What we look like when we look like ourselves

SAS Commercial

Mikkel Danielsen had a big article about Donald Trump and QAnon at the top of Berlingske’s website this morning. Big image, big headline, big story:

The headline says: “A particular song got underway. Suddenly Trump supporters reached one finger into the air—what just happened?”

I don’t know what happened. Neither does Mikkel Danielsen. Nor do any of the sources he turns to for help in the course of his article.

But they all seem sure it’s got something to do with QAnon, which means it’s obviously menacing and terrible and can only bode ill for the future of humanity.

In the course of summoning the necessary strength to grapple with Mikkel Danielsen, however, I found myself suddenly distracted by the massive banner ad on top of Berlingske’s website.

This one:

I thought it odd that SAS—the Scadinavian Airlines System—would be advertising on a Danish newspaper’s website with what appears to be pair of southern lesbians on the brink of a kiss.

Having worked in Berlingske’s marketing department for five years, I have a better than average awareness of its readers’ demographics. They’re mostly middle-aged white Danish males who live on northern Sjælland—like the guy who always shows up in my mirror, but without all his American baggage.

Yesterday I wrote about the controversy over Disney having cast a black actress in the role of Denmark’s beloved Little Mermaid. Supporters of that decision grounded their support in the idea that kids should have role models that looked like them. Advertising is different than entertainment, obviously, but I always find it strange when marketers try to reach a particular demographic—as anyone advertising in Berlingske is indeed doing—with representations of an entirely different demographic.

You don’t see a lot of guys in tampon commercials, for example. You don’t see many college-age kids in ads for hearing aids or incontinence medications—or anyone over 30 in ads for Captain Morgan rum.

A worldwide (27 nation) Ipsos survey conducted in 2021 found that only 10% of human beings consider themselves homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, or other. (“3% as homosexual, 4% as bisexual, and 1% each as pansexual, asexual, and other.”) Ipsos facto (heh), 90% of human beings do not consider themselves to be any of those things.

Weirdly, though, an awful lot of contemporary culture, including ad campaigns like that SAS banner, seems to be targeted directly to the smaller demographic. Or using the smaller demographic to appeal to the larger: we know you’re just a dopey straight square schmuck, but use our product and you can be as cool as a homosexual!

It’s an odd state of affairs.

(No it’s not. It’s diversity! It’s about being inclusive and diverse and equitable!)

Well, yeah, there’s also that.

But consider: whenever leftist administrations (national, state, local) stack themselves with more “diversity” than competence, they crow that they’re building an administration (or committee or council or whatever) that “looks like” the nation, state, or locality in question. Diversity and inclusion initiatives are representative in nature: their ostensible purpose is to ensure that smaller groups are demographic microcosms of the larger social bases from which they’re drawn.

Recall, for example, when Karine Jean-Pierre took a moment out of her first press conference as the president’s new press secretary to point out that she was breaking barriers as the first “black gay immigrant woman” in that role. Bully for her, and three cheers for breaking barriers, but so what?

Were there throngs of black gay immigrant women crying out for succor under the oppressive press secretaryship of Jean-Pierre’s predecessor Jen Psaki because she was a straight white woman born in America?

Would Karine Jean-Pierre have celebrated if Trump had made a black gay immigrant female conservative his press secretary?

More likely we’d have learned to swap out the old No True Scotsman fallacy for the exciting new No True Black Gay Immigrant Woman fallacy.

Demographics are a stupid goalpost: competence comes in all colors and configurations. So does incompetence—as Karine Jean-Pierre so often demonstrates by example. To force any organization of any kind to meet various requirements of skin color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, etc,—to measure them by those metrics—is undemocratic and antimeritocratic. That may be more a feature than bug, as far as the left is concerned, but if you’re looking to fill a position with anything other than the person most qualified to fill it, you’re obviously doing your constitutents a disservice.

Furthermore, those working most feverishly to make their organizations “look like America” clearly have no idea what America actually looks like.

For any group of people to “look like America,” three-fifths of its members would need to be non-Latino whites. If you count Latinos among whites, it would need to be 75% white. The group would be at least 90% straight and two-thirds Christian. One in ten would be black; fewer than one in 16 would be Asian.

That’s how America “looks,” according to the US census.

A committe of ten people that “looks like America” right now would therefore consist of eight whites (including two Latinos), one black, and one Asian. Having a hard time visualizing that? Here you go:

The American look.

Sneak Ricardo Montalban in there (Khan!), along with his little Fantasy Island sidekick Herve Vallacheze, and you’ve got the two Latinos required to make the bridge of the Enterprise look like America, skin-wise.

Nine of the ten would be heterosexual and six of them would be Christian.

Obviously the sexes would be equally balanced: there’d be five males and five females.

Anyone think the “looks like America!” crowd would actually be pleased with such a mix?

And yet that’s how America looks today.

Denmark’s population is around 90% white, most of it ethnically Danish, and 65% of Danes describe themselves as Christian. So kiss Uhura or Sulu goodbye and forget all about Ricardo and Herve if you want an Enterprise bridge that “looks like” Denmark.

And yet here’s SAS running an ad in Denmark, for a Danish audience that’s at least 90% white and straight and about two-thirds male, with a couple of brownish lesbians (and an English tag line).

Why?

It’s an honest question. Sincere.

How many Latino or Mediterranean lesbians are there in Denmark? In all of Scandinavia? Why target any marketing to them? Or why use them to target advertising to a population consisting almost entirely of people who are not young, brown, or gay?

It’s weird, is what it is.

Isn’t it?

I mean, you don’t have to be homophobic or racist to think the use of young brown lesbians in a Danish airline advertisement targeted to straight middle-aged white guys is weird, do you?

(The porn industry probably can’t stop giggling, but I’m not talking about that.)

There are certainly people who would happily accuse me of homophobia or racism for thinking so.

But here’s the deal, Jack. Marketing is a business. It’s not just sales and advertising: it’s also branding and positioning, awareness-raising, and so on.

It could well be that the purpose of this SAS campaign is not to increase sales among the readership of Berlingske Tidende, but to brand themselves as something more than an airline for pasty-white Scandinavians.

But why do so to a demographic as pasty-white as the readers of Berlingske?

What is to be gained by telling a bunch of white guys, “we’re not just about white guys?”

Here, for purposes of comparison, is an SAS commercial I used to see a lot on Danish television:

The ad features a former Danish foreign minister experiencing the weirdness of Tokyo—then boarding his SAS flight back to Denmark (presumably) as the tagline rolls out:

SAS. Så godt som hjemme.”

As good as home.

The message was pretty clear: it’s a crazy non-Scandinavian world out there: let SAS be your Scandinavian escort to and from those crazy and wonderful places.

That message made sense.

What’s the message with this new banner ad campaign?

“Stay in love like these swarthy young lesbian beauties?”

Or maybe, “SAS isn’t just some boring old airline anymore: we’re down and with it, and totally cool with mocha colored babes getting their Sapphic mojo on, because love is love and gay is awesome and hate has no home here and et cetera, et cetera?”

Or is it perhaps, “GET USED TO BROWN LESBIANS, YOU FUCKING RACIST HOMOPHOBES! (And fly cheap with SAS.)”

I suspect it’s the latter.

Not because Danes are hostile to lesbians, or to people with darker skin than their own, but because that’s just the way marketing seems to work these days.

Marketing hasn’t just taken a turn toward social nudging over the past decade or so: it’s swerved into it and accellerated. Because marketers love us and want us to be the best people we can be. For example, this Gilette classic from a few years back:

Back in the before-times, Gillette sold men’s and women’s grooming products.

With this ad, they began selling something new: contempt for their consumers.

There’s a lot of that going around these days.

Remember how the very fine people of Delta Airlines and the very fine people of Coca Cola hurled their contempt at the people of Georgia because the state had passed voting reform laws that partisan Democrats from the president on down were comparing to Jim Crow?

Remember how they got down on their knees and apologized after the very next Georgian election—the first in which all those “Jim Crow” laws were in effect—produced the highest voter turnout ever among every demographic?

No, you don’t, because they never did apologize.

Because they have nothing to apologize for, you despicable hater.

They just surrendered to the hysterical partisan mob, and when the mob turned out to have been dead wrong about everything (as hysterical mobs often are), the very fine people of Delta and the very fine people of Coca Cola never even bothered to apologize. Because although they may have been wrong on their facts, they were right in. . . well, I’m not entirely sure, but I suspect their logic goes something like: something something something, mumble mumble, fuck you.

And who can blame them?

They were better people in their wrongness than we can ever hope to be in our rightness.

They’re just better all the way around.

Now, as it happens, the CEOs of Coke, Delta, and Gillette just happen to be middle-aged white guys.

So is Anko van der Werff, the CEO of Scandinavian Airlines who also happens to be a finalist in the Whitest Name in the World playoffs, which I just made up.

If anyone’s entitled to lecture the rest of us on our racism, homophobia, misogyny, and toxic masculinity, it’s obviously them.

So let us all bow our heads in gratitude for their social nudging, without which we would surely descend into barbarity and ruin.

Featured image: screencap from the SAS commercial embedded in this post.

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Soren Rasmussen
Soren Rasmussen
11 days ago

It is difficult not to be moved to pity the awful predicament of these people, who must suffer the indignity of having a customer base that consists mainly of older white men. How terrible to have to go through life like that. What opportunities do such people have of basking in the social approval of their chosen tribe?

Think about it. There you are at a nice dinner party surrounded by all your progressive (white) peers, and sure, the first couple of minutes go fine, as everyone repeats the expected and mandatory mantras, tropes and pledges that are de rigeur among the Righteous: Climate Change is an existential crisis (“we just came back from Queensland and you won’t believe the state of the Great Barrier Reef!”), Meat eating is terrible (“you simply MUST try this veal!” and of course Orange Man Bad.
But then, at some point, you get asked what you do, and there you are, working at a capitalist enterprise that mostly caters to the white patriarchy…Imagine the humiliation. Sure, you can double down on the progressive mantras and how you are really one of the good allies working to undermine the system, and you can try and deflect by pointing out how awful it is with this, that, and the other, but you just know your wife isn’t impressed and really wanted you to do marketing for Fair Trade Coffee or Greenpeace or something, anything, except what you do.

So, when the opportunity comes, you just know you need to pitch something that will win you a couple of brownie points (literally). It’ an easy sell. It ticks a lot of the intersectionality boxes, and that one dinosaur who asked what on earth this had to do with reaching the main demographic, well you were prepared for that one: Middle-aged White males LOVE lesbians, and here is a statistic from <your favorite porn site> that shows how much. The idiot bought it.

And now you can hold your head up high at the next dinner party. And that – after all – is what it is all about.