Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Zero Sum

       I am sure you’ve seen the advertisements, namely by the D Geller and Son Jewelers (on the radio) and by Burger King (on the idiot tube), of how their product is head-and-shoulders better and larger than the competition’s. A few years ago, companies such as these would spend more time laughing at other competitors’ products than describing their own.
      D Geller would spend over twenty seconds of their thirty second ads chastising Shane’s boring voice, belittling an entire Jeweler’s magnificence simply because its successful namesake happens to have a dull voice. They would then quickly go through an exact copy of what Shane’s ads tell: largest gallerias, largest selection, and largest stones.
      Burger King, for some strange reason, changed their amazing French fry recipe, replacing it with… orange-tinted shreds of something. About this same time, they launched a massive campaign based solely on their Macs. The Whopper and the Whopper Jr. These ads depicted two men, one in a Whopper costume (the dad), and the other in a Whopper Jr. costume (the rebellious youth). The youth and the father would have a large fight about who tasted better (which was just worthless; they both taste like blended, burned, and highly processed cow), always ending in the youth storming out of the room, berating his father’s oppressiveness.
      The other advertisements of BK, on the other hand, enraged me. One such ad showed the Whopper Jr. yelling at the storefront of a Subway, yelling things like, “Where’s your burger?” and “You’re nothin’! you got no flavor!” while pacing the parking lot. The people inside the store were blankly staring, since, obviously, management hadn’t explained that, when a raging burger from another company starts insulting yours, you should take out a shotgun and make burger pâté. The scene cuts after a repetition of “you’re nothin’”, and a giant burger fills the screen, with one big word in red: BIGGER.
      This is my least favorite thing about advertisement: when they get nasty. The tactics used above are just the work of Satan.  Specifically, this tactic is called “Zero Sum”, which by all means a person should avoid. It works off the basis that, by knocking somebody else down one, you can build yourself up one. I’ll build myself up standing on the ashes of your demise. The problem with this theory is the moral math: one plus negative one equals… ZERO?!?
      “But, Jblancs, that can’t be right. Humanity’s based on the zero sums… the victors build themselves up on the ashes of someone else.”
      Not necessarily. That was the way the Middle Ages ran things (but it really didn’t run it; nobody did). Nobody truly wins in a zero sum. Well, people do win per say, but inside, people don’t win. It’s a deeply moral issue. If you like the image of angry Whoppers representing a large chain of cut-rate fries, then be my guest eating there; I’d rather walk an extra mile than eat there. 

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