Life on the side in Tokyo



Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Commercializing National Identity

A few years ago there was a TV ad campaign for Molson Canadian beer. The campaign used an average guy named Joe, who stood up on a stage with a screen behind him and ranted on, first correcting American stereotypes about Canada and then stating proudly how Canada differs from the US, such as promoting diversity not assimilation. It end with Joe declaring that "I Am Canadian" and then the ad cuts to a glass of Molson Canadian beer. The message: Proud Canadians drink Molsons.
Soon there were lots of spoofs of the commercial. There was Guy, from Quebec, who declared that "I AM Not Canadian" and others stating they are hyphenated-Canadians. Obviously Joe simplified national identity and did not speak for everybody when he tried to define himself as authentically Canadian. Spoofs also showed that TV viewers are not a purely passive and accepting audience, but can engage with the content and create alternative interpretations.
There is now an ad campaign in Germany paid for by several media companies who want to give Germans something to feel proud of during these times of national insecurity and doubt. It is called Du Bist Deutschland (You Are Germany). It shows famous and regular people, some from different ethnic groups, who tell German TV viewers to be pround and happy, that they are part of Germany and they shouldn't give up. They too can be like a Porsche. Yeah, right. This ad, too, has encouraged spoofs and some people feel that it is a superficial way of addressing real social problems like unemployment, depression and poverty.
It is interesting that the ad did avoid the contentious issue of national identity by claiming that the viewer was a member of the social body--Germany--and not necessarily a member of the tribe--German.