“The Morning Makes You,” a new commercial by TBWA\Chiat\Day N.Y. in which Lebron James plays the subject, may have eclipsed the sensational awfulness of his 2017 Verizon commercial. That’s really saying something.

As far as celebrity endorsements go, it’s certainly as limp as the Matthew Mcconaughey Buick (or is it Lincoln? Who cares) commercials, Johnny Depp cologne commercials, and the Allen Iverson PointsBet commercials (“get your money – FAST”).

But this one goes beyond being dumb.

Is the Point, Once Again, To Make People Feel Bad About Themselves?

In his Verizon commercial, Lebron and the creative team crushed dreams and dashed hopes. You’ll never be like Lebron, they said, so you may as well go into STEM. Sucks to be you!

In this new nationally televised TV spot, the point is that if Lebron were just a normal guy, he’d be living in a shitty house, cutting his own grass, working an average job – you know, like 70% of Americans.

The nausea checklist:

  • Lebron making a mockery of lower middle-class life (5/10)
  • Lebron salsa dancing (6/10)
  • Lebron calling his agent and saying, “I have a great idea” (probably just another Space Jam) (7/10)
  • Lebron and his pals working out in a bajillion dollar gym with a pool as a representation of their hustle (10/10)

The whole commercial is just a giant self-congratulation for Lebron, which is neither entertaining or inspiring in any way. It certainly incites no interest in Mountain Dew Rise.

The Ad Agency TBWA\Chiat\Day N.Y. Isn’t Usually This Bad

It looks like Lebron had most, if not all, of the creative control in this one. You would definitely recognize some of this agency’s other work:

  • The Shining-themed Mountain Dew commercial
  • The Mountain Dew “Major Melon” Super Bowl commercial starring John Cena
  • Etc.

So it would appear that they were told exactly what to do, more or less, hence the final product. If an egomaniac were to write his own commercial, this is what it would look like.

Who Exactly Was This Commercial Trying To Reach?

I’m not privy to the market research for this ad, as I’m sure the brain geniuses at Mountain Dew are. But isn’t it likely that the majority of people who drink Mountain Dew branded beverages live in shitty houses, cut their own grass (or don’t cut it at all …?), and work normal jobs?

Messaging For Beverage Brands Often Speaks To, Not Above, The Audience

Unlike some other consumer products, beverage companies’ marketing messages usually align almost perfectly with their customers. Bud Light, Miller Lite, Sprite, Henessy, Proper Number 12, and so forth know exactly who drinks their products, and they write their commercials accordingly.

The auto industry, on the other hand, tends to brand one level higher than their target market. Buick commercials feature beautiful and wealthy people with spectacular homes who would never in a million years drive something as unsexy as a Buick. And I suppose it works, because they keep doing it. Audi and BMW represent themselves as an upper class commodity, when in reality, they anchor the upper middle-class market.

Clothing brands are similar to auto, only with age. Clothes typically worn by older folks (like Lands End) have athletic models in their late 30’s and early 40’s. Hollister, worn exclusively by 16 year olds, hires college-age models.

So What Is Mountain Dew Doing Here?

The commercial so thoroughly mocks the demographic of people who allegedly drink Mountain Dew that we can only assume they are trying to expand their market. It’s a low calorie energy drink after all, not the hyper-caloric soft drink enjoyed by teens and gamers everywhere.

So is the marketing message, something like “don’t settle for being normal – this beverage sure doesn’t,” supposed to reach overachievers? Did folks who work hard and achieve greatness think to themselves, “yes, finally an energy drink aligned with my values!”?

To an extent, I get it. It’s a new product that’s different from Mountain Dew. But it’s still a Mountain Dew product! It’s not like RockStar, which is quietly owned by PepsiCo, or Monster Energy, which you may or may not know is owned by Coca Cola. And yes, I know that PepsiCo owns Mountain Dew.

They are branding it as Mountain Dew Rise, not just Rise. So this energy drink will always be attached to the Mountain Dew demographic.

In short, the commercial accomplishes two things:

  1. Makes Lebron James look like a self-absorbed weirdo
  2. Makes the demographic of people who align with the Mountain Dew brand look stupid

What it does NOT accomplish: inspire people to try the drink based on some sort of aspirational messaging.

Time will tell if Mountain Dew Rise carves out some market share in the crowded energy drink space.

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