Landscapes of Global Capital
tv globe icon link to home Signifying Clusters: Children
Feed the children
Corporate paternalism
The cure
High tech classroom
Child prodigy
The obnoxious visionary
Unfettered imagination
We care
Harmonious music
Cynicism of legitimation
You can't buy love
Harmony of technology

MasterCard's "Some things money can't buy" campaign includes commercials of family members traveling the world sharing close moments--a couple celebrates their anniversary in India, another goes to China, a daughter takes her mother back to her homeland Ireland, a dad brings his son to a ballgame. One of the premises of this genre of advertising is that relationships are enhanced by technology and capital. This is especially true of children and parents. This MasterCard commercials blends two themes: disposable income and quality time. Simply, if you have money you can provide for your family: insurance, medical care, a baseball game. Constructed out of warm fuzzy music and caring parental glances most commercials in this genre exaggerate the moment of care and absent the moment of exchange. MasterCard is an exception. The commercial foregrounds the moment of exchange. The narrator states,

Two tickets: $28
2 hot dogs, 2 popcorns, and 2 sodas: $18
One autographed baseball: $45

We even see the father hand over the gold MasterCard to pay for the food and baseball. But here the commercial's slight of hand not only transforms the moment of exchange into a moment of care but also denies the importance of the exchange. The narrator denies the moment of exchange,

Real conversation with 11 year old son: priceless.
There are some things money can't buy.

Yet the images of the father and child as they engage in conversation at the ballpark suggest without the investment this conversation would not be taking place. The narrator finishes the voice-over binding baseball, hot dogs, father/son affection with MasterCard.

Likewise SAP provides the Internet infrastructure necessary for a father who coaches his daughter's soccer team to buy new uniforms for the team. He literally physically enters the Internet constructed out of holograms and transparencies and selects the uniforms for the team. Here capital is absent; there is no exchange only consumption. Of course, the team wins the championship and displays their trophy at the end of the commercial.

Coach Taylor worked late one night in the city of e,
The first virtual place on the Internet built by SAP,
Used by ten thousand companies and millions of people.
He found all the soccer equipment his champion Jaguars needed in one easy step.
He saved time; he saved money.
And the Jaguars did the rest.
Welcome to the city of e

Parental power has been eroded by popular culture and by both economic and educational institutional formations. In an information society in which culture is fragmented into smaller and smaller niches the one area of shared interest between parents (particularly fathers) and children is sport. Children playing sport signifies successful parenting. It is a public arena in which parents can demonstrate affection, concern, and support. These two commercials reflect a culturally dominant shared moment between fathers and children, and that moment is mediated by sport. However, these commercials also link these abstracted moments of care and affection to exchange and the power of capital. The commercialization of sport sinks down to the microsociological level invading the relationship between parent and child.

Sign Formulas & Branding

Signifying Clusters

Structural Frames

Cynicism of legitimation < Previous

Next > Harmony of technology

© Copyright 1998-2003
Robert Goldman, Stephen Papson, Noah Kersey