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Advertising sells us the American dream — and the American nightmare

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America isn’t a place so much as an aspiration. And advertising is aspirational at heart; as “Mad Men” protagonist Don Draper spent the better part of a decade teaching us, you’re not selling people a product so much as a lifestyle. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that advertisers often use the ideal of America to sell us on entirely unrelated products.

And the visions of America that big corporations employ often say a lot about what they think America is. If using waving flags and cornfields to sell trucks or movies feels corny, be careful what you wish for: As a new spot shows, the alternative could be nastier and much more divisive.

When Dodge’s Super Bowl ad for its Ram trucks in 2013 consisted of little more than a slide show of hard-workin’ American men and women backed by Paul Harvey’s 1978 speech “So God Made a Farmer,” it wasn’t selling a vehicle.

Any truck can haul hay; any truck can drive through a field; any truck can be parked in a barn. Dodge was selling an idea of America as a hardscrabble, self-made nation, one filled with folks who wake early, work long into the night and rarely complain.

But Dodge makes more than trucks for hard-workin’ folk. Dodge makes cars that are fun, too. Fun and powerful. So when a........

© Washington Post

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