Advertising is often about comparison: our product is better than their product.

It’s not uncommon for that to extend to a representation of the people using the products. That is, because our product is better than their product, the users of our product have some advantage over those who use their product. They may be happier, more successful, sexier, wealthier, etc.

Sometimes, this rubs off on the user of the superior product, making them kind of cocky. They’ve made the right choice, and they seem to feel that that makes them better than the poor slob who’s stuck with Brand X.

It’s one thing for the winning consumer to be a bit of an asshole, but some advertisers now appear to have decided that picking the right product gives one the right to take things a step or two further.

National Car Rental logoIn a current spot for National Car Rental, John McEnroe explains the advantages of National’s Emerald Club and its new Emerald Aisle (faith and begorrah) feature: not only can you bypass the counter and all the paperwork, but you just go into the lot and pick whichever car you’d like.

Sounds pretty good, right? Keep in mind that this is John McEnroe, who is equally famous for tennis and temper. He demonstrates his freedom of choice in a lot full of cars by yelling, “Hey, Pal! That car’s mine!” at what appears to be one of maybe three other customers there, pulling a tennis racket and ball out of his carry-on, and serving the ball right into the poor man’s head, knocking him to the concrete, coffee cup, briefcase and all. If the tennis ball doesn’t give him a concussion, I’m sure the pavement does.

It should be noted that the Emerald Club rules stipulate that:

National Car Rental may disqualify any Member for any reason including such Member’s unacceptable driving record. Such disqualification is effective when it is entered into National Car Rental’s computer system.

I wonder if “any reason” includes assault on fellow Emerald Club members.

We’ve got a similar situation with Hall’s cough drops.

In the old days, a Hall’s ad would involve a person who had a bit of a cough or congestion. They’d pop a Hall’s and that menthol-lyptus stuff would go to work, sending waves of gentle, healing warmth through them, and they’d find themselves cleared out, comfortable, and happy. Nice and simple. But no more.

In a current spot on the eye of hell, our protagonist is in an elevator, standing right in the middle of the car. The door opens, and someone walks in. Our hero is pushed a bit to the side, expresses a touch of irritation on his face, and moves back into the middle of the car. The door opens again, and again he has to move out of the way to let someone through, again he becomes a little irritated, and again he moves back into the center of the elevator. The door opens yet again, and our hero is not a happy guy. You’d think that by now he’d have figured out that if he moved into a corner of the elevator, he could finish his ride thoroughly untouched, but he seems to believe that he has the right both to stand in the center and to have an invisible buffer zone around him. He thinks that other people should enter the elevator by pressing themselves up against the wall and squeezing by him as carefully and respectfully as possible.

So what does he do about it? He pulls out a Hall’s and pops it into his mouth. We see those waves of warmth and comfort like before… but something is different. Those waves are now weapons, forcing the other people up against the wall and literally flattening them — most likely causing permanent damage, perhaps death.

Is this really the message advertisers want to send? When did it become necessary for consumers to feel so superior for purchasing the right product that they believe they have the right to kill?

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