Nader's priceless spot

By Salon Staff

By Salon Staff
Published August 29, 2000 7:03PM (EDT)

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While you seem to dismiss the Ralph Nader takeoff of the MasterCard campaign as a playful "Saturday Night Live" parody, I don't think that it's as playful as it seems. Instead, it's a rather cynical and manipulative move on the part of Nader's advertising team.

As an advertising executive, I know many of the considerations that go into evaluating ads that are created. One of those considerations is the risk of legal action. In the case of parodies of films or TV shows, the lines are quite clearly drawn. A commercial can't imitate another property, it can only be inspired by it. Casting must be altered, situations changed and lines rewritten; if not, the advertiser runs the serious risk of legal action.

So when the creators of the Nader ad presented this spot, they knew full well that MasterCard would come after them. In fact, MasterCard responded simply with a request that they stop airing the spot. When that suggestion was rebuffed, they filed suit.

Why would the Nader campaign risk a multimillion-dollar law suit? Because they knew that the publicity that would result from this dispute would be, as they say, "priceless." They counted on the fact that the media would lap up this story and run their spot as news. This is a time-honored way to get mileage out of limited funds: Create a spot that will generate news and ride the wave of publicity.

This is a cynical use of the media and is as manipulative as anything that Nader accuses the major political parties of doing. The only thing playful about this parody is the way it plays the media.

-- Jeff Atlas

MasterCard's suit against Ralph Nader demonstrates what Nader is fighting against and why he can't possibly win. The boys at MasterCard are convinced that they own the word "priceless" since they put a lot of money into the word, and they won't let just anyone else use their word. MasterCard and the other large corporations have also put a lot of money into the presidency, and they won't let anyone use that office without their permission. Both Gore and Bush have a realistic shot at the presidency, because both men have already sold their souls to the corporate stores.

-- John Mize

Salon Staff

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