Television advertisements average thirty seconds in length, and it often takes about twenty-five of those to figure out exactly what the advertisement is about. Still image advertisements can be equally perplexing, with only a company logo providing information about the product being promoted. Present day marketing is more about selling an idea or image rather than a product. Ads are made to create a connection with a consumer and hope that this connection leads to the purchase of a product. Rarely is an advertisement simply about the product itself. This type of over the top advertising may create a deeper connection with potential consumers, but can often cause harm and alienate groups of people. Despite this fact, these ads are positioned to remain more common than alternatives as companies compete for attention over product quality.
The above video is a TV commercial for Snickers that aired during the NFL season. The ad features the popular football player, Johnny Manziel running a dance workout for middle-aged women. After about 20 seconds of Manziel acting counter to his tough football reputation, another actor enters the scene and reveals the true message of the commercial. An older football player enters the room and offers Manziel a Snickers, transforming him from Johnny Jam Boogie back to Johnny Football. This ad is not about the taste or quality of the Snickers product. The ad is attempting to make a connection with young male football fans by showing masculine role models as Snickers eaters and non-Snickers eaters as a weaker group doing a less intense workout. This particular advertisement seems more amusing than directly harmful, but when looking into the larger Snickers ad campaign, it is easy to see why people may be uneasy about these hyper masculine ads.
This second Snickers commercial was also developed during the NFL season in an effort to connect with young male football fans. The advertisement shows two mechanics, who like football players also represent masculinity, sharing a kiss while eating a Snickers at the same time. The mechanics immediately snap up and try to “do something manly” in an attempt to undo the kiss. Most of the viewers in the target demographic found this commercial as amusing as the Manziel ad, but others took serious offense to the message. According the the Washington Post, Snickers quickly pulled the ad after several gay rights organizations complained that the ad depicts homosexuality as something to be ashamed of and as the opposite of what it means to be masculine. In this case, the non-product related advertising offended and alienated many consumers.
The above still image provides an alternative to this type of advertising. The ad is simple and product focused. Rather than promoting a certain idea the tag-line of the ad is “It’s just chocolate.” This type of ad puts the product first and urges consumers to buy chocolate for the taste and things we like about chocolate as opposed to buying into some idea that could potentially exclude or offend people. These product based ads could speak about the quality of the product and how its made in an effort to catch the attention of customers. This type of advertisement does not have the capacity to offend or perpetuate uncomfortable stereotypes.
The reason advertising has become less about the product is because the goal is be noticed and garner attention. Marketers simply want their product to be in peoples’ minds and seek creative ways to grasp this attention. Unfortunately this kind of advertising can easily cross the line. When the best case scenario is a small part of the market finds the commercial funny and the worst case scenario is public outrage it is interesting that companies continue this strategy of marketing, especially in the chocolate industry which has a long history of oppressive associations and advertisements. Advertising the product above all would help to alleviate this issue, but in a marketplace where firms around competing for attention, the safer strategy will not always be employed.
1. “TV Commercial – Snickers – Johnny Jam Boogie – Featuring Johnny Manziel – Satisfies” Youtube
2. “Snickers Superbowl Commercial Manly” Youtube
3. “Mars Scraps Snickers Ad After Complaints.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 07 Feb. 2007.