With both ads, my initial response was one of intrigue and appreciation - what an encouraging message to young women and what an inspiring commentary on the development of the human palette. The optimist in me was celebrating the obvious goodness of our society and the presence of positive voices amidst so much “blah blah blah” that accompanies events such as the Super Bowl. These ads were a welcome change of tone and message. And if it means corporations, in this case Always and President's Choice, adding their voice to the mix, well, no big deal. It’s the message that matters, right!?!
But...I do have a pessimist take on TV commercials in general, I’ll admit. These examples are no exception. My concern is this: when we rely on corporations to mass communicate important moral or aesthetic values in our society, does the very fact of who is doing the communicating somehow change - cheapen even - the good and important message? These companies benefit from developing a good reputation. For example, creativity and the human story of food is an attractive topic, far more so than big box stores and the injuring of local economies often associated with a brand like President’s Choice. In these ads, goodness has a motive: selling more stuff. Goodness is commodified and as a result, I think it is cheapened. Self-esteem and culinary exploration go from cultural values to cultural commodities.
This is nothing new. In the 1960’s, communications commentator, Marshall McLuhan, coined his famous phrase, “The medium is the message.” I’m not sure he could have anticipated the level at which his comment would be true in an event like the Super Bowl, but clearly the reality exists. How we communicate is just as important as what we communicate. And when it comes to our deepest values as people and society, yes, I can celebrate the positive messages sprinkled here and there as these two commercials illustrate. But I also need the reminder that whatever trends and commercials tell us, the depth of our goodness must go beyond, and in many cases despite, our commercialization of goodness.