THE BLOG

Minority Marketing Gone Wild: Beyond Nivea

While sites like YouTube and MySpace have become virtual piazzas for the media savvy, the marketing industry (never one to miss a beat) is close on the heels of the emerging online global community. Any aspiring and/or established musician, politician, filmmaker, independent artist, or comedian worth his or her salt has at least one (if not several) self-promoting profile(s) online. These online spaces, once purely social, have become lightening-quick promotion vehicles for anyone with an internet connection and some time on their hands. And when it comes to product placement, the modern-day marketing guru will make time to be where all the kids are.

But does THE INTERNET -- often touted by many progressive minded media consumers as the last bastion of free, uncensored and commercial free speech -- prove to be more creative space than your average marketing-minded desk jockey can handle? Surely, online videos like Nivea's "Black Booty" campaign and Hot Pocket's "Hot Pocket's Dojo" campaign are undoubtedly some kind of spasmed response at being exposed to unbounded levels of creative freedom.

"Freedom! Horrible freedom!"

The average marketing mogul's lifetime of creative repression policed by the FCC standards of decency (and their oh-so-fairly-enforced fines) in radio and TV no longer become as pressing an issue with the advent of advertising on THE INTERNET. And boy-howdy, does it ever show. "Booty" & "Dojo" are screaming testaments to minority marketing gone wild. Suddenly, the ability to target a video commercial directly to "a consumer" (vs. "a consumer base" which is about as close as you can get with radio or TV) has "inspired" the creative advertising mind to "keep it real" and speak to their targeted minority demographic "on their level".

I don't know what else could possibly explain the odious concept behind "Booty's" large-bummed, skin-tight-disco-silver-legginged, pelvic-gyrating, respect-my-booty-anthemed video direction; or "Dojo's" Mickey-Rooney-a-la-Breakfast-at-Tiffany's-meets-Kung-Fu's-David-Carradine's-stand-in-hybrid offensive FOB character.

Videos like these can't possibly be serious appeals to the Black & Asian-American communities. Can they?

I'm not quite pedigreed enough in my marketing background to postulate any sort of coherent theory as to why someone might think glorifying video hos would sell skin cream or how the passé and offensive stereotype of a heavily accented "chinaman" would sell hot pockets. I would like to believe that I am a decent enough human being to understand that all women, slight and voluptuous, deserve to have representations of feminine beauty that don't reduce them to mere trollops at the mercy of a hypersexualized ideal. I would also like to think that my experience living as a minority in my country of origin has taught me that we should respect one another's differences and not exploit them for a cheap laugh.

Ultimately the litmus test is in putting the shoe on the other foot. Somehow I don't think Viagra commercials themed to old men dancing around with their flaccid penises outfitted in Speedos, or a Talladega-Nights-Pbast-Blue-Ribbon-dinking-Ricky-Bobby-Hank-Hill groupie as spokesman for SpaghettiOs, would inspire consumers to run out and purchase Viagra or SpaghettiOs in bulk quantities over at the Costco. The reasons the mere thought of these images make you queasy are the reasons you won't see me in the Nivea or Hot Pocket aisle at the grocery store any time soon.

May the online videos of the future be a safe and egalitarian space for healthy-sized bottoms, microwavable snacks, beauty creams, blue pills, sexually active seniors, NASCAR dads and canned spaghetti.

May the next generation of online content providers turn out to be smarter, better human beings than us.