in the audience need something to keep them occupied son.
Ok, fine, I’m not a baseball fan, but it seems to me that this commercial lowers the bar significantly on what real conversation is. I’m doubting the father has a ‘real conversation’ about sex and love, about faith and Jesus, about what he’d like to do when he grows up (other than be a baseball player and make lots of money), or what kind of person he would like to be known for being while at a baseball game.

4) Phillies fans are capable of conversation. I’m pretty sure this commercial shows the father and son at a Phillies game and from the reaction of the father and son when the player hits the ball, they are fans. I wasn’t aware that Phillies fans, known for throwing D batteries at players from other teams and for vomiting intentionally on other team’s fans, were capable of real conversation, especially while at a game. Ok, maybe this last one is a low blow, but it’s common knowledge that Philadelphia fans can be obscene in the name of supporting their teams.

The bottom line is this ad implies that anything can be bought and that real conversation with your kids isn’t a regular thing. These two things sadly are more true than they should be and are core reasons for significant cultural problems.

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