April 03, 2011

"Selling ice to Eskimos"

Here's a segment from what looks like an Australian reality show:

The PitchEach week two of the advertising industry's finest agencies are pitted against each other and challenged with selling the unsellable.

The first pitch shows coastal scenes from what looks like Antarctica. Oops. A shot of calving ice transitions to a block of ice crushing a tropical drink. An "Eskimo" appears to tout an ice-cube product. (Apparently Eskimos can't figure out how to chip a small piece of ice from a large one.) His look is vaguely Eurasian, he's wearing a hooded parka, and he has a blacked-out tooth. Finally he rubs noses with an Eskimo woman who's also wearing a hooded parka.

The second pitch shows two "Eskimos" in front of a frozen plain. They look like Asians or Pacific Islanders, though I suppose they could be Inuit. They're also wearing hooded parkas. They begin speaking in Inuktitut--apparently the real language--which the ad man mislabels "Inuit." Then they begin slapping each other in the face with a fish, which I'm guessing is not a traditional practice. Finally one touts an ice product in the still incomprehensible language.

I'd say both ads are total failures. Even in the show's context, they don't make their cases. They don't persuade you to buy ice.

In our context, they're stereotypical. Besides the de rigueur parkas, they make the Inuit look crude and primitive. A blacked-out tooth? Fish-slapping? Really?

If you think the second ad deserves points for using Inuktitut...not really. Some Inuit speak Inuktitut and some don't. But most speak English. There's little point in producing an ad in Inuktitut unless you subtitle it in English. That's another reason the second ad fails.

Rob's pitch

Except for the questionable use of the term "Eskimo," I don't find the premise offensive. It's a gimmicky but legitimate question. How would you sell ice to someone who supposedly doesn't need it?

Here's my ad:

A magnificent Alaskan landscape in summer. It's blazing hot and there's no ice in sight. The camera zooms in on an Inuit village, then on a single house. A couple dozen Inuit are gathered in a backyard for an afternoon barbecue. Elders smile, neighbors gossip, children run and play. The host cooks meat on a grill.

Someone says it's too hot and asks for a cold drink. The host checks the ice chest but...they're out of ice. Oh, no! But never fear: His wife appears with Alaska Ice, a packaged ice product. The barbecue is saved and everyone is happy.

Tagline: "Alaska Ice...when you can't wait for winter."

Cast your votes, readers. Would you vote for pitch #1, pitch #2, or Rob's pitch? Am I more creative than a professional advertising firm, or what?

For more on Eskimo stereotypes, see Nanookwaffe in Family Guy and "Eskimo Sisters" in Indian Headdresses.


none said...

I found the second a bit more offensive than the first but both were kind of meh overall. Your idea is much better. Does this mean you're going to start a little business on the side?

Rob said...

No, but if someone wanted to hire me as a creative consultant, I wouldn't turn them down.

My ice commercial is worth $10,000 but I'll sell it for $5,000...a bargain!

Jaine said...

Yikes, both are pretty terrible. I must say the average Aussie and Kiwi are not aware that "Eskimo" is offensive because it has never been used as a slur here. Well they weren't aware until this http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/2349017/Eskimo-lollies-rile-Inuit

Anonymous said...

Agreed about almost everything, but I'd just like to point out that more Inuit speak Inuit languages/dialects than English.

You seem to be forgetting the Greenland Inuit, for whom English, if they learn it through education, is a third language(with Kalaallisut, an Inuit dialect, first, and Danish second). So the usage of "Inuit" might not be erroneous, since you and I can't know, which it is they're speaking in the ad - Inuktitut, Kalaallisut, one of the Alskan dialects etc.


Anonymous said...

Pitch one sucks.

Pitch two sucks.

Sorry Rob, but your pitch sucks too.

Rob said...

You're welcome to your opinion, Anonymous #2. But if you can't say what's wrong with my pitch or do a better one yourself, your opinion doesn't mean much.