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Last week I posted an Linkage Over There about a superbowl Audi ad:

Well, if you’ve been reading along, I think you’ve figured out what the real message of this Audi advertisement is, but just in case you’ve been napping I will spell it out for you: Money and breeding always beat poor white trash. Those other kids in the race, from the overweight boys to the hick who actually had an American flag helmet to the stripper-glitter girl? They never had a chance. They’re losers and they always will be, just like their loser parents. Audi is the choice of the winners in today’s economy, the smooth talkers who say all the right things in all the right meetings and are promoted up the chain because they are tall (yes, that makes a difference) and handsome without being overly masculine or threatening-looking.

At the end of this race, it’s left to the Morlocks to clean the place up and pack the derby cars into their trashy pickup trucks, while the beautiful people stride off into the California sun, the natural and carefree winners of life’s lottery. Audi is explicitly suggesting that choosing their product will identify you as one of the chosen few. I find it personally offensive. As an owner of one of the first 2009-model-year Audi S5s to set tire on American soil, yet also as an ugly, ill-favored child who endured a scrappy Midwestern upbringing, I find it much easier to identify with the angry-faced fat kids in their home-built specials or the boy with the Captain America helmet.

While some dismissed this characterization, I thought it was rather spot-on. If this were a Chevy or a Nissan ad, I might think that some of the characterizations are happenstance, but this is an Audi ad. That means class is not incidental, but rather core, to the product. So we can likely assume anything involving class in the ad is likely intentional. And in this case, it did so in a rather politically skewed direction.

This ad was clearly conceived when it looked like Hillary Clinton was going to be the first female president. And in the run-up to the ad, Audi did a publicity blitz about its commitment to gender equality (hehe, hehe). It was aimed squarely at a particular segment of its clientele. But before we get too much into that, let’s talk about wine and cheese. For a few months, my Twitter feed contained this ad:

There is some really intense social and class signaling going on in that ad. I mean, let’s count the ways: Name-checking the most exclusive university in the country, science!, whiteboard with code, Apple computer, elegant geek girl. It really has it all and it just screams New White Collar through and through. Which, if they’re selling a cultural service like wine, is a pretty good pitch! They know their likely audience. Being close to that audience myself, I actually think it’s pretty well done. Maybe a bit overkill, but I only have one foot in that pond.

Now, the Audi ad goes for a slightly different set. Older and wealthier. More likely for their to be a family involved. As the article says, the protagonist isn’t the girl so much as the dad. The dad with the girl to be proud of. The dad who is on the Right Side of History. The dad who doesn’t need an Audi to be good, but is good and Audi is good and let’s get together. The characterization of The Other is probably a necessary component to that because goodness needs something to be compared to. Something a little grubby and unclean. The ad, as a whole, makes its pitch by equating vanity for virtue. It’s not toxic to conservatives, but to the extent that it appeals to conservative it’s going to be the squishes, the #NeverTrump sort, and those whose sensibilities align with left at least in terms of cultural cues.

Now, lest anybody think I am wanting to pick on one side, it’s not hard to come up with an idea of something similar aimed at conservatives would look like. Even if we’re looking an ad seeking to confuse vanity and virtue – or is it vulgarity and virtue – for the well-to-do right. We don’t even need to leave the auto market. Or the luxury auto market. Or the Superbowl.

A visceral yell. A combination of individualism and group (patriotic so it’s okay) achievement. My accomplishments are mine, your accomplishments are ours. It speaks to some less savory impulses in the same way the Audi ad does. Get this because you’ve earned it. Hard work! While the Audi focuses on a degree of innate you-are-evolved goodness, this one focuses on work and achievement. Which sounds good, if you kind of glide past the part where his achievements are his and others’ achievements are ours. But go America! This struck a positive chord with the people it was meant to, and a negative chord for others.

But just as you know the dad in the Audi ad didn’t vote for Trump, you’re pretty sure this guy did. This guy is, more or less, what I think of when I pass by the house of the guy that had the Trump flag in his yard. Really nice house. Obviously, the person was well off. Given that they put a flag in their yard, along with a Gadsden, suggests that he probably supported Trump throughout. That house has (surprise surprise) a full-size pickup in the driveway. Which is kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum as the electric car this guy is pitching.

Which is actually sort of the point. If the Audi ad is telling a well-to-do liberal that it’s okay to have a car that only rich people can afford because you’re good, this ad was telling future Trumpers that it’s okay to have an electric car because it indicates hard work and you work hard because you’re an American.


Category: Market

About the Author

Will Truman (trumwill) is a southern transplant in the mountain east with an IT background who bides his time taking care of their daughter while his wife brings home the bacon. You will probably be relieved to know that he does not generally refer to himself in the third-person except when he's writing short bios on his web page.

12 Responses to You Deserve This

  1. For some reason I had missed this when you posted the link Over There. Believe it or not, this is the first I’ve seen of the ad.

    Speaking of the first ad–and going on a tangent–I’ll say that it seems to line up with a type of anti-bullying narrative, or at least with one I grew up with. In that narrative, the bully is ignorant and probably intellectually challenged, not so much as to have disability (because that would command sympathy for him), but enough so that it’s okay to deride his intelligence. The bully, in this narrative, was usually overweight or was black or Latino.

    The bullied, in this narrative, was somehow virtuous. He had some sort of special talent or was of very high intelligence, but he wasn’t so prodigious as to be annoying. He, too, might be overweight, but if he was, it was some glandular problem and not his fault (and in high school or later, he’d start running and shed the pounds).

    Noah Berlatsky wrote about a similar narrative a few years ago here: https://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/01/why-geeks-get-bullied-its-not-necessarily-for-being-geeks/272723/

  2. Φ says:

    A combination of individualism and group (patriotic so it’s okay) achievement. My accomplishments are mine, your accomplishments are ours.

    My assumption is that, in context, you are snarking about the ad’s patriotism. But I should point out that calling attention to the interaction between individual and corporate achievement is not the exclusive preserve of the political right:

    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6j8XhQfvpW8&w=560&h=315%5D

    The difference being that, when the Left does it, it’s pretty explicitly for the purpose of stoking resentment rather than encouraging patriotism.

    • trumwill says:

      Just about everything has a variant on each side. In this case, it’s a sort of psychic achievement as opposed to a question of actual reward-apportionment. On second viewing I am a bit unfair to the ad as he does stick to the “we” rather than I/we.

  3. RTod says:

    In the same way I get why companies that want us to trust them hire Morgan Freeman to do voice-overs, I cannot for the life of me understand why they would hire Neal McDonough to do the same.

    The guy is a bloody fantastic actor — so bloody fantastic that all I can think about when I watch that Cadillac that commercial is Justified’s villain/torturer-rapist/serial-killer-on-speed Robert Quarels.

  4. fillyjonk says:

    I dunno. I guess I’m old, I remember when ads said, “Buy our product because it’s a good product,” instead of “Buy our product because it shows the world what a Good Person you are.”

    And having grown up wearing (and being teased for wearing) store-brand jeans during the first popularity of Jordache and Guess!, I kind of got the whole “This product means you are a Good Person” burned out of my psyche early on. Because it seemed like the people owning Good Person Marker Products were actually pretty crappy people.

  5. Peter says:

    Ha ha, the losers in their pickup trucks …. most of which cost more than Audis.

    • trumwill says:

      It’s not a “loser” issue, but a matter of cultural affinities. Nobody thinks the guy in the post’s header image is too poor to afford in Audi.

  6. SFG says:

    Can I hate both preening SJW yuppies and anti-intellectual rednecks?

    Long as we’re talking cultural affinities (and the question of what to do if your preferred policies don’t match your cultural affinities is interesting in and of itself), I grew up in the same town as our President and my parents had advanced degrees. I’m half-Jewish and nominally Hispanic. I hate the outdoors. I hate sports. I have to drag myself to the gym for purely health reasons.

    But I groan every time my Facebook feed fills with liberals linking all the groups together in intersectionality. I’m sick of hearing how white men are the spawn of the devil (I thought I was one until Pepe the Frog turned to the dark side) and how heterosexual relations, which have produced almost every human being on earth, are old and uncool. It bothers me when Google produces a Veteran’s Day doodle with no white men (who are a majority of all veterans). I think the rise of polyamory is a very, very bad sign and the decay of traditional marriage will produce untold misery and chaos. I think microaggressions are a macrostupidity.

    Whose side am I on? I don’t know. Whose side should I be on? I used to be a proud liberal, but I’m leaning more toward ‘a pox on both your houses’.

    • greginak says:

      “heterosexual relations…are old and uncool.” Huh? Wha? Rise of polyamory? To what .0001 of relationships? White men as the spawn of the devil? If i stretch i can see where people see that but that is stretch however white peeps seem to b pretty popular and common in the wild. I’m a white guy and liberal and somehow i don’t ever here how i’m the worst idea since white bread.

      There has always been a lot more to liberalism then the things you are complaining about. You are talking about the complaints of conservatives not many of the things liberals are talking about.

    • I’ll have to mostly co-sign onto Greginak’s comment, with the proviso that I really don’t like most of the liberals/leftists on my Facebook feed (and my feed trends liberal/leftist with some exceptions), and probably for reasons you and I would agree on.

      To answer your opening question–“Can I hate both preening SJW yuppies and anti-intellectual rednecks?”–I’ll say yes.

      But I also think part of a further answer is to acknowledge that even SJW yuppies and anti-intellectual rednecks have a point and aren’t wholly and all the time off-base. The parts of my Facebook feed that so aggravate me (that is, on the rare days I stray onto Facebook) are people usually expressing some legitimate concern, but doing so with too broad a brushstroke.

    • fillyjonk says:

      I consider myself an equal-opportunity misanthrope, so, yes.

      (I want to love people, tbh, but they so, so, so often disappoint me deeply.)

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