Tuesday, May 31, 2005

:: adgruntie :: GE's coal miner ad

+ Slate rants about GE's latest commercial, which uses sexified coal miners to make their point that they are using "cleaner-coal technology and suggests we use our ample coal reserves to solve the nation's energy problems." I saw this ad yesterday and was a bit perplexed at the well toned, young models they had posing as coal miners until at the end the announce says: "Harnessing the power of coal is looking more beautiful every day." I suppose so. I agree with most of the Slate review of the spot...it *is* hard to complain when a corporation as big as GE is taking steps towards being eco-friendly. Here's a snippet of the article:
You won't be shocked to learn that the models appearing in this ad never actually entered any mines. That would be dirty, unpleasant, and dangerous. Instead, according to the ad agency, a replica coal mine was built on a soundstage. That way the models could strut in comfort.

The ad guy in charge (Executive Creative Director Don Schneider, of BBDO) thinks I'm being way too literal. The models, he says, are a "metaphor." The idea obviously being that with GE's new process, coal starts to look—as an energy alternative—much more attractive.

But it strikes me as disingenuous to call for a massive resurgence in coal mining and then portray the job as a stylish sex party. Richard Avedon managed to find beauty in the faces of actual miners, not supermodel stand-ins.

Several of my readers were even more galled by the ad's use of "Sixteen Tons"—a folk song about the miserable futility of mining and the evils of controlling corporations. Merle Travis wrote the song in 1946, drawing on the experiences of his father, a coal miner from Kentucky. More sample lyrics: "St. Peter don't you call me 'cuz I can't go. I owe my soul to the company store."
I get the metaphor thing but there's just something a bit off about glamorizing coal mining. It's a tough line of work and to use models like that is really just a bad concept. There's got to be a ton of other ways to have communicated the same message- but of course we have to fit in sex because otherwise no one will pay attention, right? ;-)

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