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December 12, 2017

Oscars commercials continue trend of political advertisements

Courtesy of Walmart’s Facebook

Continuing the tone of political discourse that aired during this year’s Super Bowl commercials, the Oscars did not disappoint.

Elaborate production, powerful audio clips and seamless transitions lent impactful and politically charged success to the lot of this year’s commercial advertisements.

The New York Times

Perhaps the most anticipated commercial of the event, The New York Times’ take on truth, has been met with mixed reviews. In a short, yet sweet 30-second clip, the audience is shown a stream of “The truth is …” statements pointedly fighting back against phrases like the infamous “alternative facts” of Presidential Counselor Kellyanne Conway, which seems to have transformed into the foundation of Trump’s administration.

As phrases like “The truth is our nation is more divided than ever,” “The truth is hard … to find … to know … more important now than ever,” are transposed across the screen, voices of anger and dissatisfaction about recent political events, the media’s relationship with them and the overall state of the country can be heard raising and falling in the background.

In creating this extraordinary commercial, The New York Times crafted a simple statement of both moral elegance and political outrage. The Times seemed to say “we are not the opposition, we are on your side, we need to fight together and gain strength in numbers.”

Hyatt

Hyatt Hotels Corporation made a grand statement of inclusivity and peace in their first ever Oscar campaign.

In a one minute-long, construction without dialogue set to Burt Bacharach’s song ‘What the World Needs Now,’ viewers are met with what becomes a pivotal public transportation scene where an Arab woman is seen coming aboard, to what appears to be the disdain of a white woman.

But as the commercial progresses, we’re met with people in ubiquitous situations like trying new foods in unknown places, traveling alone or misplacing something — all the while acting with overall kindness toward each other despite racial barriers that’ve recently been strengthened.

The familiar message behind the campaign is that as a nation we need acceptance, kindness, love and compassion toward all humans, because at the end of the day life is ubiquitous and race is nothing more than a social construct.

Cadillac

Cadillac’s advertisement follows suit with the rest of the evening’s theme of political discourse. In the first few seconds of the commercial, a narrator says “We are a nation divided. That’s what they tell us, right? This chasm between us,” while black and white video clips from protests, marches and rallies span across the screen. Just as quickly as we realize their lack of color, we are met with pictures of vibrant physical, emotional and spiritual strength, calling us all “lovers, fighters, leaders.”

Cadillac cleverly inserts the statement “we carry each other, no matter who we are or what we believe” as reference to the recent travel ban and growing discussion of the proposed wall between the United States and Mexico, while also enjoying a carefully orchestrated symbolism behind the word “carry.” The word is used both spiritually and emotionally as a vessel of change, and literally in terms of movement, because after all they’re in the business of selling luxury vehicles. Cadillac killed two birds with one stone here.

Audible

A somewhat unlikely source of political opinion—Audible by Amazon—also took its stab at making a statement against the Trump administration with Zachary Quinto’s careful reading of a passage from George Orwell’s novel “1984” a work that has recently, and certainty not by coincidence, resurfaced to popularity on Amazon’s best seller list.

Quinto uses a commanding tone while reading the words “If he were allowed contact with the foreigners he would discover that they are creatures similar to himself … the sealed world in which he lives would be broken and the fear, hatred and self-righteousness on which his moral depends, might evaporate,” as an obvious nod to Trump himself. Through the reading, one couldn’t help but notice the chilling similarities between Big Brother and the President.

Walmart

In a somewhat ambiguous commercial put out by Walmart, a dark-skinned boy is seen rummaging through ordinary household items like a pasta strainer, smartphone and a bunch of multicolored balloons to create, what we later discover, is some type of alien attraction device.

As the boy stands in what seems to be an abandoned field, a hovering UFO is spotted overhead. Waiting excitedly while the UFO accepts the gift, the boy is rewarded with a stream of emoji pillows with their tongues out.

The bizarre commercial, centered on the receipt of a trip to Walmart, seems to represent that great things can both come in small packages and originate from simplicity.

Samsung

Samsung brought out the big guns of former daily YouTube vlogger Casey Neistat to reiterate the idea that anything’s possible with a little hard work.

The commercial begins with Neistat saddling up to a microphone in the middle of a dampened parking lot, in formal attire, where he says “let me introduce the rest of us.” With this statement, Samsung breaks the fourth wall between the audience and Neistat, engaging them in a conversation of sorts about the value of creation.

Neistat continues the conversation by saying that despite a lack of fancy equipment, big budgets or expensive award shows, we are the creators of this generation through mediums like YouTube and social media. At this point in the commercial the audience is met with clips from various make-up, challenge and “how to” videos on YouTube as proof of our excellence.

Neistat finished off the commercial with the statement “do what you can’t” as a type of challenge to those who feel limited in today’s society, and as a mantra to help those fighting continue to do so.

The politics behind this commercial existed in a more subdued format than some of the others of the evening.

General Electric

Last but not least was my personal favorite commercial, from General Electric. In this ad, GE features Millie Dresselhaus, the first female Institute Professor and professor emerita of physics and electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as a challenge to today’s society and the heightened value we put on celebrities, often overlooking the superheroes of every day.

The commercial questions what would happen if we valued women like Dresselhaus in the workplace, saying “what if we treated great female scientists like they were stars?”

After this hypothetical question, we are met with scenes of little girls getting Dresselhaus dolls for their birthdays, and dressing up like her with little round glasses for Halloween.

By the end of the commercial, the audience is promised a world like this is well under way with the efforts of General Electric, and the upbeat tune of a song that sounds familiar to those from “La La Land.”

Overall, this commercial was not one I’ll soon forget, or cease to become teary eyed whenever I revisit it.

Gina Lopez can be reached at gmlopez@umass.edu.

Comments
One Response to “Oscars commercials continue trend of political advertisements”
  1. Wyn Hyzer says:

    I just saw the GE ad and said “sounds like LaLa Land.” A Google search took me to your page. I’m glad you confirmed I’m not crazy!

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