Pandas and Beavers and White Guys, oh my!

Posted: June 25, 2008 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

I like “The Ladders” job site. I used it, even after I saw their ad on TV. You know the one — there’s an average looking white guy playing tennis, when suddenly he’s deluged with people running on the court to play, too. The line is “When you let everybody play… nobody wins.”

I didn’t see the problem with the ad until recently when a friend of mine, Laura, pointed out that the “everybody” in the commercial were women, people of color, people who were overweight, or sloppily dressed, or older, or… well, basically, anyone who wasn’t our middle aged, white male hero. It’s a good commercial, centered on a great metaphor, as long as you don’t look past that metaphor at the reality of the institutional discrimination that suffuses every frame.

How did I miss it? Especially because, as an overweight, scruffy-faced, frequently long-haired and usually sloppily dressed guy, I’m clearly one of the undesirables. Come to think of it, my scattered mixed bag of experience probably makes me one of the undesirables on the job search front, too. CEO Mark Cendella seems to have missed it to, judging from his response on TheLadders.com, which focuses on the elitism of the $100K salary threshold as opposed to the casting in the commercial. (Please note: Response no longer available.)

On the other hand, I was instantly offended by the Sales Genie commercials, both the “Panda” commercialthat aired on this year’s Super Bowl and the “Indian Salesman” that aired during last year’s Super Bowl. And while I clearly wasn’t alone, with some bloggers jumping on the commercials right away, there seemed to be a lack of outrage from interest groups, publications, the news and the rest of the powers that be.

Now, finally, compare all three of these ads to the Danica Patrick GoDaddy ad that was banned from running on the same Super Bowl. An off-color but not explicit extended beaver joke that winked at pop stars and their “accidental” exposures to get noticed when a good domain will do. Even though the full beaver ad never even ran on TV, it was met with shock, outrage and vitriol.

Why am I dragging this out now, months after the ads started running? Because I was watching a dvr’d show the other day when my 3 1/2 year old daughter came in just after the Sale Genie Indian Salesman ad ran. I started thinking about racism, sexism, elitism, and all the other isms that get bandied about all the time and wondered what I would have answered my daughter if she asked me about the funny man with the funny accent in the commercial.

Can someone please explain to me why the GoDaddy commercial gets banned, while the SalesGenie and The Ladders ads don’t?

Comments
  1. BentleyG says:

    As a as an overweight, scruffy-faced, frequently long-haired and usually sloppily dressed guy also – , I did not get offended by this ad. It’s not about the white, black, scruffy, overweight what ever…

    It’s about the guy who most importantly doesn’t know enough about the game of tennis to know that you use a racket, not briefcase but can still get let on the playing field.

    It’s about the professional tennis player having to stand out in a field where guys who are just there to steal the balls are let in.

    Your first take on the commercial was correct – and to prove it – in your mind – make the tennis player (mind you a professional tennis player talented enough and in shape enough to demand a court with a sold out crowd watching) a women – a black person – what ever. The message still stands true… A sold out crowd would not come to see a guy play tennis with a briefcase.

    I think your friend Laura is friends with Mulder and Oliver Stone.

  2. jlsimons says:

    Thanks for your comment, Bentley. I understand what you’re saying, and in fact, that’s probably not far off from the explanation the creative team used in describing the ad to their clients. On its technical merits, it’s a good ad. But on the level of racism and sexism, I think it needs to be judged through a different lens. Frequently, isms are in the eye of the beholder. I don’t always agree when somebody feels something is offensive, but I’m usually not the one being offended. I am not a champion of political correctness, in fact, quite the opposite. I believe in freedom of speech and the sometimes problematic and offensive consequences of it. And that’s my point here. People get all hot and bothered about one form of offensiveness and are not bothered about another, because the first offends them, and the second doesn’t. Whether it’s last year’s Snickers ad or this year’s, somebody’s getting offended. All I’m saying is let’s be a little more even handed. Ban them all, or don’t ban any of them. I’ll handle explaining it to my daughter.

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