Last month, I wrote a letter to the Mars company. Mars, apparently a division of MasterfoodsUSA, a conglomerate operating out of Hackettstown, New Jersey, had aired a commercial in which they digitally inserted various M&Ms into a scene from The Wizard of Oz. Dagmar Welling, Consumer Affairs Specialist, had this to say by mail:
Dear Mr. Champion:
Thank you for contacting us with your views regarding our television commercial. Specifically your reaction to the M&M’s® Brand Color Quest commercial “Wizard of Oz”. [sic]
We never intended to disappoint or offend anyone. But, as with anything we see, hear or read, reactions sometimes vary based upon individual preferences and interpretations.
We value the comments from our consumers and always refer them to our advertising associates for their review.
Consumer Affairs Specialist
On immediate glance, this is standard boiler plate. Dagmar no doubt answers several of these letters each day. So we can forgive him for not enclosing the period within “Wizard of Oz” or for typing an additional space between “preferences” and “and.”
The language here deserves speculation. What is a consumer affairs specialist? Since Dagmar’s job duty is to correspond with consumers, why isn’t Dagmar a consumer specialist? Why haven’t they given poor Dagmar a more compelling job title? It would seem that the inconsiderate nature of MasterfoodsUSA extends beyond the company’s inability to add a space between “foods” and “USA.”
But more importantly, why is my letter being gauged in terms of reaction? I took great pains to delineate how deeply ingrained The Wizard of Oz is into my cultural consciousness and general well-being. And yet Dagmar, whom I will now refer to as Mr. Welling just because I can, views this as an “individual preference” and an “interpretation.” I am a problem (i.e., “individual”), because in the corporate world, I don’t quite fit into the hard “consumer” definition. There is the further implication that my concerns are childish with the comparison between the M&M’s commercial and “anything we see, hear or read,” as if one is supposed to look the other way while works of art are butchered to sell products.
Furthermore, Mr. Welling cannot simply refer to the commercial as a commercial. It is a “M&M’s® Brand Color Quest commercial.” (Note the registered trademark.) And this “Brand Color Quest commercial” actually has a title that has been shamefully appropriated from the source.
If MasterfoodsUSA never intended to disappoint or offend, why then do they respond without respect for the film or my opinion? Why take the trouble to write such a letter? If Mr. Welling had simply said to me, “Hey, Ed. You may have had a point. In the future, we’re going to encourage the Madison Avenue wizards to use their creative noggins rather than pilfering from film classics,” or, more realistically, if they had even deigned to apologize, I would have possibly reconsidered my boycott. But the fact is that my opinion doesn’t matter to MasterfoodsUSA or to the overworked Dagmar.
Dagmar may be a consumer affairs specialist, but he sure as hell doesn’t understand how to appeal to cranks