Hulu's "Might as Well Surrender"

I believe this first aired during the last Superbowl game. Unfortunately, as I live in Canada, we weren't privy to the same ads – which now represent a good portion of the show – and so I didn’t actually see this ad until recently. And yes, for those of you that do know me, I was watching The Simpsons at the time; other than the news or our famed MeteoMedia channel, The Simpsons is about the only reason why I consider turning on my TV.

And unlike most people, I suppose, I actually like watching commercials as I find them absolutely useful indicators of societal mores and values, etc. This is probably due to the fact that I watch so little TV and so don’t see the ads ‘ad nauseum.’

I was lucky enough to catch this advert from the beginning – when my TV is on, odds are real good that I am also working on my computer and so I rarely see anything from beginning to end the first time – and it had succeeded in capturing my entire attention right till the end. Once it had finished and my snorts and giggles subsided, I didn’t know what to make of it. Brutal honesty from an advertiser always seems to shock, albeit the ending twist that undermines the entire premise.

As I watched the commercial, a phrase which had struck a deep chord with me when I took a media focused sociology course had instantly been brought to mind: TV is chewing gum for the eyes. Surprisingly enough, the commercial seems to make a direct reference to this somewhat famous Frank Lloyd Wright quote when Alec Baldwin says "TV will rot your brain" and later that it only turns it into a "mushy-mush" like substance.
Although I did appreciate the commercial on one level, there was something about it that didn’t agree with me. At first I thought it was because the ending – learning that Alec Balwin is an alien – ridiculed the very idea that TV is today’s ‘opiate’ and so made light of the aforementioned truths.
But after careful consideration I realized that it was the laissez-faire attitude being promoted that made me somewhat indignant; that phrase, “...there's nothing you can do to stop it” almost turns the ad into a plausible promo for bullies, powerful institutions and many governments and fascist-like entities across the world. As mere humans, we are helpless and without recourse – the alien-ruling-the-world idea reinforces this without being offensive (imagine if instead Baldwin had concluded with: “Because we're the US government, and that's how we roll.”).

A deconstruction of the advert essentially leads to this slogan: you are being controlled and dumb-ified; it’s the way it is, it’s the way it’s going to be, so you might as well enjoy it! Buy our product!

Nonetheless, you have to admire the ad's efficiency – Hulu became a well-known name overnight. Are people getting the same message? Doubtful; excessive TV seems to have eradicated that ability in many people…

Keep on clicking!


Those of you arriving from CL can read my comment below and the ensuing post as reply to all of that, thanks! - Added Feb. 21, 2009 7:08 PM

© 2009, Pascal-Denis Lussier


Anonymous said...

WoW! Dude !
You Totally missed the point
& Even have your quotes wrong....

Pascal-Denis Lussier said...

Thanks for your feedback.
That's fine that you think I missed the point, yet I think I'm the best judge of my own reactions and also the reason why there's an aspect of this ad that I didn't wholly appreciate? And that was the point of this post! Whether you agree with me or not is another matter and you are entitled to your opinion. But the truth is, whether you want to admit to it or not, the commercial deals with an idea that I never like to see being promoted - helplessness in the face of a powerful entity, hence the 'alien conspiracy' idea. And even if it is tongue-in-cheek, which I believe it is, I nonetheless am not too keen on being told that there's nothing I can do about something... My point was: imagine if another 'real' group such as the U.S. government or other made such a claim, we would all be offended!

I'm not sure what you mean though in terms of getting my quotes wrong - I only quote the ad twice and those are the exact words used... I even listened to it three more times after receiving your comments to be sure. Perhaps you're referring to the context in which Baldwin makes the "TV will rot your brain" quote - I found it unecessary to include all of it i.e. "they say that TV will rot your brain...that's absurd" since my only point was that the idea made me recall the Frank Lloyd Wright quote.

As far as your empty and belittling concluding phrase - it was useless and far from the truth and so I did, indeed, edit it out.

Pascal-Denis Lussier said...

Having thought further about your getting-my-quotes-wrong comment, I agree that the way I present the "will rot your brain" quote can be misleading... However, the fact that he says those words is justification enough for it to have conjured F.L.W. in my mind, and this was no doubt intended.
I don't know what agency it was that handled this account but you can bet that they prob. had a team of five or more highly qualified writers, a handful of marketing gurus and a whole gang of other specialist all working on it. Every word had been weighted and nothing was said out of chance... Although Baldwin refutes this idea, if marketers wanted our thoughts as far as possible from the very thought, it would not have been uttered, period. This is true in any structured writing and especialy true in advertising: if it's there, it has a purpose!

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