Sony's latest ad campaign
December 5, 2000 4:13 PM   Subscribe

Sony's latest ad campaign has been pulled from the networks for being too edgy. It's certainly got an edge that I doubt children would understand, but they're still pretty funny (part 2 and part 3). Is this what happens when we have to protect everyone from anything remotely racy? Do you agree with the decision to pull them off the air?
posted by mathowie (35 comments total)
Oh damn. I was wondering if this was MeFi material earlier today when I saw it on AdCritic, but I didn't want to push it. Guess I was wrong. :)
posted by pnevares at 4:54 PM on December 5, 2000

The answers depend on your IQ. If it's over 120, you think it's the viewer's problem. If under, you think "society ought to protect us from that filth".

Or something like that...

They're pretty rough, admittedly. I'd be playing them during post 9 or 10 pm shows...
posted by baylink at 5:12 PM on December 5, 2000

I don't mind the commercial at all, I just find it odd that an online electronics company would want to portray themselves as being backwater hicks. Weird marketing idea.

The story is here.
posted by perplexed at 5:14 PM on December 5, 2000

I thought they were great-- which means that they are probably crossing the line somewhere...

Then again, I don't see them trying to cash in on Hanukah so SonyStyle still won't get my money!
posted by schlomo at 5:31 PM on December 5, 2000

I think the hand-held shooting style probably added an extra edge, giving it more of a 'cops' gritty feeling. But i don't think they're even funny enough to try to pull that off...
posted by jessie at 5:41 PM on December 5, 2000

While I'm not suggesting the ads should be kept off the air, I have a little trouble with people saying that there’s nothing disturbing about the ads.

Consider this: Would the casual brutality of the ads be "funny" if the victim were a woman instead of Santa? How about roughing up Mrs. Claus – would that be funny?

posted by justkurt at 5:45 PM on December 5, 2000

You guys are so right! We need to protect ourselves from violent ads... How else will we be able to deal with the violent content in the actual TV programming?? BTW does not this sound all too familiar I am wondering if Sony and Nike are using the same ad agency...
posted by noom at 5:52 PM on December 5, 2000

(Mrs. Claus is roughed up, and thrown through a giant gingerbread house. "Quit yer hollerin, woman! You iz my arctic bitch now!")


Heh. heheh. Heehee...


No. No, of course it wouldn't be.
posted by Jairus at 5:52 PM on December 5, 2000


My IQ is over 180 and I still find them offensive. :P

It certainly isn't something I would want to explain to a seven or eight year old.

posted by tsitzlar at 6:03 PM on December 5, 2000

UW students don't get it. Although it doesn't have to do with Sony and Santa, it does have to do with how people react differently to something that is offensive to some people.
posted by gluechunk at 6:22 PM on December 5, 2000

Ofcourse the ad, in the marketing sense is very, very poor, it portraits Sony (especially in the last ad) as a company that steals your money and then asks if you have more. It is the very wrong message. Hicks are not good for any PR. On the funny side, it's a great ad, I think what makes it work is the punch-line. I'm wondering if that was the point, make a funny ad, get some a bit more excited about the very, very mediocre sonystyle site and then create hype about it being pulled. Did it work? I don't know, I' still don't want to shop at sonystyle, but it is more known now. Sony marketing has been horrible. Their websites are, in my opinion worse than' by atleast 10 times. Hope they'll change.
posted by tiaka at 6:42 PM on December 5, 2000

Santa Claus is not real. It's hard to find something offensive when it is about a fictional character (the Nike ad featured an average, atheletic, from the year 2000, woman).

Is it at least mildly disturbing? For most people, yes. But that's where the humor lies, the joke is wrapped around something somewhat shocking, and you don't know whether to laugh or be shocked.

I find the kidnap and suggested torture of a man/woman/child/what-have-you disturbing, but in this fictitious episode involving fictitious people, I find it amusing.

I guess I should have phrased my question better:
Does edgy humor for grown-ups have a place in popular culture, or must everything be sanitized?
posted by mathowie at 6:44 PM on December 5, 2000

How do you feel about concepts that can appeal to kids? Spuds MacKenzie dressed as Santa and selling beer? Joe Camel?

From this page:
A campaign for Orkin Pest Control caused panic and damage, when it began airing in March. One ad begins as a fake fabric softener commercial, then a cockroach crawls across the screen. Some viewers saw the roach and thought it was real. In fact, one woman tried to kill the roach by throwing a motorcycle helmet at it, but she only succeeded in killing her TV.
posted by gluechunk at 7:03 PM on December 5, 2000

Everything that is for adults, humor or drama, must be sanitized. That's the way it is. Why? Because there is a very strong chance kids are watching, even though they're not supposed to. Why? Because people would rather have the government and corporations babysit their kids. Why? Because they're too lazy to do it themselves.

On a similar note, this is why you never see NC-17 movies in theaters; there's no place for adult-oriented entertainment that isn't porn. And that goes for commercials, as well.
posted by hijinx at 8:32 PM on December 5, 2000

Has anyone here read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace?
It makes a few points about the negative effects extreme advertising can have on the advertisers.

posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:36 PM on December 5, 2000

This ad should run pursuant to the Safe Harbor laws — which hijinx seems to be forgetting about. Kids would be affected by this series, but adults, hopefully, can seperate fantasy from reality.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 8:43 PM on December 5, 2000

I am SO sick of having every rough edge in popular culture forcibly smoothed due to parents' concerns about their children. Hey, parents....It's a hard old world out there. Always has been, always will be. In fact, it is SUCH a hard world, that I wouldn't even consider bringing a child into it. You obviously do not share this opinion. Fine. That is your right. With that right comes the responsibility to shield your own rugrats from that which you may find objectionable.

If your child's innocence is so important to you, take an active role in preserving it. Throw the idiot box in the trash. Instead of planting little junior in front of the TV with a plate of Cheeto-s and a glass of Kool-Aid, try talking to him. Read to the tyke. Do whatever you have to do to maintain the illusion that your little darling is pure of heart and head.

While you're distracted with that little chore, I'll be over here at the grown-up's table, watching a South Park episode with my buddy Joe Camel.
posted by Optamystic at 10:42 PM on December 5, 2000

The "we're so damned clever we look crazy" ad meme is getting pretty tired. But then it's probably not directed at any of the readers here - and in that way ads like it are very manipulative in that they calmly play to one rebellion (here's something your parents won't like) while relying on the lack of another rebellion (if your friend doesn't get it, it's cause he's not a real rebel like you, it's not that he can think for himself). Which tends to "force" the target audience to pretend to enjoy it - and thus the ad has done its job.

Now the astute among us will say that, well, that's precisely what ads are about - manipulation. Which is correct, more or less. Most ads are about making people subtly uncomfortable and dissatisfied. And when an ad can do that with regard to a person's own peer group standing about something as ephemeral as "hipness" or whatever - well, it's done a good job of manipulation.

It's easy for most adults (and certainly some kids too) to just look at it and say "I like" or "I hate" and even announce it to the world - so it's already mostly a failure for us.
posted by mikel at 12:34 AM on December 6, 2000

Sorry for the double post, but calling a focus-grouped-to-death series of TV ads that had a budget in the millions of dollars (including placement) an "edgy part of popular culture" is a bit strange, isn't it? It's about as edgy as Pearl Jam, which is to say not that edgy, I don't think.
posted by mikel at 12:38 AM on December 6, 2000

The plan was never to release the commercials to television anyway. What's the quickest way to get people to look at your stuff? Create controversy, post it on the internet. You've all played along nicely. Thank you and goodnight
posted by monkeyboy at 4:04 AM on December 6, 2000

I'll continue to play.

capt.crackpipe: I did not forget about the Safe Harbor laws, as you put it; rather I was ignorant to them. So I poked around for a few minutes and tried to find any information on such a series of laws. The very closest thing I could find describes a series of laws predominantly aimed towards financial institutions... but then, at the very end, there is a clause about deceptive business practices.

Assuming you mean this clause, I'd wonder if you were a lawyer. Almost every advertisement by this measure would be deceptive; I'll have a better life after I use Jenny Craig, I'll be happier with soda, I'll anger mothers who cook by using a frozen food. If this is really what you were getting at, I'd say it was a pretty weak argument, and strays somewhat from the issue at hand.

If this law was designed to protect children in the first place - like COPPA - then it only reinforces my argument that parents would rather have the government do the dirty work, this time checking corporations for them. If your kid is under 13 and you don't know what he or she is doing on the net or watching TV, for God's sake man, get involved. And as Optamystic said, that doesn't involve plopping them in front of a screen.

I still maintain that it comes down to parents finding out that raising a kid is tough. It has not gotten tougher; it's one of those things that will always be difficult, but due to the softness of life and most parents today, it seems like it's impossible compared to anything else.
posted by hijinx at 4:39 AM on December 6, 2000

To hell with the children. Strap them down Clockwork Orange style and make 'em watch execution footage, a cow being butchered, and amputee porn.

I'm not going to defend the ad. It's an ad, after all. It's kinda clever for an ad, but it's still an ad. Personally, I don't find the attempted kidnapping of a fictional character created by the Coca-Cola Company and perpetuated by Christians as some sort of substitute for Jay-Sus all that offensive. Because the entire creative process was a couple of Beavises and Buttheads in Armani suits going, "What if the hicks kidnapped Santa?" "Huh-huh-uh-huh-uh. People will think it's funny." "Heh-eh-heh-uh-heh-uh. Pass the glue."

So it's just a minor piece of corn in the huge turd that corporate media unloads on us.

But this screeching about the children! Oh my goodness, the CHILDREN! We have to think about THE CHILDREN! Sony's gone too far in dealing with THE CHILDREN!!!!!!!


You know what? Media consumption is NOT MANDATORY. If you're so worried about your goddamned spawn having their feeble minds corrupted, UNPLUG THE DAMN BOX. If you think that this ad will convince your kids that kidnapping is funny ha ha ha, then for fuck's sake, TEACH THEM BETTER.

See? Now you've pushed my buttons. THANKS A LOT.
posted by solistrato at 9:11 AM on December 6, 2000

Sorry, the networks are allowed to attempt to maintain their "kid-friendly" image. I don't care what the cable channels do, but the networks are different, and they know it. They don't run porno ads, they don't run gun ads, etc. How would you like it if they bombarded you with fetish ads? They'd almost certainly pay more than normal advertisers. They have an image, and they're trying to maintain it. This isn't some corprogovernmental conspiracy. This is good branding.
posted by Ptrin at 9:21 AM on December 6, 2000

Hmmm, this might be a bit off-topic:
just a thought here, but we're arguing over advertising here. (Mind you, I work in a marketing dept) I like to think that the great majority of us on MeFi are intelligent people with greater attention spans than 30 seconds.

Has advertising become the real medium in society?
posted by tj at 9:34 AM on December 6, 2000

It's become one of the primary ones. If you don't believe me, next time you answer the phone say "WHASSSUUUUUUUUUP?" and see what the person on the other end does. I'll bet they respond in kind.

Unless they're like, your boss or something. They may not appreciate it then, though YBMV[1].

Popular culture is reflected in media, media's reflected in popular culture. Trying to change one with the other is essentially pointless, because they're far too intertwined. Reflected may be substituted for is, if you so choose.

[1] Your Boss May Vary. My one boss will respond in kind, my other boss will inquire what exactly I've been smoking[2], and why I've been doing it on company time.

[2] no, sudama, not because they're black characters, but because it's tremendously unprofessional in his eyes. :-)
posted by cCranium at 10:36 AM on December 6, 2000

Has advertising become the real medium in society

Are you kidding? Advertising is the most powerful part of media. It shapes the national mood more than any other medium or form of expression, mostly because it is so pervasive.

Hijinx. I should’ve been more explicit, my bad. Safe Harbor laws vis-a-vis media are meant to protect children from potentially damaging content (which no one argues exists), but still lets adults have fair play. You see this all the time on cable and talk radio. Basically, all the contraversial pieces are aired early in the morning or late at night.

So, I was saying Sony should be able to play these ads late at night, when kids, for the most part, are asleep.

My argument hinges on whether most parents think believing in Santa Claus is important to their children and their development. I think most parents do, regardless of the merit of their belief. Since they have no control over the media they need the government’s and the corporate media’s co-operation in keeping objectionable content as out-of-reach as possible.

You submit that families become islands unto themselves in the name of the children, screening every piece of media and every interaction with media, before viewing it. I maintain that is impossible, when taking into account the sheer mass of texts flowing through the media sphere. Due to that, it is an ethical government’s responsibility and an ethical corporate media’s responsibility to keep harmful texts away from impressionable viewers as long as possible.

I agree raising children is tough, and when corporations are out to exploit them for pure monetary gain parents need someone on their side.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 10:43 AM on December 6, 2000

No, Matt, everything doesn't need to be sanitized.

If so, you'd have to take Rocky and Bullwinkle off the air.

It's just, those people with no sense of *humor*? We gotta kidnap 'em all, stuff em in our trunk...


Hey, tsitzlar? I didn't know you could get an accurate measurement that high...
posted by baylink at 8:01 PM on December 6, 2000

solistrato, I found your claims interesting that Santa Claus was "created by Coca-Cola" and "perpetuated by Christians." IIRC, Santa has been around a lot longer than Coca-Cola, although they may have played a role in creating a uniform image of the character. And most Christians would agree that Santa Claus is not what Christmas is about, and many would probably claim that Santa is pushed by the heathens as a way of misleading the secular public about the real origins of Christmas.
posted by daveadams at 6:55 AM on December 7, 2000

How would you like it if they bombarded you with fetish ads?

You mean there's another kind? I think you could make a case that fetishes (not necessarily sexual) are the basis of most advertising.
posted by harmful at 7:27 AM on December 7, 2000

Santa Claus v Jesus the Christ: next South Park.
posted by baylink at 7:51 AM on December 7, 2000

daveadams: Santa Claus has indeed been around longer than Coca-Cola, and there was a link I read recently that talked about it in much greater detail than I'm about to, but I can't remember what it was. I would suggest checking out The Urban Legend Reference Pages if you're really interested, and have a lot of time.

(I always get sucked into surfing through the various legends when I go there, and wasting hours of my time. :-)

Santa ultimately comes from St. Nicholas, the name comes from the Dutch "Sinterklass" (probably spelled wrong) because of it's popularity in New Amsterdam (which was eventually renamed New York. You may have heard of it. :-)

The image of the gift-giver in red's been around for a long time, but the big-ass, jolly, tubby-bellied crinkly-eyed white haired long bearded man image was solidified in popular culture by a Coca-cola advertising campaign from the 1930s. Check out any christmas-time Coke propaganda, they've been using that image for 70 years, and it's almost exactly what people think of when you say "Santa Claus"

Many prior images, actually, were of a thin man.

And people say advertising doesn't affect them. :-)
posted by cCranium at 8:07 AM on December 7, 2000

The first South Park, don't you mean, Jay?
posted by harmful at 8:17 AM on December 7, 2000

So it's just a minor piece of corn in the huge turd that corporate media unloads on us.

That was brilliant.

As for the notion that parents want their kids to believe in Santa Claus -- I think that's a red herring. I was a little taken aback by the ads for two reasons.

1. I don't believe in Santa so my immediate thought was that some poor civilian was working the shopping mall gig and got kidnapped. That seemed kind of icky.

2. The payoff for the ad was so lame. Sonystyle? If I don't buy Sonystyle then you'll kill Santa? Give me a break, please.

posted by amanda at 11:18 AM on December 7, 2000

Personally, I'm beginning to think that we are shielding children too much these days. I was over my sister's playing with my 2 and 3 year old nephews when she told me that they are afraid of the Disney Tigger movie.

I'm not saying that this particular drivel neccessarily belongs on the happy flashing box, but do we really need to force feed our ideals of right and wrong on other people?
posted by tj at 12:14 PM on December 7, 2000

Having seen installments 4 and 5, I'm beginning to wonder if these ads weren't pulled because they were too idiotic for network television. Which takes a pretty impressive amount of effort.
posted by harmful at 2:18 PM on December 7, 2000

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