“So many blacks in ads” redux

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pepsiWay back in May 2017, a local blogger named Frank wrote about “Why so many blacks in ads?” I signed up for the comments to his post, and they were numerous. And usually awful. I wrote a reply piece, which generated some bigoted responses.

But not nearly as many as the original post did. And DOES. More than a dozen in 2021 alone. One Anonymous respondent posted: “Did you ever imagine you would create a hate magnet? I’m not saying you are a hater. You asked a reasonable question. But very few replies even attempt to answer the question. They just come here to post hate.”

Another one wrote: “Oh yeah, I am going to print this to a .PDF file and start distributing it on-line every week to the major White Supremacist web sites. Don’t worry, you’ll get full credit. You can try to block me, but as long as this is up I’ll use it. Thanks in advance. Did you realize that there is 137 pages of this racist gold?”

To which, the blogger replied: “Yes, Anonymous, I was trying to seriously discuss an actual question, and was stunned at the volume of comments — far more than on any of my other 1000+ blog posts in 12+ years — with practically all the comments embodying the crudest of race hate. What gets me is how these people actually think they represent a ‘superior’ race when their comments prove they themselves are the inferior ones.

Backlash of fear

I should note that I know Frank in passing and I do believe he was asking an honest question. Even at the time, I thought the query was naive, and that the responses would reflect the venom that exists out there. Still, it has been instructive, sometimes painfully so.

But I think that the premise of the question is fuzzy. There are data on Statista. “During a June 2020 survey conducted among adults in the United States, it was found that 17 percent of responding Hispanics said that they never saw anybody who represented their racial or ethnic background in advertising. The same was true for 10 percent of White and African American survey participants.”

Assuming the accuracy of the perception, it seems that some people are seeing a demographic eclipse. A majority is becoming a minority. And “the fundamental dividing line… is between those who welcome and those who fear the way America is changing.”

I understand that change can be scary, difficult, annoying. Negotiating change feels treacherous, especially if you’re on social media. But it can also be therapeutic. I’ve noticed that in my own circle of friends and churchmates, there are a lot of “aha!” moments. The things they didn’t understand or had never heard of.

I remain cautiously optimistic about the human condition, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

“Why so many blacks in ads?”

“An America fully integrating blacks is a better America.”

Old Navy ad

“Why so many blacks in ads?” is one of those burning issues that I was totally oblivious to until Frank S. Robinson, no relation to the Hall of Fame outfielder, as far as I know, laid it out recently.

He wrote that “I’ve made a point of tallying blacks in ads and commercials. And in fact they are way overrepresented, relative to their 13+% population share.” Oh, dear! And I thought we were supposed to be post-racial!

An “over-educated Trump supporter” named Bruce who’s “a conscientious, growing, practicing follower of Jesus Christ” – that is oxymoronic to me – elucidates further that not only are there too many blacks, but that “women as the head of household and/or the ‘brains of the outfit’ are overrepresented” as well, and breaks down other delineations.

“Urban liberal advertising agency powers are still directing ad content and money to buy ad campaigns, so this should be no surprise.

“However, are they risking a backlash? Are they fomenting a bit of ‘reverse racism’ and unnecessary divisiveness?”

Oh, so NOW it’s “divisiveness”. Maybe I need that course that some GWU law professor suggested to understand certain disgruntled 2016 voters.

To deal with this “scourge”, I recommend:

Frank should look at TV commercials, not just in recent years, but over the period that there has been national television. Let’s pick 1947, because that makes it an even 70 years, and because that was the year the World Series was first broadcast nationally – OK, to six cities from Schenectady to St. Louis.

Bruce should calculate the racial composition of those ads running in the 1950s and 1960s and well beyond versus the racial breakdown. He would discover, shockingly, that there was a certain group that was “overrepresented” compared to its numbers in the population for a very long time.

Moreover, the ads are representing a changing demographic. One in seven marriages in 2014 were of people from different races/ethnic groups, so the commercials represent not just what is but what will be.

At the point that the average number blacks and Hispanics et al. in ads are overrepresented over the seven-decade span – and not just the “non-threatening black friend” (yikes, 1 black person among 4 white people is already over your 13% quota!) – I’ll get back to them on what to do about this “problem”.

Meanwhile, I’ll muse over Frank’s assertion: “That yuppie demographic is where the consumer-spending money is. And for them, blackness is actually attractive; connoting coolness, hipness, with-it-ness, knowing what’s going on. Not inferior but superior. And to this demographic, an America fully integrating blacks is a better America. Putting them in ads hence creates a positive buzz.”

In other words, that assertion from the 1960s and ’70s that some deemed “racist” may be true: Black IS beautiful. And speaking of which, Procter and Gamble put out an ad called the Talk, which a conservative site described, in the title of its article, as “‘Sick sick sick’ racist Procter & Gamble ad crosses every line! If you are white, brace yourself before watching”.

R is for the Rheingold Beer Jingle (ABC W)

My beer is Rheingold the dry beer.
Think of Rheingold whenever you buy beer.

I was listening to our classical music station early one morning, and I hear the Rheingold beer jingle. OK, it wasn’t, really. But it certainly REMINDED me of it.

I discovered here that the melody I heard was in fact the Estudiantina Valse, Opus 191, No. 4 (The Students’ Waltz), a title I had never heard of.

“The tune was composed by a pair of obscure French composers, the tune itself by Paul Lacome (1838 – 1920); But ironically it is often incorrectly attributed to the man who arranged it in a rollicking Strauss-like arrangement for two pianos — named Emile (“Emil”) Waldteufel (1837 – 1915).

“Waldteufel included it in a set of tunes arranged for 2 pianos, published under his own Opus number, which blurred the issue of authorship right down to the present day.” In fact, I have found almost NO one to attribute this to Lacome, only to Waldteufel.

“The Beer jingle with a lyric by an unknown ad agent, used the melody of this famous light-classical waltz tune.”

The lyric was:
My beer is Rheingold the dry beer.
Think of Rheingold whenever you buy beer.
It’s not bitter, not sweet, it’s the extra dry treat
Won’t you try extra dry Rheingold beer?

I remember the third lyric as “it’s refreshing, not sweet…”, but there are a lot of variations.

“Ironic that this melody, which some may remember as the quintessential German Beer Hall tune (images of people with swaying cups all singing in unison) is actually of FRENCH, rather than German, origin.

The beer sponsored Rheingold Theater, a dramatic anthology series, on NBC Primetime in 1955 – 1956. Rheingold Beer, “despite its Wagnerian opera name, was brewed in a little brewery located in Brooklyn, NY; and which tried to use the early medium of TV to get a little respect — or “brand recognition” at least.

Still, Rheingold Beer, “introduced in 1883, is a New York beer that held 35 percent of the state’s beer market from 1950 to 1960. The company was sold by the founding German American Liebmann family in 1963… Rheingold shut down operations in 1976, when they were unable to compete with the large national breweries… The label was revived in 1998…” but it’s not the same, or so I am told.

WHY do I remember the lyrics to a song for a product I have NEVER consumed? Herwitz Associates suggests “a dozen principles for improving memory, but the concepts can just as easily be applied to making a message memorable.”

Listen to Estudiantina Valse here or here or here or here, featuring a 26-tone Violinopan (thanks, Jaquandor!)

Listen to the Rheingold beer jingle here or here or here or here (modern)

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R.I.P. Herschell Gordon Lewis, the “Godfather of Gore”, Has Passed Away at 87; Our business library had a business book of his, called Big Profits from Small Budget Advertising, from 1992, and when we deaccessioned the tome, I scooped it up. So it’s now in the same office at home as my copy of FantaCo Enterprises’ The Amazing Herschell Gordon Lewis and His World of Exploitation Films, autographed by HGL “to my friend Roger,” also signed by coauthors Daniel Krogh and John McCarty at FantaCon 1983

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TV: controversy over a Cheerios ad?

She was adamantly against mixed-race marriage. “What about the children?” she proclaimed. They’ll never fit in, they’ll be scorned by both blacks and whites, and be outcasts in society.

My fascination over a cereal ad – no, actually, THE Cheerios ad featuring an interracial couple and their child – is that all the hate it has engendered doesn’t surprise me at all. The argument from opponents – besides the scatological responses so bad that General Mills had shut off the comments on the YouTube video – is that “they are throwing” miscegenation “in our faces”, whereas the cereal producer’s claim is that they’re showing the diversity of the population. There has been a clear uptick in the number of mixed-race marriages in the US this century.

Of course, you KNOW what the real problem is for some people with that ad? It suggests that black people and white people were – hold onto your hats – having SEX! When you first see the ad, one could assume that the girl might be adopted, but seeing the dad pretty much eliminates that option. The long-standing taboo about interracial sex in the United States is still very strong, from white male slave masters and black female slaves to the young black Emmett Till getting killed for looking at a white woman too long.

This reminds me of a situation about 35 years when my girlfriend at the time, who was white, went apartment hunting for us, and she found a nice place. But the surprised look on the landlord’s face when I showed up to sign the lease was priceless. Rather like the look on the faces of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy when Katharine Houghton brought home Sidney Poitier in the movie Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner.

About 25 years ago, I was having some general philosophical conversation about marriage with this secretary in an office in which I was working as an intern. Very nice woman, and particularly to me. But she was adamantly against mixed-race marriage. “What about the children?” she proclaimed. They’ll never fit in, they’ll be scorned by both blacks and whites, and be outcasts in society.

Obviously, I have a vested interest in trying to make sure the Daughter lives in a better world than that. Her preschool was ethnically diverse; her elementary school is somewhat less so, but we hope for the best. Our church is predominantly white, but with increased diversity, including, most recently, an influx of Asian Indians.

You just keep trying to make a decent world for your child, which is pretty much irrespective of race.

BTW, Chuck Miller knows the woman in the Cheerios ad.
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Of course, I remember Jean Stapleton in All in the Family, who died recently. THE most disturbing episode of that series is referenced here.