Television Commercials Aren’t Dead. They’ve Just Gone New Places. Amazing New Places…

Remember this spot for Cheerios? It first aired this past month and due solely to its casting of an interracial couple, incensed a disturbing number of bigot trolls, whose inflammatory comments forced General Mills to shut down comments on their YouTube page (but, admirably, not back down and pull the spot–way to be, General…).

It’s nothing more than a TV commercial. The same kind we’ve been watching for decades. The same kind certain pundits have deemed dead in today’s interactive age.

Television is far from dead. The numbers prove we watch more of it than ever. And as this spot demonstrates, no other medium has the breadth of reach or emotional impact of moving pictures and sound. No, while television may be many things, it is certainly not dead.

That said, television has definitely been transformed, mostly by the participatory web. A tiny but vocal smattering of racists attacked this sweet, simple story, using the coward’s cloak of online anonymity even as millions of people reacted normally, with emotions running the gamut from delight to benign neglect.

But those prejudicial attacks spurred another small but vocal group—Michael David Murphy and Alyson West from Atlanta, Georgia–who decided it was time to answer that ugliness with a showcase for love and family. They created a Tumblr  called “We Are The 15 Percent”: a reference to the 2008 census which noted that interracial couples make up 14.9% of all marriages in the United States. Michael and Alyson’s blog invites interracial couples and families to send in their photos as a counterpoint to this sort of idiotic bile. In just a few short weeks, they already have over 2500 submissions. And with national coverage from outlets like MSNBC, those numbers should continue to swell.

The photos are beautiful. The movement is affirming. The reach of television empowered by Web 2.0 is a marvelous thing to behold.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Can’t It Just Be A Product, Not A Value Judgement?

Political advertising depresses me.  All the accusations and mudslinging make me worry for the future of civility in our increasingly shout-driven culture.  I plan to vote for at least two candidates based solely on the tone of their radio advertising–call me Pollyanna, but it’s the only way I can reward behavior I endorse.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingSo I was almost too burned out to care this past Monday when Advertising Age posted an article that purported to delineate the differences between red brands and blue brands.  Apparently, certain consumer goods earn the preference of one political party over another.  Or at least, that’s what the pollsters at YouGov believe, after publishing their latest BrandIndex survey.

As someone who has sworn off all non-sports television viewing until after the election, this data feels like yet another unnecessarily divisive issue for this country. Okay, so Google is the number one brand for Democrats and yet it doesn’t even make the Republican’s Top Ten…  And Fox News is top for Republicans while it certainly doesn’t make the Democrats Top, well, pick an integer…  How does knowing this bring anything positive to the debate?

To me, YouGov’s truly interesting findings are the universal brands like UPS, FedEx, Craftsman, and Cheerios.  What makes them successful in a non-partisan way?  What gives them cross-aisle appeal?  Not being a researcher, I don’t have a ready reply, but those are questions worth asking, whether you’re a brand or a candidate.

Maybe the way to increase your appeal to everybody is to focus on what we have in common, on what we share, rather than on how hard the other side sucks eggs. It’s just a thought…


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79