Today, I caught a television commercial that made me stop in my tracks. Watching the local evening news, I have gotten used to seeing the “get cash fast” commercials that are a sad by-product of our current economic recession. What I haven't gotten used to is this...
The commercial opens with man in a business suite looking straight at the camera. His long hair rests gently on his padded shoulders as a picturesque mountain scene completes the background. He talks in the quick authoritative voice of the TV pitchman:
“How would you like up to $2500.00 almost instantly? Here at Western Sky Financial, we'll lend you this money almost instantly and with no collateral whatsoever. Sure, it's expensive, but you can pay it down quick to not pay as many fees. Call us now.”
And here's the kicker. At the bottom, in larger-than-average legal print, is this line: “100% Native American owned business.” Doing a little more internet research, I stumbled across their website.
So this got me thinking... Okay, yeah so you're 100% Native American owned but why make such a big deal out of it? I present to you three possible reasons.
Did you know that there are entire advertising agencies in the United States that specialize in marketing to specific ethnic groups. There are agencies that cater to African-Americans, others target the Latino or Spanish-speaking populations, and still others generally on the West Coast that market to Asian-Americans. Could this TV commercial possibly be an example of an advertisement aimed at Native American customers? Possibly, but probably not. First of all, is there even a big enough customer base of cash-strapped Native Americans looking to get super high-interest loans? Second, why would it be playing here in southeast Michigan where the native population is significant in absolute terms but only a fraction of the total population. Yes, Detroit was harder hit than most areas but it still doesn't explain the Indian line. Could it possibly be aimed at other populations who hold an affinity for Indians, your hobbyists and other Indian enthusiasts? Probably not since the commercial is so straightforward and the guy is wearing a business suit not a headdress! So marketing, I say probably not...
At the bottom of the website in big bold letters you find the following statement, “Western Sky Financial, LLC, is a Native American-owned business operating within the boundaries of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.” Located in central South Dakota, the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation has some of the worst poverty in the entire country. More than half the population struggles under the poverty line with depression and despair are all too common. Just this past summer, I drove through the reservation myself experiencing the rural poverty and isolation firsthand.
With conditions like this, the people need more than a financial stimulus, they need a stimulus of the spirit. Hope is the key to turning around this downward spiral and lifting up the hearts and minds of the people. Programs that provide a safe haven for youth as well as a new health center are examples of this turn around. The TV commercial for Western Sky Financial could be a further example. You can almost feel the pride of the business owner as he tells the ad man, “Yes, I want it to say 'a Native American-owned business operating within the boundaries of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.'” Maybe the owner(s) of Western Sky Financial lifted themselves out of poverty and are now proud business owners. In a community where most people don't have jobs, let alone own their own businesses, this is a major accomplishment and one to be rightly proud of.
#3 Not the USA!!!!
Well, if you've been to the Western Sky Financial website by now, you may have noticed that I didn't include the full statement above. In its entirety it reads, “Western Sky Financial, LLC, is a Native American-owned business operating within the boundaries of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, a sovereign nation located within the United States of America.” That's right, the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation is its own sovereign nation located within the United States of America. If you've sat through a basic High School American History class, you should know this. Then again, if you find yourself deep in debt and you are actually considering taking out a loan with 199.98% interest, you probably are one of those people who slept through history class.
This advertisement draws upon all the fears of the right-wing Tea Party movement. If you truly believe that your sovereign nation, the United States of America, is on the brink of financial meltdown, then where better to look to than another sovereign nation for help! Or maybe you actually need $2500.00 almost instantly but you wouldn't dare ask for it from one of those greedy, bailed out, stimulus-money-loving banks. Why, turn to your local neighborhood Indian reservation. They are after all their own sovereign nation, they can't possibly be connected to that fiasco in Washington! Western Sky Financial has subtlety turned anti-government angst into its own marketing strategy. (Just don't tell the customers about the billions of federal dollars and stimulus money that rightly goes to Indian Country every year, it will just ruin the illusion)
Update: New Post 12/5/2010 (click link below)