Gabriel Roberts

Truth is Beauty

Category: Writing (page 2 of 2)

I’m in Cochabamba

cochabamba

Cochabamba. I’m one week in to a three-month artist residency at the volunteer organization Sustainable Bolivia. How I’d ever have found this place on my own I have no idea.  Ever since spending a year in Barcelona and learning some Spanish, South America has been on my mind as the next destination.  As it turns out, I’m not as much of a world traveler as perhaps I thought I would be.  It’s been 8 years since Barcelona and aside from a brief trip to New Zealand, I haven’t ventured out of USA/Canada.

I’m in the “figuring things out” stretch of time here in Cochabamba.  One week in and I have figured out how to walk the city without getting run over, where to buy fruits and vegetables, and how to safely cook and eat without getting sick.  Everybody keeps telling me that I’m going to get sick at some point, but I refuse to believe it.

I can’t really believe that I’m here.  It seemed such a leap.  Bolivia?  I’d believe it when I was there.  It started to feel real when I got to Lima, Peru, and departing the airport, riding through the busy streets, I took in the bustle, the bright colors, the thick air, the sounds.  A whole world of life existing here of which I had no idea.

Briefly I wondered what I was doing here.  So clearly different: run-down, polluted, dangerous even. I’d launched myself into it as if on a lark: “Oh sure!  I’m going to Bolivia”.  Did I really take the time to consider what this entailed?  Was I ready to live in a 3rd-world country?  Since when am I a bold and adventuresome traveler?

I considered the effort I’d put in to get down here, considered the fact that I was already here, and I decided I’d better give it a go.

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McDonald’s “We Need to Talk” Ad: More Nonsense for a Dumber America

I’ve written before about a McDonald’s ad that makes America dumber.  Here we go again…

There’s a new McDonald’s ad that shows a young man receiving a text that reads “We need to talk”.  A montage follows of close-up shots of a woman—presumably the sender of the text—saying “We need to talk” in different tones; one tone implying that she’s breaking up with him, another implying that she’s pregnant, etc.

Then, over a shot of the young man looking puzzled upon reading the text, large words read “Avoid misunderstood texts.  Meet in person”.

The happy couple are then shown eating McDonald’s and talking and laughing.

The idea of meeting in person and not dealing with sensitive issues over text message is all well and good, but the ad sets up this dichotomy—meeting in person vs. texting—and fails to represent it in the actual advertisement.

The texting that is shown is a woman sending the text “we need to talk”.  We are supposed to believe that this is an easily-misunderstood text message, and an example of why we should meet in person.  Curiously, no matter what the young man might read into this text, he is merely speculating over what she’s going to say when they meet in person. In other words, her text says “let’s meet in person”.

While initially—thanks perhaps to his fears and insecurities—the young man may have the wrong idea of what she’s going to say, this is a text message that, fundamentally, cannot be misunderstood.  There is no way to read such a message and come away with any understanding besides the following: she wants to have a conversation, and NOT through text messages.

Misunderstanding the text message “We need to talk” would require reading it and thinking something like “She wants me to eat more citrus fruit”; in other words, you would have to be a complete idiot. Here is a much better example of misunderstood text messages: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naleynXS7yo

Somebody had the idea of selling McDonald’s as a great way to have a casual face-to-face meeting, akin to “grabbing a cup of coffee”.  They liked this idea of a low-pressure, easy-breezy meeting and paired it perfectly with some inexpensive chicken and fish sandwiches. They got a good-looking pair of vaguely international-looking actors and a really nice shot of them eating sandwiches and smiling.  Unfortunately, they didn’t stop there.

McDonald’s decided to take it a step further and tap into the popular “return to roots” sentiment that’s in the air these days: “Darn technology! Darn Facebook and text messages!  People texting while driving! People can’t even have a face-to-face conversation any more! RAWWR!”.  People LOVE this idea because it gives them something to feel united about.  “Returning to our roots” and taking our faces out of our cellphones for a moment is a cause as shining and perfect and vague as “The Children”.  Verizon is all over it: http://creativity-online.com/work/verizon-home/44593

So, once they had successfully tied their sandwiches to “returning to our roots”, all McDonald’s was left with was depicting a relatable pitfall of technology—specifically, what happens when you don’t meet in person and instead try to sort out sensitive issues over text message.

Well, shoot, nobody could quite think of an example of this, so they just went with “we need to talk”, because, obviously, this can mean lots of different things. Nobody noticed—or cared—that this is, in fact, an example of a text message used to arrange a face-to-face conversation.

In their effort to represent concept A versus concept B, they couldn’t find a good example of concept A, so they decided to use an example of concept B instead, and present it as an example of concept A.

“On to production!”, they said.

It seems to me that the machine that creates McDonald’s ads is so complex, so insanely enabled with funding, that they’ve long-since left behind a time when an actual person sat down and pitched an actual idea to actual people who listened and had actual conversations about the idea.  Perhaps the entire production is now coordinated via text messages.

Who cares? You might ask.  It’s just a McDonald’s ad!  What difference does it make?  A big difference, I say: the difference between sense and nonsense.  When something as completely nonsensical as this is presented without a hint of irony or awareness—and broadcasted on such a massive scale as a McDonald’s ad—everybody who sees it gets a little bit dumber.  Especially the children!

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