Friday, September 09, 2011

Selling the unsellable

The video above is a segment called “The Pitch” from the ABC (Australia) programme, The Gruen Transfer, hosted by Wil Anderson. In “The Pitch” challenge, two advertising agencies are pitted against each other to create a fake ad “selling the unsellable”. A panel of ad industry experts evaluates the efforts. Previous examples have included selling the idea of invading New Zealand, so clearly the subject matters aren’t serious, just the effort.

In this video, the challenge was a campaign to ban all religion. Anderson said in the clip, "for the first time in four seasons of the Gruen, we had ad agencies decline to take a shot at” the challenge. That alone says a lot about the imagined power of religion.

I’ve seen people commenting on the video and saying how real commercials along the lines of these competition efforts would “never play in America.” They’re probably right. While mainstream Christians, for example, will often tolerate challenges to their religious beliefs, the rightwing cannot, and ad agencies and media conglomerates alike are terrified of their reaction.

It's interesting that so many of us anticipate a backlash from religionists, reactions with actual power to do something, and adjust our own behaviours to accommodate a largely imaginary (or, at least, exaggerated) threat. I think that many of us pull back in politics, too, out of fear of what the religionists will do.

However, most of their power is imaginary—polls in the US and other Western democracies indicate that the mainstream is not made up of radical religionists who are a small, even tiny, minority. To succeed, radicals rely on us all to believe they have power, even when they don’t, and that belief accomplishes almost as much for them as if they actually had power.

It seems to me we need to stop treating the radicals as if they have actual power, and instead help everyone else see that these would-be emperors have no clothes. The real challenge, then, isn’t to make an effective—but fake—TV ad, but instead to stop coddling the most radical among us.


Roger Owen Green said...

Well, yes, but the IDEA of religion is still very strong, esp in the US. While I'm sure SOMEBODY would take the challenge in the US, the backlash, I imagine, would be SO great that it'd be all the noise for days.

Arthur Schenck said...

Yes, and the oddity in all this is that it's the radical right folks in the US who call the tune the piper plays: What they say goes, and what they oppose, doesn't. I guess what I'm really saying is that folks should just ignore the radicals because they speak for no one but themselves. I'm under no illusion, however, that reason will suddenly prevail.