Tuesday, November 27

Oh When The Saints Go Marching Out

I can't abide the Visa ads that attempt to shame people who use cash. There's a whole series of them: One shows people buying lunch in a cafeteria; another is set in a mall food court; one depicts morning in Manhattan. There's a spot set in a whimsical toy store, one in a garden center, and one showing showing the entire city of New Orleans feting the city's NFL team.

I despise these ads because they don't jibe with reality. I use my Visa card frequently. I also use cash. The idea that these ads try to convey -- that Visa transactions are seamless, and that cash transactions will bring commerce to a screeching halt, is simply untrue in my experience.

Some of these ads also show people attempting to pay for things with checks. Yes, checks are slow and clunky and hold up everyone else in the store, so Visa makes a valid point. However, how many people are still using checks in public these days?

I think these ads play on people's fear of being the person that sticks out in a crow. In the ads, the people paying by cash or check are disrupt the harmonious flow of business. The music stops, the celebration stops, the dancing stops. Everyone else stares at the person who stopped the party. We, the viewers, are led to assume that the person paying by cash or check is an idiot -- someone to be mocked for his or her mistake, and to be forgiven only once he or she atones with a Visa card.

What's sad, however, is that these ads present universes of hegemony. Everyone is doing the same exact thing, dancing to the same song, cheering the same team. They march in lockstep. They're cogs in a machine. Deviance is not to be tolerated. This is the world of "1984."

(Think I'm taking this comparison too far? Listen closely to the music in the garden center ad. It's "Brazil." That's the same song Terry Gilliam used in his dystopian, Orwellian, duct-filled fantasy, also called "Brazil." This is either a bizarre coincidence, or someone in charge of picking the music for the Visa ads has a wonderfully outlandish sense of humor.)

Out of all these Visa ads, my least favorite is the one set in New Orleans. It shows people all over the city whooping it up in New Orleans Saints t-shirts and gear, and buying New Orleans Saints merchandise with their Visa cards. The unspoken message is that you need Saints stuff to party in New Orleans, and that you can't buy all this wonderful stuff without a Visa card. The music and the party stops when a preppy, effeminate guy in a pastel polo shirt tries to buy a canister of tennis balls using cash. (Once again, see, he doesn't fit in. He's someone to mock and deride. He is not buying Saints stuff!) Once his pathetic transaction is over, people can buy more Saints stuff with their Visa cards and the festivities can begin again.

I yell a lot at the teevee. It's a habit I picked up from my mother. Nowadays, when I see a Visa ad, I root for the nonconformist.


Anonymous said...

I am so glad that there is someone else who rips apart commercials and yells at the TV!!! My family seems to think I'm nuts because I do it. Sue W.

Jeff said...

I've been bitching about this series of ads for a while. Demonizing cash is a dangerous thing.

Then to tie it loosely to New Orleans? Heinous.