Beer isn’t wine. Watches aren’t computers. Chamber music should be played in Volvos.
Three wonderfully creative ads have popped up this year, each lampooning pretension. Knocking elites has always a good strategy for politicians looking to woo working class voters, so these ads from Budweiser, Shinola, and Dodge are very likely foreshadowing a major theme of the guaranteed to be interminable 2016 presidential campaign.
You don’t swish and sniff and sip and spit when you sample beer. And if you do, well, you’re not going to be drinking “macro-brewed” Bud anyway. Yes, Budweiser knows its brand well — that’s why its controversial “Brewed the Hard Way” Super Bowl ad is now running during baseball games.
Even more brilliant is this wonderful hijacking of the Apple watch rollout that ran in The New York Times. Shinola, a company at the epicenter of the Detroit renaissance, produces inspiring classic designs of watches, leather goods, and bicycles.
Shinola is appealing because it makes things right here in the USA, simultaneously representing the heyday of American manufacturing, and a new, creative-class driven future. It’s a tomorrowland in which a $550 watch that doesn’t connect with your pocket-sized computer is more desirable than a $375 watch that does. At these prices, the target consumer here isn’t exactly blue collar, but the ad nevertheless joyfully thumbs its nose at elitist trend-followers.
Apple watches? We don’t need no stinking Apple Watches, the ad essentially proclaims. Our watch “can tell you the time just by looking at it.”
The ad is a masterstroke of anti-elitism elitism — poking fun at Apple’s design snobbery in order to attract people so hip they can afford to reject it, both culturally (it’s a badge signifying the wearer’s do-good bonafides) and economically. I’d take my hat off to them if only Shinola was also reinventing the Fedora.
I’ve been guilty of anti-snobbery snobbery on occasion, too, labeling someone or other as an NPR-listening liberal (somehow the worst kind). Shinola clearly has someone with my taste and politics in mind (only with an extra digit or two in their bank account) when they design their retro-yet-modern product lines, and especially when they develop their marketing plan.
Finally, we come to the Dodge Challenger “Not So Fast and Furious” TV spot, in which a hapless male driver confesses to a cop that he is listening to chamber music after being pulled over for driving too slow. This one could be an ad for Ted Cruz: you can almost hear the cop sneer, “I bet you support Hillary, too.”
Anti-intellectualism and anti-elitism are the common thread among the far-right populist uprisings, especially among those who are too glibly described as Fox-news-watching conservatives. While to that crowd Obama is extra uppity because he is an unabashed egghead, the urge to thumb our collective noses at smart people doesn’t always recognize cultural divisions. Kids in all kinds of schools reportedly worry about being too bookish. And expertise is derided from both libertarian-leaners and the loony left: Climate change? What do those Ivy League scientists know anyway? Vaccines? Not for my kids.
But anti-intellectualsim and anti-elitism are not the same thing. George W. Bush is as elite as they come — son of a president, and Ivy League educated. But his, and Karl Rove’s, particular genius was that you can market these candidates any way you want. Bush, a smarter man than most on the left give him credit for, is no intellectual, which somehow made him immune to the charge of being elite.
Now come the politicians and their highly paid consultants rushing prematurely to 2016. Liberal smarty pants elites like me will be the point-blank target for both camps, either as an object of derision, or, where Hillary is concerned, as a would-be Shinola customer capable of bundling a few dollars toward her coronation. After all, I must confess:
- I prefer local, micro-brewed beer, especially Thimble Island Brewery‘s American Ale. But I have never sniffed it.
- I like Shinola’s watches. I’d probably buy one, too. If they were more affordable.
- I’m a proud Mini Cooper driver — no Dodge Challenger for me. And that’s not chamber music you hear when you pass me with my sun roof open, it’s Sondheim.
Just to rub it in, when the Mini salesman was helping me set up the radio buttons, I asked him to set one to 90.5, the local NPR station. He looked at me knowingly.
“What,” I said. “Am I that obvious?”
His smirk said it all. He didn’t have to answer.
Memo to said salesman: I do not support Hillary Clinton.
There, I feel better.