Just as I enjoy listening to the radio for news, sports, and music, I also take an interest in the advertising. Radio advertising has far more explicit language than other advertising mediums because it lacks any visual aids. I find a unique social commentary in the language and music advertisers use to create these products whose singular purpose is to get the listener to take some sort of action that usually includes spending money.
Currently Mercedes-Benz is running a Christmastime advertising campaign touting their vehicles as “The Best Gift Ever!” The ads feature what we assume to be a man between the ages of thirty-five and fifty years blathering on about lame gifts, then sharing with the listener that what he really wants is a Mercedes, because that would be a gift unparalleled in his entire life.
After rolling my eyes at the utter ridiculousness of Mercedes’ claim, I began thinking about our middle-age man’s claim, and what sort of man he must be to consider a new Mercedes, which are very fine automobiles, the best gift he had ever received. Who is this man, let’s call him Mr. Mercedes, where such a gift would be so extraordinary, and how does he compare to me? This led me to make some very basic assumptions about this man’s life, and the gifts he never received.
Whether or not Mr. Mercedes parents are divorced, he grew up in a dysfunctional household. His relationship to his parents was painful and he had little love as a child except what he earned by attempting to live up to an overbearing father’s irrational expectations. If he ever won any athletic contests or sports championships, it was a gift for his father instead of a personal achievement. Mr. Mercedes also discounts his academic achievements in a similar fashion. While he is intelligent, well-educated and successful, he does not see all the opportunities of his life as gifts per se. He is simply living up to expectations.
Mr. Mercedes is likely married, but is more in love with his image than his own wife. He may dabble in the occasional infidelity, or the occasional prostitute while traveling, because it truly means nothing to him. While he is surrounded with associates, he does not have any real friends, men outside his class with which he shares a bond of love and brotherhood.
While he may have a bit of spirituality, Mr. Mercedes scoffs at the weakness of Christians, and does not feel any sense of universal obligation to his fellow-man. Instead, he believes the man with the most toys wins the day.
He has children, but little understands them and certainly does not consider them gifts from God or anywhere else. He may either mimic his own parents’ failings, or spoil them with material goods and indulge them with permissiveness. Either way, he will fail to give them the firm, but loving guidance a good father provides.
All this wondering about what sort of man Mr. Mercedes is, a man who believes the best gifts are bought and sold, actually made me a bit sad. It is a sad thing that the target demographic for Mercedes-Benz’s advertisement is a very real, very large group of consumers. Mercedes-Benz knows from the get-go that I am not their target audience. I buy used Subarus and keep them until they die. All the greatest gifts I have ever received exist in the depth of the relationships I have with my faith, my family and my friends. Mercedes knows who their consumers are, and they also know who their consumers are not (ie. me). As much as I am not swayed by their advertisements, I came to understand the practical theory behind them. It they want to sell, they have to target those who really believe Mercedes-Benz might be the best gift ever.