Have you no sense of boundaries? Have you no sense of decorum? Have you no sense of respect? At long last, have you no sense of shame?
From Haggar and Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, we have an answer. It is a commercial in which the heroes smear dog crap onto the hand of someone they don't like. The victim retches. So do we.
This is part of a campaign that panders to the Angry White Male by way of parodying how-to TV -- essentially "This Old House" meets "Dark Justice" -- under the title "Making Things Right with Pete and Red."
In another spot, Pete and Red vandalize an automobile because they don't like the music blaring from it. In another, Red bodily removes his daughter's boyfriend from the sofa, drags him across the room and throws him out of a window because the kid's just too damn lazy. The piece d'resistance, though, is the dog-dirt one. Some rich, Bluetooth-wearing smartass lets his dog poop on Pete's lawn, so the guys confront him and trowel the mess right back into his bare hands.
As we watch in revulsion.
Let's put aside the fact that these two jackasses are at least as smug and self-satisfied, in their plastic-lawn-chair sort of way, as the supposed creeps they are targeting. Let's get back to the real issue:
Gross-out vigilante justice
What in God's name is wrong with you people? Can you possibly imagine that gross-out vigilante justice is the way to advertise cheap pants, or anything else? Has this red-hot agency so bought into the myth of its own infallibility that it can abuse the audience, and the brand, with impunity?
Once again, no answer required. Nor is there any need to rationalize the behavior with the campaign's psychology. Don't worry. We get the psychology.
Haggar sells to the Middle American, the unpretentious, meat-and-potatoes, un-froufrou guy with a large-screen TV in his living room and no books that don't have embossed foil covers. He works very hard managing the Wal-Mart and has no patience for rich guys or slackers. At night, he sits in his La-Z-Boy watching Lou Dobbs and Spike. In 1994, he went to the polls and voted in the Republican majority. Didn't help. That was 12 years ago, and he's still pissed. Dragging his ass to work at 6:30 a.m. to do the heavy lifting so a bunch of trust-fund brats and illegal aliens can get a free ride.
But he does face the public every day, and he needs a comfortable slack with a sharp crease and plenty of room at the waist.
So why not press all his hot buttons while simultaneously displaying the features of affordable trousers to go handsomely with his collection of white-on-white half-sleeve shirts?
That's the strategy, and if sound strategy were the only criterion, this campaign would be top-drawer. But that's not the only criterion. Note that, for terrorists, say, blowing up a restaurant is a sound strategy. Cold comfort to the victims.
By the way, if the comparison to terrorism is maybe extreme, it is also not accidental. This kind of stunt is itself a form of soft-core terrorism. In the name of stoking the anger of a few, it celebrates lawlessness and violence, portrays perceived enemies as contemptible caricatures who deserve what they get and, ultimately, claims millions of innocent victims.
Why draw the line at a dog-shit handshake? You're already shaming your industry and defiling your own brand. Why not just behead the infidel with your trowel?
~ ~ ~
Review Stars: Zero
Agency: Crispin Porter & Bogusky