Published on: September 27, 2007To hear Kevin Coupe’s weekly radio commentary, click on the “MNB Radio” icon on the left hand side of the home page, or just go to:
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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, brought to you by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.
I’m not sure if this radio commercial is running all over the country, but it has been on New York radio a lot lately - and it really, really annoys me. The product being sold is wine, and it has one of the cutesy names like Flying Moose or Swimming Rabbit or Flatulent Duck…it doesn’t really matter. But the basic pitch goes like this: “Don't be one of those guys,” and then they describe “those guys” as people who know the difference between one vintage and another, or know what wines go with what foods, or know a little something about where various wines come from. Instead, the ad says, you should buy this wine, because it just tastes good and requires no knowledge whatsoever.
Now, I have no problem with the idea that wine should be demystified and made more accessible to more people, though I’ve certainly stated my case on MorningNewsBeat that too much demystification ends up diluting the romance that goes along with wine, which I’ve always thought of as being one of its best attributes. But I understand that not everyone concurs with me on this, and I’ve learned to accept it. And I would certainly never belittle anyone who would disagree.
But what really burns me up about this commercial is that it goes out of its way to insult people who know anything about wine, and to basically take the position that knowledge is something to be ridiculed. This is a particularly American attitude, I think - it casts suspicion on people who are educated or want to be, it belittles nuance, and prefers things to be black and white or good and bad. Since when did we become a culture that doesn’t trust knowledge or the desire to have more of it? Some people like to say that America is a land of eroding values, but I would suggest that any culture that does not value intelligence is a truly a culture in decline. And this ad is a small but telling example of how this could be happening here.
Now, there will be some folks who will say I’m getting defensive because I’m a wine snob. In some ways that may be true, but the reality is that I don't know that much about wine, but I’m interested and would like to learn more. The same way that I’d like to know more about jazz and classical music, the same way that I’d like to have a greater appreciation for Faulkner, and the same way that I like to travel to foreign cities and learn something about the people who live there. I don't know much about wine, but I do know that there are differences between vintages and the wines of various countries and regions, and I know that there are certain wines that go better with some foods than others. As with many subjects, I’m not that smart about this subject, but I’d like to be smarter. To suggest that people who know this stuff, or want to know this stuff, are either arrogant or insufferable or obnoxious - or all of the above - strikes me as being incredibly insulting and really sort of ignorant.
Flatulent Duck, or whatever the wine is called, could certainly be sold as being for people who simply want to enjoy a good wine without worrying about vintages and regions and matching foods. But it doesn’t have to belittle people who are interested in knowing more about the subject. It is a stupid, annoying commercial.
By the way, there’s a beer commercial out there that takes exactly the opposite approach - it has fun with a cultural divide without insulting anyone. It is the terrific Bud Light commercial with the guy who brings bottles of beer to the opera to make it bearable - but when the soprano hits a certain note, the glass starts cracking and the beer starts exploding all over his suit. And it’s got a great punch line when a guy turns to the now-soaked fellow and says, “First time at the opera?” and holds up a can of Bud Light. It’s a great commercial that never fails to make me laugh, and it does so without insulting anyone’s intelligence.
For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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