Public Relations and Extra-Marital Relations

Posted in Uncategorized by aintnothingright on April 27, 2010

At the risk of being presumptuous, I’m going to state that you have no doubt seen the above video and have probably read or watched commentary on its connotations for Nike and/or Tiger.  I’ve attempted to avoid any and all discussion regarding this video in order to keep from plagiarizing, or at the very least, tinting, the views I have formed on the subject.  In any case, I’ve thought about the commercial a short while and have come to a few conclusions.

Whatever you may think of the commercial, you have to acknowledge that it is interesting.   The marketing world has never shied from using emotion in its devices, but embodying the very personal and controversial actions of a celebrity as a vessel for brand promotion is unheard of, at least to my knowledge.  Imagine Wilferd Brimley apologizing on a Liberty Medical commercial or Bill Cosby apologizing on a Jell-o commercial.  I don’t predict to be able to forecast responses to advertising campaigns, but I have an inkling responses to these expressions of mea culpa would be cold, to put it mildly.

So why the change?  Why should this be acceptable now?

Certainly, we can suggest that, as the complexity of  of human behaviour increases (due to a plethora of factors), we have become increasingly responsive to newer and more complex forms of media, as has been the case throughout antiquity.  Greater, more diffused forms of mass communication result in cynicism and resistance to old techniques of marketing, thus increasing the opportunities for newer types of marketing.  Note that when I say “new types of marketing” I do not mean to indicate that  the level of information presented has necessarily increased; I mean new avenues, techniques and mechanisms for eliciting response are devised, whether they be complex or simple.

As to how Nike can implicitly refer to a genuine case of infidelity undertaken by the company’s spokesperson, we can presume that civilization becomes increasingly less restrictive over time with regards to social norms and the taboo, with few exceptions.  Certainly changes in government, or increases in evangelical movements may temporarily and locally change attitudes, but as a whole western society moves away from dictating moral behaviour.  We no longer concern ourselves with our date having a chaperon.

Yet looking at recent celebrity gossip, some might be considering re-introducing chaperons.

Infidelity has been notable among many (male) celebrities recently, with their inevitable attempts to find forgiveness plagued by snowballing gossip and sensationalism.  Yet, here in Tiger and Nike’s commercial we see a unique, powerful and thoughtful take on the situation, one which seems to work.  Why?

Firstly, one can examine the role of Nike in the commercial.  As marketing has become increasingly abstract in order to avoid the “you’re being sold to” visibility, the goal of humanizing corporations has subsequently become a marketing technique.  Here, we have a prime example of this.  Nike is a facilitator in a human message, and therefore takes on human qualities, especially given that their promotional activities seemed to be halted, and in fact, almost opposite of normal promotional activities.  Tackling a negative, controversial topic with little to no direct marketing?  The company feels human, as if profit is not of paramount importance on their agenda – something we are not use to observing the corporate world doing.

Secondly, we can observe how the role benefits Tiger.   We see a large multinational corporation taking his side, an instance that seems to be the exception in this case, as most of Tiger’s other sponsors dropped him after the scandal.   Yet neither Tiger nor Nike attempts a corporate whitewash of the situation, thus treating the viewer with intelligence, and appearing to approach the situation with conviction and humanity.  Tiger did something wrong and faces the consequences from a judge (ostensibly) harsher than you – his father , while the viewer is made a spectator in the harrowing admonishment that is Tiger’s conscience.  Further, Tiger is carefully constructed to not be a victim, yet not a heartless scoundrel; we see him as a man who made a mistake, a man hiding nothing as he stares in to the camera, facing his innumerable judges, yet hearing the most rightfully concerned one of all.

It’s an interesting take on an interesting situation,  yet whether this bodes prophetic of future advertising, it’s difficult to say.  I do, however, have a belief that  the advertising world is a beast whose tentacles will leave no stone unturned if there’s a profit to be had.


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