Attack ads are not just for politics

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Should corporations call out competitors?

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 31, 2016

We see it in politics all the time: commercials that call out the negative aspects, false advertisements, and empty promises of competitors. As someone watching these commercials, I often feel like I’m watching a couple bicker—it’s awkward. This petty form of persuasion doesn’t really leave a winner in my mind; rather, it makes me want to oppose both parties. But what if this same method is used for our everyday products?

Recently, Verizon hired comedian Ricky Gervais to do a commercial spot where, instead of highlighting all of Verizon’s features, it calls out its competitor (Sprint). In the ad, Gervais states that their competitor “stretches the truth” when claiming to have the fastest and most reliable network. He also goes on to say that having the fastest, most reliable network in Kansas (the location of Sprint’s headquarter), is like having a parachute that only opens in Kansas. That’s no good. Consumers want a product such as cellular reception to be reliable everywhere, just like a parachute.

While the commercial was fun and light and Gervais’ snarky persona made the rivalry of the telecommunication companies humourous, it was bad practice. These types of companies are rarely promoting innovations, but rather striving for mediocrity. And it shows with an ad like this. Think about it, if Verizon had the “fastest” and “most reliable” network, they would be claiming it straight up. They would have proof. But instead of demonstrating their product, they turn the spotlight on their competitors and say, “well, they aren’t that great either.”

Often in politics, we don’t vote for the candidate that we like, but rather the candidate we hate the least. A world where we are choosing the lesser of two evil sounds like a pretty horrible place to live, huh? A world where we are calling each other liars and saying that a billion-dollar company is incompetent and irresponsible is worrisome place to live. A world where we spend more resources racing to the bottom, reaching the lowest common denominator, and striving to merely meet expectation is a scary place to live.

Calling out a problem does not solve it. One-upping competition by small margins doesn’t solve it either.

Enough talk about what others don’t do. Regardless of whether you are a politician, a billion-dollar company, or my co-worker, I don’t judge you by your competition, I judge you by your actions and achievements. You give me results as promised and there is no reason why I wouldn’t pick you over someone else. I would trust you.

The way you develop a reputation is by focusing on service and innovation, not by dragging your opposition down so that you look better. If you want to be the best, you’ll need to try your hardest and not just talk smack.

Isn’t it ironic

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How to deal with people who don’t understand sarcasm

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. October 6, 2015

There is nothing better than someone who doesn’t understand sarcasm. Nothing. If you can’t tell, which so many can’t, I was being sarcastic. I wouldn’t say my sense of humour is of the highest level. But I would say a lot of it relies on irony.

In many situations, sarcasm is classified as inappropriate behaviour, as if I’m acting out of line or to offend. I’m not. It’s just my unique way of dealing with an awkward or uneventful scenario. I love using sarcasm to lighten the mood, especially in a social gathering or workplace. Work can get awfully serious if you allow it to, but I won’t. So, when someone tells me to do something, I say: “Never, I won’t! You do it.” Of course, I’m not refusing to do my task; I’m merely making light of the task and their authority. I’m pretty much saying that neither you nor I should take our duties too seriously. I’ll get to the work as soon as possible.

People who don’t understand sarcasm are often those who take everything seriously. Yes, doctors, lawyers, and police officers shouldn’t be making jokes during their job, and that’s what makes them such wonderful satirical characters on television. But, in reality, not all of us have serious jobs—even school is not that serious when you actually think about it. Will anybody die if you don’t finish your project? Maybe your parents, who invested so much into your life, but nobody else. Nobody cares. So have some fun.

Sarcasm is a great way to break the tension. It’s like a little splash of cold water for those who are serious. Once they realize that my little jokes will not harm them or the task at hand, they tend to lighten up a bit. If they don’t, you probably don’t want to develop any further relationship with them anyway. Their life is probably a straightjacket. You want none of that.

Like strong spice or perfume, sarcasm should be used sparingly when the situation calls for it. Over time, you’ll be able to detect when you are in a situation where you can use it. It’ll show that you are carefree yet daring. Nobody likes a sarcastic douche that can’t take anything seriously, just like how nobody likes an uptight jerk that can’t take or tell a joke.

If you are meeting new people and you want to identify who is conversational in the dialect of sarcasm, present some irony in a group environment first. “Wow! I sure love vegetables at parties.” It really is like another language, and if even one or two catches your drift, they’ll continue the trend and you’ll have suddenly developed a new channel of conversation that isn’t as boring as reading a textbook. Communication should have flavour and sarcasm is a unique spice—and an acquired taste.

For those who don’t get it, luckily for them, they’ll learn. That’s the wonderful thing about languages: they grow on people overtime. As long as it’s presented in a harmless way that is also engaging, people will continue to speak it. According to Smithsonian magazine, those who are sarcastic are highly intelligent, even more than those who are always sincere. If you are able to back it up with hard work, class, and respect, you don’t have to worry—be sarcastic. Yeah, right…