I even missed the ads, which are a traditional highlight, especially for someone who has worked in the advertising field for years and even scripted a commercial (for the Volvo VN truck) which featured in the Super Bowl back in the mid-90s. So I've been catching up via YouTube.
This year, of course, we had two which featured Columbia recording artist, Mr Bob Dylan. The first was merely an appalling misuse of his song I Want You for yoghurt or something; the second, for Chrysler, actually starred the man himself and incorporated an analysis of international manufacturing capabilities, culminating in an exhortation to buy cars from Detroit: “Well, it's sundown on the union/And what's made in the USA/Sure was a good idea/'Til greed got in the way” as he didn't say in the commercial.
However, the commercial which provoked the most attention (outside the Bobosphere, that is) was for Coke.
It was kept under wraps until the moment it showed on Fox, and you might think that it was pretty old-fashioned and innocuous, if truth be told. It featured a number of American people doing American things in American landscapes with a soundtrack of America, the Beautiful, sung in nine different languages.
And that is the issue. Nine different languages! English, Spanish, Tagalog, Mandarin, Hindi, Hebrew, Keres, French and Arabic. What's going on here?
As Michele Bachmann told Fox News, “if English was good enough for Jesus when he wrote the bible, it should be good enough for Coke”. Todd Starnes, another Murdoch mercenary, claimed that “Coke is the official soft drink of illegals crossing the border”. And others too numerous to mention and too obscure to dignify with a reference jumped in with equally absurd comments.
The problem with this is that it prompts people like me to want to defend Coca-Cola, which I have no wish to do. The Coke bottle is the iconic symbol of American imperialism. Through Coke, the cultures of scores of countries were - and are being - transformed. Whole generations are being Americanized at the expense of their own national cultures.
But what is wrong with that? We can see from this commercial that America is multi-lingual, multi-racial, multi-cultural. Everything for which one might wish. A beautiful country, home of the brave and land of the free.
Except that what is portrayed in this commercial is very different from that which Coke has represented over the years, when the real thing has been WASP-ish to say the least. And very different from what the increasingly desperate right wing of America wish it to be, which does not include the prefix “multi-”.
That Coke, the epitome of the imperialist right, is now a target of the imperialist right is vaguely encouraging. I think.
Not least because one thing I do know is that advertisers do not, in any way, wish to be cutting edge. A successful advertising campaign is a reflection of the zeitgeist. Its starting point is the existing cultural consensus of its target audience.
And it’s clear that Coke and its agency, Weiden+Kennedy, now believe that diversity is the essence of the American zeitgeist.
It is equally clear that there are still many who find this as unpalatable as I find the product.
But you’ve got to admit, if Coke is using multi-culturalism to shift soda, America might be moving in the right direction.
Which isn’t to the right.
Today from the everysmith vaults: Been listening to the Dylan and Dead shows from ’86 and ’87 to mark the 25th anniversary of the official, and dreadful, album. 1987-07-19 at Eugene is quite brilliant. Subsequently, moved on to a quality audience tape of my Royal Albert Hall show last year. It appears that it was better than I thought and wrote at the time, musically at least. Sorry Bob.