Taking cues from Barbie
Let’s talk about 2022 (and beyond).
While watching the Super Bowl last Sunday, the ads brought in to sharp focus one of the top issues of the 2022 campaign – cost of living, or what some would call inflation.
This is the inevitable successor to 2020’s “unprecedented times” which of course had many precedents. Although most commercial advertisements were (and always are) positive, mostly because “feel like shit and buy my product” doesn’t really sell that well, several ads are touching on the undercurrents of financial stress.
Rocket Mortgage’s ad featured Barbie trying to buy her dream home, but was swamped in a competitive market and featured dolls named Cash Offer Carl, Better Offer Betty and House Flipper Skipper. Thankfully our hero does win the house, but leaves the other dolls to consider a fixer upper castle with “good bones but really bad neighbors.” For those of us 80s children, it’s Castle Grayskull from He-Man.
Seattle-based Expedia tried to get people to stop spending on “stuff” and instead spend on … well, you know. And E-Trade tried to get its spokesbaby – retired for more than 10 years – to return to work because customers are “getting crushed by inflation.” My question is more, who the hell can afford diapers and childcare for a baby that still hasn’t grown up after 10 years. I guess better than college tuition.
Meanwhile, the administration seems flummoxed by the issue of inflation, preferring to ignore the issue or simply wishing that it goes away.
“I think it was back in July you said inflation was going to be temporary. I think a lot of Americans are wondering what your definition of temporary is,” NBC’s Lester Holt said to Biden Thursday.
Biden responded by calling Holt “a wise guy.”
“According to Nobel laureates – 14 of them that contacted me – and a number of corporate leaders, it ought to be able to start to taper off as we go through this year,” the President said.
No real person really gives two sh*ts what Nobel Laureates have to say about this. We want to hear that the President gets it (“feels our pain” in the parlance of a different era) and that the White House has some solution in mind.
Meanwhile, we’re hearing NOTHING from the President or the Democratic Party about the fact that corporate CEOs have been open about the fact that they plan to raise prices, despite many of them having seen profits rise during the pandemic.
Here’s what those corporate CEOs are saying in their own words:
Kellogg CEO Steve Cahillane recently touted a “very, very strong performance” at the end of last year that was “mostly driven by price.”
“What we are very good at is pricing,” Colgate-Palmolive CEO Noel Wallace said in November. “Whether it’s foreign exchange inflation or raw and packing material inflation, we have found ways over time to recover that in our margin line. And that is certainly the focus right now in the business.”
“We’ve been very comfortable with our ability to pass on the increases that we’ve seen at this point,” Kroger Chief Financial Officer Gary Millerchip said in October. “And we would expect that to continue to be the case.”
This story is very revealing.
First, Americans are rightfully angered by price increases across the board – in health care, housing, consumer goods and other essential sectors. Second, the White House refuses to admit it has a problem, who the real culprit is and what its solution is. And finally corporate backed commercial advertisers incorporate real people’s real anxiety into their sales pitches, which feeds more anxiety and concern about the issue.
So if you’re in the White House (and there are a few on this list), here’s a few suggestions:
1. Admit there is a problem.
2. Point out the real culprit – greedy corporate CEOs.
3. Have a detailed plan with solutions in different sectors (for example, some of the top drivers of inflation are college tuition, health care, energy and goods and services).
The alternative? Hear from the voters in November.