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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Advertising, as Discussed by Advertising Professionals

Posted by on Tue, Feb 12, 2013 at 9:21 AM


Last Thursday evening, Paul Constant and I attended Chalk Talk: Super Bowl Ad Replay 2013, wherein a bunch of Seattle advertising professionals come together to eat, drink, and merrily critique this year's batch of Super Bowl ads. I jumped at the chance to go, because I'm obsessed with commercials, primarily because TV commercials are among the most densely considered and aggressively manipulated stretches of film viewable today, and I was curious to see for myself the level of heady sociological strategizing that goes into, say, an ad for Totino's Pizza Rolls. (Also, I hadn't seen any of this year's Super Bowl ads, and figured I should.)

I got my wish. As one attendee told me, "Ad people are all people who should be psychologists, but they drank too much in college." But the discussion was less sociological and more about mapping the new terrain. A primary concern was the second screen—the smartphone or tablet or laptop people fiddle with while watching TV/movies—and forging a more direct line between what's shown on the first screen and how people behave on their second screens. The ultimate ideal seems to be a TV commercial that inspires viewers to immediately visit the product's website. This was attempted by Coke, with its "vote for your favorite cinematic character who's ever raced through a desert!" ad.

Arab-Americans blasted the ad as racist, but I was equally put out by the inclusion of the showgirls. The premise of the ad is clear: Here are the various characters you've seen racing across a desert in the movies, all racing against each other! You've got your Mad Max bikers and your Sergio Leone cowboys and your Lawrence of Arabia-ish camel riders (who might've gone over better if they'd looked like Peter O'Toole instead of villains from an Indiana Jones movie). And then there are...showgirls. The "showgirls" famous for venturing across a desert come from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and they were drag queens. Did Coke want to avoid including drag queens in their race? Would including drag queens have stifled the potential action? (Have we reached the point where, say, sending a bus of drag queens careening over a cliff would invite possible charges of anti-gay sentiment?) Whatever the case, as it is, the ad is dumb and impossible to care about, and the site is sad.

I should also mention that prior to the discussion of the Super Bowl ads, I was asked to play beer pong against a pregnant woman who made her friends do her drinking and who clobbered me, forcing me to chug the equivalent of three microbrews within ten minutes of my arrival. Tellingly, my tipsiness did not up my susceptibility to advertising, beyond making me think this Oreo ad was really funny.


Comments (8) RSS

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Reverse Polarity 8
The Coke at was mildly annoying. It bothered me that the showgirls were obviously a nod to Priscilla, sanitized for a straight audience. Really, Coke? Fucking cowards.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on February 12, 2013 at 3:38 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 7
This commercial was grating. Turning drag queens into women was appalling. Making the Arab guy an idiot was appalling. The worst thing to me is that I think the premise isn't bad at all, it's just the execution was so miserable.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on February 12, 2013 at 2:59 PM · Report this
Losing at beer pong to a pregnant woman drinking by proxy was all this post really needed to be about.
Posted by The CHZA on February 12, 2013 at 1:38 PM · Report this
AAF Seattle 5
Thanks for coming, David!

Our next event will be "Women in Creativity," February 27th. We're trying to present the realistic side of women's roles in the creative services industry, aspiring to go beyond the cliché topics that have been talked out to get to the real challenges women handle in their careers. We'll have the ticket/info site up by late 2/13, after which this link should function.

If you can't make that we hope to see you at any of our other events or at least next year's Chalk Talk! You can stay abreast of our events at
Posted by AAF Seattle on February 12, 2013 at 12:55 PM · Report this
The Arab-types don't appear at all in the second half of the ad. No idea why.
Posted by K on February 12, 2013 at 12:23 PM · Report this
theophrastus 3
ah thankee! i wasn't going feeble (with this one). i thought: "wait, is there some other bus-filled-with-feather-boas-in-the-desert homage that i've missed - cuz those ain't drag queens!" would've been deemed rather creative but for that little glaring substitution.
Posted by theophrastus on February 12, 2013 at 10:17 AM · Report this
I think they used Vegas showgirls because they wanted a team with women. You are correct that is was a sad and not very interesting campaign, but I don't think it was meant to be offensive. If it had been it might of been funny.
Posted by Mugwumpt on February 12, 2013 at 10:06 AM · Report this
wingedkat 1
I laughed at the oreo ad as well.
Posted by wingedkat on February 12, 2013 at 9:51 AM · Report this

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