Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's Greek to me

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts, as the old saying goes. I guess we can modify that to "Beware of Greek grandmothers bearing hummus."

Ye gods. Time for a team effort!

It's entirely possible that this ad would be hysterically funny if I were Greek, or Greek-American, and had a grandmother like that. But here's the thing. I'm not, and I don't. And the exact same is true of, oh, about 99% of the population (according to Wikipedia, the State Department says that about three million Americans claim Greek heritage). So while I'm sure Jennifer Aniston and Tina Fey find this ad funny and relatable, I'm of the opinion that you kind of need to think of the broader audience. And as a member of the broader audience, I am baffled as to how this is supposed to sell me anything.

Bizarrely smug announcer: "Hey, Michelle! Whatcha doing?"
Michelle: "I'm serving delicious Athenos hummus to my friends! I've got-"
BSA: "That's great! Let's see what Yiayia thinks!"
Yiayia: "You dress like... a prostitute!"

Windier: I have an idea! What if we just totally shit all over someone for using our product? "Ladies, do you like Athenos hummus? Well, so does this old Greek lady, and she also thinks you look like a whore." If you're a woman, and you have a Greek grandmother - or, I suppose, any grandmother from the "old country" who's all "set in her ways" and shit and is also excruciatingly frank - then I suppose you've already been in a situation like this and it's funny. But I must stress again that most people don't, and to those people, I'm guessing the idea of being called a prostitute is about as funny as the actress playing Michelle makes it look. Which is to say, not at all! What was the point of this ad again?

Knitwear: It's hard for me to understand how demoralizing a woman for wearing a perfectly normal dress in a perfectly normal way would help you seem likable. It's unkind and it borders on misogynistic, unlike this other ad in the series for Athenos hummus, which leaps over the border to misogyny land and breaks some plates on the floor, as parenting is a second-class job, a wife is a second-class citizen, and if you're a man, your children should laugh at you for bothering to take a role in raising them. At the same time, this company is attempting to move product. Are you secretly trying to neg these people so that they'll buy more hummus to get back into your good graces? Notice also how cavalierly the announcer dismisses Michelle's plans for the evening - in spite of the fact that Michelle is the customer surrogate in this ad. He wants her (that is, you) to buy the product - but he doesn't care what she (that is, you) thinks.

Michelle: "Did she just call me a prostitute?"
BSA: "No! Yiayia would never do-"
Yiayia: "Prostitute."
BSA: "Never mind that, Michelle! At least Yiayia approves of you serving Athenos hummus!"
Yiayia: "Mmmm!"

Windier: All that I'm really getting out of this ad is the following:

(a) Old Greek women are kind of horrible.
(b) Old Greek women like Athenos hummus and apparently nothing else.
(c) Therefore, you should like Athenos hummus, because it's the only way you're ever going to win the respect of this awful crone.

Sold! Let me run right out and purchase every container in the store! Because when I think delicious food products, my mind goes right to old women who will casually demean you if they don't like your outfit. Here's the official description of the video on YouTube, by the way:

"Yiayia (Greek, for grandmother) is a fan of simple, respectful food made the Greek way. That's why she approves of ATHENOS. And that's why she doesn't approve of anything else."

First of all, what is "respectful food?" I fucking hate shit like that. Don't take adjectives and dilute their meaning by forcing them into completely inapplicable situations. (Also, I think it's pretty clear that if there's one thing Yiayia has absolutely no use for, it's being respectful.) Second of all, what the fuck is this, Life cereal? "Give this Athenos hummus to Yiayia, she doesn't like anything. She likes it! Hey Yiayia!" And I still don't see how this is going to encourage me to purchase the product. You can just see Michelle in the last scene thinking how quickly she can get to the store for some Tribe or Sabra or whatever.

Knitwear: Third of all, let's not pretend that hummus is some sort of classic Greek food. I'm sure you could find it in a grocery store somewhere in Greece, but it's not like you're going to unearth some sort of ancient pottery shard depicting Zeus with a big platter of hummus and pita.
Extensive research went into making sure this ad "properly reflected Greek culture," so I'm glad they went that extra mile to include both an authentic Greek food and the special importance placed on nurturing your children (or not).

Windier: Here's the slogan this ad probably should have ended with, for consistency's sake: "Athenos Hummus: So authentically delicious, it'll be just like a Greek woman is horribly insulting you while you're eating it! Mmmm. Pick some up today!" You're already in your car on your way to the store, right?

This isn't the only ad in the series, as Knitwear mentions above. In addition to the one where Yiayia suggests that being a stay-at-home dad is unmanly, there's also one where she tells a couple living together but unmarried that they're going to Hell. For real. But hey! She loves Athenos products! So, um, enjoy! This hummus will surely distract you from your sinful modern lifestyles! I don't care how much like anyone's grandmother this woman is - why would I want to buy any product she's endorsing? If this is "Greek authenticity," I'll be fine with a less authentic brand, thanks.

Knitwear: And it's Greek authenticity only in the most calculated way imaginable, which is probably my favorite part. "Athenos! We're Greek! Greeky Greek Greek! (Kraft.)" Anyway, despite the controversy following the first airings of the ad this week, the company stands behind their commercial. Kraft, meet Groupon. Groupon, Kraft. I'm sure you two will have lots to talk about.


Tyler said...

Is Nia Vardalos ghostwriting for Kraft these days? Opa!

Anonymous said...

It doesn't help that the old goat looks exactly like character actor Udo Kier.

Tom said...

no sense of humor?

MOGS said...

Oh fer Petra's sake, lighten up. Getting offended for other people is sooooooooooo SWPL.


Cronje said...

The ads made me smile, specifically because it is blatantly and comically inappropriate... suitable for viral advertising - you don't get more successful than that.

Tmmm said...

Wow...lighten up. They're funny ads that I've certainly passed on, and I don't have an excruciatingly frank grandmother as you described.

The awkwardness is what makes the spots funny and memorable, and you can't do that without all the things you seem to hate about the ads.

Anonymous said...

Wow...boy are you uptight, and a bit over sensitive (and a bit racist yourself..what's with the slams of Greek actors?) The precise reason why the Athenos ads work is because you DON'T have to be Greek to have an outrageously outspoken and conservative grandparent...they come in all ethnicites and colors! I'm African American and I can remember my grandfather making crazy comments like that. I loved my grandpa dearly but sometimes he'd just pop off with stuff that made ya wanna go WTF? I remember one day back in '73. I was 12 years old and wearing eye shadow...with mom's permission. The comment my grandpa made when he saw me made everyone in the room do a double take. "You look like you're dead!" he blurts out. Just when I thought I was looking so pretty and all grown up! Sure, I had put it on a bit heavy, but still? Anyway, when I saw the yia yia ads for Athenos I thought of my grandpa and my German-American Father in Law and just had to laugh. Can't take stuff too serious ya know? At any rate, I went out and bought some Athenos and the feta cheese is delish!

Windier E. Megatons said...

*re-reads post for "slams of Greek actors"*

*doesn't find any*

Andrew said...

*re-reads post for competent critique*

*doesn't find any*

Joe said...

Your brain doesn't work the way one should. Ads were funny. I hate finding people who think like you on the Internet. I like to think you don't exist.