Visa and Johnnie Walker: Guidance counselors



"Let's Go" by Visa feels like a combo of the two Johnnie Walker spots I showed here and here. Similar thematic elements: calling, doing something with your life, change, progress, adventure, becoming somebody. Morgan Freeman even asks, "Will you walk out the door and go left instead of right?" Sounds like the crossroads question to me.

"Let's Go" sits better in my conscience than JW's "Crossroads." Maybe because Freeman promotes a bit of goodwill, while the "Crossroads" character lives in a rather self-centered universe. Or maybe because Visa's sun shines friendlier. Or maybe because Visa features hope, while JW, thrill. Not sure.

It doesn't matter much. Hope and thrill and progress and goodwill aside, both brands increase their perceived value by associating unnaturally with human longings. That's my issue. It works like vicarious fame: if I name-drop famous connections - tell you I met a star, stood in the elevator with a world-changer, studied under a genius - your perceived value of me increases. I'm not really more famous or more valuable, but it feels that way.

Ironically, it doesn't matter much that we know these products can't actually fulfill our human longings. Who would rationalize that Visa or JW can add success to a curriculum vitae, or provide a life of adventure otherwise unattainable? Yet Visa and JW bet that we'll try anyway.

We need better guidance counselors.

5 comments:

Every Square Inch March 8, 2009 at 10:37 PM  

Sam - I like Visa commercial much better than the JW commercials and I'm trying to figure out why. I think it's the underlying message behind the words - what the commercial points to that matters to me.

The JW commercials, especially the 2nd one, seems to say "go, live life, etc.."...but it's also the picture of life that they paint beyond the words that matter.

The Visa commercial, on the surface seems to say the same but the picture of the "life worth living" looks different, closer perhaps to a noble, purposeful life that God calls us to.

Just my 2 cents

Billy Coffey March 9, 2009 at 9:44 AM  

I like the Visa commerical, too. Though that might have much more to do with Morgan Freeman's presence than anything else.

Sam Van Eman March 9, 2009 at 4:04 PM  

I like your 2 cents, ESI. I think I'm there, too. The association still bothers me, but at least Visa paints a more obvious "life worth living."

Yeah, Billy, Freeman has that warm, gentle, even benevolent presence. I mean, he WAS God, wasn't he?

Lindsay Kate March 11, 2009 at 3:16 PM  

Fascinating. I've been seeing this commercial and thinking about it. It's interesting how there is somehow an added value to the mundane (everyone brushes their teeth, gets out of bed, and so on) but the commercial is stressing to try something "new". How long will new be new? I wonder if the commercial values the beauty of ritual, or wants people be, like you said, adventurous, etc.

Great thoughts - keep posting these commercials!

Sam Van Eman March 11, 2009 at 4:44 PM  

Good thoughts, Lindsay Kate. I think I see what you're getting at.

The ad features the morning no longer as a time for daily, mundane actions, but as a time and symbol for beginning: the sun rises, bodies rise, breath rises (in quality of flavor, that is, leaving the night nastiness behind!).

Even when Freeman implies lifelong dreaming, morning still represents the beginning.

You made me notice the last shot just now. The commercial progresses from waking to teeth-brushing to dressing to venturing outside to long-term living ("And will you keep going?"), but the last shot returns us to the first stage: waking. A woman awakes and draws the curtain.

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