Today I saw a new commercial for the energy drink 5-Hour Energy. Normally they run ads that pertain to people falling asleep at work and “running out of steam” halfway through the day, but this particular ad was different, and more ridiculous, than usual.

The commercial starts out with a conventionally attractive man standing in an elevator. He’s standing between two conventionally attractive women who are giving him a ridiculous amount of attention. He’s wearing a suit and from what I could tell was supposed to represent success. Not only was he wearing the usual office attire, but he was also holding an energy drink. He gets out of the elevator and after a big chug of his drink, magically transforms into a chubby, conventionally dorky guy with thick, black-framed glasses. At the time of this transformation, the man lets out a rather crude belch. The voice over then comes on and comments about how 5-Hour Energy doesn’t make consumers belch.

After watching this absurd commercial, I thought of my Media Ethics class and our latest discussion on advertisers (and the media in general). In class a few days ago we shared ideas about how we felt about certain commercials being mildly insulting due to their outlandish content or theme. We had to be sensitive to the subject because so many of the students in class with us were in the advertising field, but we still seemed to agree that advertisers sometimes go to extreme lengths to sell a product. We also raised the question of when do advertisers cross the ethical line. One example of this may be the cut-downs to other companies that advertisers sometimes use. In the case of this commercial, I feel the company could have simply produced a commercial promoting their product, rather than cutting down another. This advertisers also set the commercial up to cause a sort of cognitive dissonance for the consumer so they would feel more compelled to purchase their product. They basically produced the idea that:

(man+energy drink=gas)(man+gas=dork)

I’m not saying any of this to make the advertising industry seem like dirt bags trying to make an easy buck. My purpose is simply to raise questions about how far the industry is willing to go to sell a product. Is it really worth it to produce ridiculous advertisements? Couldn’t they just simply promote their product, rather than cutting down another? These are just questions to think about when you’re watching television or see an online advertisement.

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