Dec. 8 WEEKENDER: Second Opinion – LeBron James, smartphones and crass commercialism

There are some things wrong with a smartphone ad featuring Miami Heat basketball star LeBron James.

Editor’s note: The above video is the original, one minute and 30 second smartphone commercial, as opposed to the shorter one mentioned in the column.

One of the latest smartphone ads on TV is a wonderful illustration of how the high-minded technology companies have been won over to the dark side of crass commercialism.

LeBron James, professional basketball superstar for the Miami Heat, and his family demonstrate a new smartphone’s capabilities (Samsung Galaxy) by showing how LeBron’s son can take a picture of LeBron with the phone and then quickly scribble a red wig on the image.  Everyone laughs.

That is how the ad ends. Before that point however, LeBron had poured a multi-pastel-coloured, puffy cereal into his six and eight-year-old sons’ bowls and told them, in order to not be late for school to, “Hurry, eatch y’all food.”

It isn’t particularly crass that a famous personality was used to pitch the phone.

Advertisers have used that strategy for generations. It’s that the commercial’s creators, in this case, have used LeBron to make less than admirable parental behaviour seem common and acceptable.

Every nutritionist, health agency and medical practitioner has been trying to get parents to provide healthy breakfasts for their children, yet multi-millionaire LeBron is shown happily pouring something that looks like little candies into his kids’ bowls and telling them to eat it quickly.

The commercial could just as easily have shown him giving them something healthy, but it didn’t. It targeted those parents who likewise serve up Sugar Puffs in order to make them feel better about themselves and therefore the advertiser.

And while every educator, social scientist and parenting guru has been trying to encourage parents to read regularly to their children and model standard English, LeBron tells his kids to “Eatch y’all food.” It isn’t that we don’t know what LeBron means. It’s just that, though he is sending his boys off to school to acquire language skills, he apparently sees no reason to reinforce those skills at home himself.

His own choice of words can hardly be more basic; “Eatch y’all” is vague and lazy and may mean “both of you eat” or “Eat all of your,” or possibly both. He doesn’t even use “cereal” or “breakfast;” he just calls what they are eating “food.”

Of course, LeBron and his family have no artistic control over the content of the commercial; they just do what they are told and get a huge whack of dough.

The advertiser dictates every syllable spoken and the content of every camera shot. It is the phone manufacturer who wants parents to see the ad and conclude that they can be content modelling sloppy language and poor eating habits for their kids.

And out of gratitude for making them feel so content, perhaps they would like to buy a phone?

– Jim Holtz is WEEKENDER columnist and former reporter for the Grand Forks Gazette

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