Incite by Design

Caustic visions and shared thoughts on design, marketing, creativity, philanthropy, pop culture and business philosophy by Toronto design firm, Ricksticks Inc.

2006-04-05

Das ist über-geek?

There's been a trend lately in the arena of geek as chic. It seems the latest marketing trend in television advertising is the guy with a European accent trying to be cool, and being very uncool.

We started with the ING direct guy -- nothing terribly funny about him -- but he personified a stereotype of the eastern European. He wore a suit, got down to business, was stoic and dignified. Slowly, we saw things like the Ikea spokesman appear, who got more and more self-deprecating with each successive commercial, or how about Yaris the eccentric uncle in a velour suit used to sell Toyotas? or the old Toronto water pollution ad featuring eastern European scientists playing beach ball?

Enter Volkswagen and the un-pimp your auto commercials. It is the supreme example of the uncool as cool. But why are they funny? In the immortal words of the great Krusty the Clown "the pie-in-the-face gag only works when the sap's got dignity." It's because of the stereotypes of stoicism and dignity that the accent carries, especially when paired with a three piece suit or a lab coat, which makes it funny. It’s not a terribly flattering (or complete) picture of Eastern Europeans, but at the very least we’re finally shaking the ideas prevalent in WWII and the Cold War. However, I have to wonder why playing on these stereotypes is any less disturbing than exploiting any other geographic stereotype.

And on that last note, am I really the only one who finds the YOP commercial (with teens singing along to a Caribbean song, with grossly enlarged lips) deeply offensive? How is it possible that in this day and age, someone can get away with utilizing prominant negative perceptions of people of African decent?
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