Advertising makes people angry sometimes. I get it. Those Go Compare spots and that notoriously broad moneysupermarket dance-off campaign could surely send even the most mild-mannered viewer into a fit of unbridled rage given the right circumstances. Donald Trump is a lot of things. Mild-mannered is not one of them. The recent piece of advertising that drove the paper-thin skinned president to his latest Twitter tirade wasn't an irritating or offensive spot though. It was actually a rather innocent and subtle ad, which simply featured a series of purposefully cluttered voice-overs and some bold text calling for a more truthful, open media. Had the final shot of the spot featured the text “Fox News,” Trump would have probably applauded. However, it was actually a spot by Droga5 for The New York Times, a paper the all-powerful jaffa cake recently deemed unworthy to join Sean Spicer and the White House press 'gaggle' because they refused to swallow and regurgitate his bullshit.
The spot, dubbed “The Truth is Hard,” which you can see for yourself above, was released online last Thursday ahead of its official debut during last night's Oscars broadcast. It was slammed by Trump on Sunday in a tweet that read: “For first time the failing @nytimes will take an ad (a bad one) to help save its failing reputation. Try reporting accurately & fairly!” He did get one half thing right there, it is the first time in over a decade that the paper has launched a TV spot focused on its own brand. Everything else is reliably wide of the mark, and it's airing at a time not when the paper itself is 'failing', but when the reputation of journalism as a medium is on the line. The ad's goal is surely to open a dialogue about press transparency and who or what we can trust in an era where both sides are constantly telling us the other side is not only wrong, but is lying. It's far from the most original and inspiring ad to be unveiled during the broadcast last night, but it's sure to be the most talked about, and it goes to show that adland might just be learning something from Trump. Negative publicity is still publicity.
The 2017 Oscars themselves could broadly have been described as a “business as usual” affair save for a few thinly-veiled, but sincere digs at the current US administration (props to my major man-crush, Gael Garcia Bernal) and a surprisingly charismatic hosting job from Jimmy Kimmel (well, I thought so anyway). There was also, of course THAT major blunder at the end, which will probably go down in history as one of the all-time great award show gaffs. The ad breaks were pretty incredibly though, with other ads screened between the bleary-eyed speeches and bum-kissing taking a similarly bold stance against segregation. The new spot by Publicis agency Rokkan for Cadillac (above), focused on poignant moments of compassion and understanding throughout history, emphasising that, despite the current political unrest in the US, people will persevere and will not be dicks to one another. The spot pushed the message “While we’re not the same, we can be one,” and featured flashes of military veterans, political movements and iconic figures from the past such as Marilyn Monroe and Muhammad Ali. Hyatt, meanwhile, took the sappier route, with a spot (below) by MullenLowe, which was soundtracked by a fresh reading of “What The World Needs Now.” You can probably tell what kind of spot you'll be getting, but it's definitely worth a watch.
I'll leave you with the words of New York Times publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr, because he's probably a man better equipped to comment on such things than little old me: “At The Times, we have a 166-year history of an adherence to the highest standards in journalism and a sense of mission that propels our approach to how we cover the world. We are committed to properly resourced, tough-minded and independent journalism, delivered without fear or favour. In a world where there is so much uncertainty about what is real and what is fake news, we remain steadfastly committed to a search for the truth.”
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and struggling musician from Kidderminster in the UK.