I had a mama hen moment watching the Super Bowl a few weeks ago (that would be “mother hen” for you folks that didn’t grow up in the South); a mama hen is overly protective of her biddies (“baby chicks” for you folks that didn’t grow up in the South). At any rate, if you will allow me one overreaction, I am annoyed, to put it mildly, by the Mercedes Superbowl commercial that features pop singer Ludacris in what I view as a put down of opera to help sell their cars (I like Ludacris’ music by the way and Mercedes cars). The one-minute commercial is available on YouTube. This ode to instant gratification features an attractive, hip young guy who goes through several fast-paced scenes giving brief verbal commands that makes the scene more to his liking – at a traffic light, he says “change light” and it changes to green; he says “make it rain” and it rains money; he sees a parking ticket being placed on a car, says “tear up ticket”, and the ticket is instantly shredded; and so forth. It ends with him getting into his new Mercedes and giving it verbal commands to make it change the lights color, make it cooler in the car, and play his music. I feel sure that Mercedes is wanting to appeal to the young, upwardly mobile generation to sell them their luxury car, at least a sporty version of their car, with a tribal message to the young demographic that says inside a Mercedes you can have it your way on demand. Ok, they are selling a car.
There is a scene where the young man is in the audience with his date at an opera performance with Ludacris in costume singing opera on stage; the obviously bored young man says “change music”, and Ludacris breaks into an up tempo hip-hop number, much more to his liking. Bam, opera put-down. I also note that in changing the music, Ludacris’ face changes from a lighter shade to his natural skin tone. Not really sure what to make of that , but is the message that opera is for old white people? Admittedly, opera audiences are dominated by older, white people, but not exclusively so. I think it is fair to say that increasing minority participation in all aspects of opera is a goal of the opera community. Maybe it is just intended to say that pop music is more natural than opera which is artificial. Regardless, let me raise this question, is putting down a musical art form, in front of young people, in order to sell their cars a strategy Mercedes really wants to be associated with?
When they go low, we go high. I offer a different commercial with a different message for Mercedes to use.
Opening - a conductor is working with a diversified youth orchestra to learn a Mozart piece of music and it’s not going so well. Or maybe it’s the final movement of Beethoven’s ninth symphony.
Each subsequent scene with the orchestra the music sounds better.
Intersperse with young artists being coached in learning Mozart arias or Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s ninth.
In each subsequent scene with the singers they are getting more confidant.
Finish with the singers and orchestra playing the piece together.
Last scene is the conductor getting into her new Mercedes to drive away; she says “change the color, make it cooler, and play my music…wow, how did they develop this feature?”; she drives away with the music still gently playing in the background.
The closing voiceover says, “It takes a lot of dedication and hard work, but when it all comes together, it’s beautiful!”.
The ending caption reads – And Beauty Never Goes Out of Style.
Even if I am overreacting, I think this would be a cool commercial.