Pillsbury’s Home Sweet Home – The Power of Symbols and Signs

Have you seen Pillsbury’s latest TV advert? We are shown shot after shot of several people in different contexts clicking their heels; then some warm croissants coming out of a stove and then a wide shot of a ‘home’ in a field and the caption, “home is calling.” What’s important to point out is the manner in which people are clicking their heels; if I say Dorothy and “there’s no place like home,” I’m sure you get the visual…

Whether or not I like the commercial is irrelevant, what’s interesting is that such a simple action from a film released nearly seventy years ago can have such symbolic relevance today. Other than the clicking of heels and the word ‘home’ which appears in the commercial's last 5 seconds, there are absolutely no other images to link this ad with the film.

Like a wink, a thumb’s up or giving the finger…

The Wizard of Oz has given meaning to an otherwise meaningless movement that barely feels ‘at home’ in any dance routine; bringing one’s heels together, carefully, deliberately, two or more times… And after all, who doesn’t remember this ‘classic’ scene which leads to the film’s black and white denouement?! Dorothy and her pack of misfits unmask ‘the wizard’ as being just another insecure and vulnerable fake (can we draw parallels to modern day television preachers… too easy!) and rather than file for a defamation suit, the wizard rights the wrongs and provides each with the gift they had sought before telling Dorothy the secret that will inevitably lead her back home; she clicks her heels, says that famous magic phrase, and lands back in the safety of home and family, and in Kansas to boot!

And yet now, if anyone else tries to sell products by using this symbolic action in a way that may resemble Pillsbury’s usage, a pack of hungry and efficient lawyers will no doubt quickly forbid them from ever doing so again! In a way, this action now belongs to Pillsbury – and certainly for quite some time… But did we really assign this action as much weight simply after the film, or did time and the power of nostalgia allow Pillsbury to shape and assign a specific meaning to this action?And did Pillsbury have to pay for the rights to use this gesture? Can someone own the rights to such an act or the symbolic value assigned to an action? Should we be paying someone each time we flip that proverbial bird? What will be equally interesting to monitor is whether or not this Pillsbury campaign revives any interest in the Wizard of Oz books, films, et al.

More on this...

Keep on clicking!


© Pascal-Denis Lussier 2008


Chris America said...

I like the paintings on the wall at the end.
Large black n white on canvas.
Anyone know the artist?

Anonymous said...

i am trying to find that out as well-who is the artist?

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