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Monday, February 20, 2006

Olympics ads

I've been enjoying the Olympics--mostly hockey and curling (!). I've got a digital video recorder, so I can skip most of the commercials. Nevertheless, several have caught my eye as particularly egregious.

First, there's the one showing all the cute kids jumping and playing around, morphing into Olympic athletes. Eventually, the voiceover tells us that one company is "investing more than ever before" on finding new ways to deliver energy: ExxonMobil. He's probably right--they probably spent more on this one commercial than they ever have on alternative energy sources (or Cheney forbid, conservation). Although I can't say that I want them to. ExxonMobil should be broken into tiny little pieces and their ill-gotten oil fields given to the poor or something.

Then there are the ads where people are sitting on a park bench spilling their guts to a statue of Ronald McDonald. Weird.

And, with peak oil approaching rapidly (or perhaps receding in the rearview mirror), GM is advertising the benefits of having vehicles large enough to haul the whole family--like the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban monstrosities. Not to be outdone, the RV industry is running an ad showing a 10-year-old boy riding around in a motor home the size of Delaware, gawking at Amish people and such.

But the one that bothers me the most is the one from Cargill about "Tiendas." It shows a delivery guy on a motorcycle bringing packaged crap to little stores (tiendas) in Latin America. The voiceover claims that Cargill's computerized delivery system is keeping these tiendas in business. In reality, the meddling of giant US-based agribusiness is destroying both production and delivery methods in Latin America. The huge number of small walk-in tiendas in every neighborhood is one of the charms of Latin-American cities. One of my fellow students at the Spanish language school remarked to me that there were four places to buy coffee, pop and snacks within "staggering distance" of his hotel. One of these, unfortunately, was an "OXXO," a cancerous chain infecting Mexico. OXXO's are everywhere in Mexico City and Guanajuato, selling most of the same stuff as the other tiendas, but with uniformed clerks and bargain prices--the Wal-Mart of tiendas. And OXXO is affiliated with Coca Cola, which is also affiliated with Mexican president Vicente Fox. Once I realized how ubiquitous OXXO's were in Guanajuato, I stopped shopping there. But it is clear to me that OXXO, Cargill, Coca Cola (and Wal-Mart, for that matter) threaten to destroy the small neighborhood tiendas which are a vital part of the wonderful character of Mexico. For Cargill to claim that it is helping tiendas is beneath contempt.

Pancho, owner of the tienda just outside the hotel I stayed in in Guanajuato. He was still competing with the OXXO across the street, but you have to wonder how long the independent tiendas can hold out. I guess this country would be a guide--we used to have neighborhood stores, too.