an Ad a Day

A look at the marketing that surrounds us.

Tide: Wash a Flag

Posted by Rosepixie on April 11, 2010

This is a commercial for Tide laundry detergent.

I had no problem with this ad until the line “colors that mean so much shouldn’t fade”.  That line really bothers me.  The line, paired with the imagery and song in the commercial, suggests that anything red, white or blue should be treated reverently, like an American flag (most of which, by the way, fade a great deal as they flap proudly in the breeze hanging in the sun – just compare a brand-new flag with a flag that’s seen a good deal of use and you’ll see what I mean).

The colors of our flag are important, but that doesn’t mean that a red shirt or a blue skirt or even a white dress with red and blue embroidery on the smocked bodice deserve the same reverence.  They’re just clothes, they aren’t a symbol of anything.  The colors are just colors.  Even a shirt with a picture of the American flag doesn’t need to be treated the same as the flag itself – it’s not a flag, it’s a shirt.  You can throw it on the floor when you take it off and you aren’t showing disrespect for anything (just possibly annoying whoever has to clean up after you).

I understand Tide wanting to impress upon consumers that their product won’t make colors fade from fabric, that’s an important consideration for people who care about their clothing and a great selling point for a laundry detergent.  I think it’s kind of reprehensible, however, to suggest that it’s somehow unpatriotic or disrespectful to America to let anything you own that is red, white or blue fade just to make that point.  That not only conflates totally unrelated issues, but it has the potential to further confuse the already often very confused issue of what is and is not disrespectful in regards to flags and all things related to them.


One Response to “Tide: Wash a Flag”

  1. Eva said

    I think part of the problem here may be that most people have no idea how to respect flags. The abstract concept of patriotism is great and all, but as you say there are actually things that you _don’t do_ with a flag (like throw it on the ground) which aren’t a big deal if you do them to other pieces of cloth.

    It seems to me that Tide is trying to use all that symbolism to imply that their detergent is abstractly patriotic and will infuse your life and clothing with patriotism if you buy it. Which is a feel good message until you stop and think about the fact that it’s gibberish. On top of that it is invoking that perfect “apple pie”, middle-class view of America that many native-born citizens cherish. That is a small part of America, but it isn’t all of it by a long shot.

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