June 11, 2009

Uncouth in Advertising

Dear Editor:

The Holocaust Museum shooting article sharing the front page with the Progressive "smoking gun" advertisement was not exactly in the best taste. I understand you have an obligation to your advertisers, but the timing could not be worse. This nonchalance towards gun violence just contributes to our desensitization to it.

You probably can't tell from the shitty compressed Verizon Pix Place photo I uploaded of today's USA Today front page, but the Progressive Insurance ad at the bottom features "Flo the Insurance Girl" blowing on a smoking price-scanner (here's a larger crappy snapshot of the front page).

I'm not usually one to get butthurt at dark humor, but seeing that image alongside (I admit "alongside" is an exaggeration which is why I didn't put it in the letter) an article about a high-profile shooting compelled me to pick up my Penis Mightier Sword. I don't know what it is--my anti-advertising attitude, my outrage over this violent act by an idiot Holocaust-denier, my frustration with USA Today's writing, my desire for published-letter fame, or my obsession with constantly biting the hand that feeds me (or in this case, biting the hand that I read with while I feed myself breakfast). Had this combo been in The Onion or Wonder Showzen or Buddyhead or any other wicked-satire media outlet I feel like plugging today, I may have chuckled at the juxtaposition. But USA Today has a different audience in a different mindframe. To let it slip through the cracks just seems wrong. Does that make me a hyprocrite? I don't know yet. "Back for 'Blood'" is also not the most tactful headline at the top right either, considering the gunman was once convicted of entering a building where he also threatened people at gunpoint, but I think you'd have to know more about the story to draw that parallel. I'll just concentrate on the ad since it's all I ever complain about.

I feel like timing is everything and context is just as important, so it's my duty to call them out, whether it was intentional or not. Progressive's ad agency took a risk making an ad with a light gun motif (Pulitzer Prize me again) and then took another risk submitting it to a national newspaper without knowing what news headlines would appear on the day the ad was published. In this case and on this day, they gambled and lost. It's always funny until someone loses an eye or publishes an ad for blinds in a Braille magazine, and today, I'm not laughing. USA Today could have buried the ad on a different page, or at least delayed it a day. Maybe the editorial team met and decided it was an acceptable risk. Maybe they didn't even notice the implications and I'm the insane oversensitive one here, but that's why they solicit letters to the editor, isn't it? Either way, I'm sure they have a policy in place to ensure maximum political correctness for the newspaper. I'm just curious about how today's page made it past the filter.

To make a long story short, I am obviously disgusted by the violent act at the Holocaust Museum yesterday, but I'm not condemning the advertisement nor am I boycotting the paper. I am just pointing out a simple unfortunate coincidence. (And then piggybacking it with a complex about the causes of violence with a thinly veiled pro-gun control agenda. Tee-hee!)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Flo the Insurance Girl can blow my price scanner any time.

I think perhaps you are being a tad oversensitive. If it was actually a gun in the ad and not a price scanner, I'd agree with you, but one could make the argument that the scanner is smoking from friction caused by scanning items at super speed, not from shooting out bullets.

If you want to be really sensitive about it, you could claim the way Flo is holding the scanner is some sort of attempt by male-dominated society to subjigate women to the role of sex objects by putting something so blatantly phallic in front of her pursed lips.

But that would be stupid. Besides, Flo is hot!