Lab Coat Season

While media misrepresentation of science was a big part of , it was way back in my first show, Listen to the Man in the Lab Coat where I tackled that old idea that putting someone in a lab coat makes them an instant authority figure in advertising. Recently, however, ads have taken a different slant. It was looking good for a while – remember the ad in which the German car engineers erotically shaped a model car out of clay? It seemed that science was allowed to be sexy – albeit an acceptably nerdy form of sexy (the male engineer remained awkward throughout, and the female engineer wasn’t allowed any kind of ownership of her sexy behaviour). But those days are over; advertisers have declared open season on lab coats in the latest ad for Coke’s failed energy drink, Mother.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s a startling piece of advertising, and I’m sad the Gruen Transfer finished before they could tackle it. A spokesman for Mother tells viewers the company (identified as Mother, not Coca-Cola) listened to the feedback and have made an all-new version of the drink which tastes “nothing like the old one”. Then, proclaiming that “here at Mother, we don’t do things by halves”, he unleashes a team of crack troopers to “track down the people responsible” for the original Mother. They rappel down a building and burst through the windows into a laboratory, where they chase down and, the blows hidden offscreen behind benches, brutally pummel – perhaps even kill – a group of helpless scientists. (All men, too; presumably showing a gender bias in the sciences is the lesser of two evils when it comes to depicting violence against women, though of course none of the special ops squad are women either.)

What makes this ad particularly odd is that the original Mother campaign didn’t involve scientists at all, but instead attempted through the use of CGI animals to suggest that it was derived from all natural ingredients. The name Mother was presumably chosen to tie in with this idea of a “hard core” mother nature.

So why blame the hapless scientists? Why recreate the age-old, tired and – especially at this extreme – borderline offensive “jocks beating up nerds” scenario? Surely if a product was brought to market that consumers didn’t like, it’s the market research department who should be hunted down? But perhaps I’m asking a bit much for marketeers to make an ad in which their own are beaten, perhaps to death.