There it was on Monday morning, smack dab in the middle of Morning Joe, and on MSNBC of all places, an ad for Koch Industries. It wasn’t the kind of ad the company’s owners David and Charles Koch usually pay to run and lord knows they pay for enough of them. It didn’t attack attempts to control the pollution spewed out by their energy companies or sully the reputations of political candidates who threaten their multibillion-dollar corporate empire. It didn’t attempt to deny climate change (something that Business Insider says they have paid more to do than even Exxon/Mobil.) It didn’t attempt to push their far-right political agenda or promote their Tea Party army. For once the brothers were not hiding behind the names of some high sounding organization such as Freedom Partners, American Encore, or the Knowledge and Progress Fund.
The ad was a straight-up promotion of the corporate Koch and a spokesman for Koch Industries told Advertising Age it is intended as a tool to recruit new employees. I’m sure that’s it.
The ad runs 60 seconds and can be seen online if one wishes. I chose not to embed it here because I don’t want to give the two people who have done so much harm to this country (three if you include their father and Koch Industry founder Fred Koch) any free ink. The theme is the immense numbers of benefits the company brings to its employees, its customers, and America.
It starts out of course with amber waves of grain; oh OK they are actually green fields of something being plowed and harvested, then switches to scenes of labs, assembly lines, and construction sites. And faces, lots of faces. Women, men, white, black; Koch employees staring at beakers and computer screens, walking through factories, sitting in meetings; consumers jogging over bridges, picking out produce, even a baby crawling across the floor in a Koch manufactured diaper.
The ad touts the private ownership of the company and its founding in America’s heartland and on American values and skills. There is reference to the 60,000 American jobs it claims to provide and how it uses technology and innovation (and all of those wonderful employees) to build better food, clothing, shelter, and hygiene supplies. The ad points out that the Koch name does not appear on most of the products they manufacture, but it is worth noting that the products themselves are never mentioned in the ad although Georgia Pacific can be briefly seen on a railroad boxcar in one shot and work shirt logos fly past but too quickly to register. No mind. A list of Koch products is readily available on-line for those of us who boycott. The brothers just don’t want to make it too easy.
Nowhere either is there any reference to the Koch’s brothers’ biggest hits. No senior citizen with a tea bag dangling from his tricorn hat, no Creepy Uncle Sam snapping on his latex gloves as he prepares to implement “Obama Care.” That latter character, incidentally reappeared last week in a new ad sponsored by Generation Opportunity, a Koch-funded group and aimed at college students. It is called Carnival and adds the-ever scary clown component to the doctor/hospital/Creepy Uncle scenario.
While Koch’s ad might aid in recruitment – all of the employees featured have very happy faces and must enjoy those jobs, even though their employer strongly opposes union rights – cynics might well suggest another motive.
The brothers have never really sought publicity beyond that brought about by their admittedly good works with millions of dollars donated, seemingly without strings, to cancer research (one brother is a survivor) and New York cultural icons like its ballet and the Lincoln Center. In recent years however their political activities have been driven out of the shadows and they have become both household names and targets of ridicule and anger. The old advertising song about buying the world a Coke has been parodied (“I’d like to buy the Kochs a world so they’d leave ours alone”) and is viral on Facebook. Majority Leader Harry Reid has attacked the brothers frequently and by name on the floor of the Senate and there is an active social media boycott of Koch consumer products. Also, a recent New Yorker article ties the brothers pretty firmly to the founding of the Tea Party, something they have long pooh-pooed, while detailing Fred Koch’s ties to the rise of Stalin. Other social media campaigns have brought the activities of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Koch Brothers links to and funding of it to the forefront of political discussion.
It appears to be time for a little reputation rehab and the ad certainly doesn’t stint. The American imagery is everywhere, they even got in a couple of shots of cowboys, and words like “values,” “innovation,” “opportunities” are sprinkled throughout. I was unable to find out how large a budget Koch Industries has set for this campaign, but I am sure it will be as big as it needs to be and of course they will get plenty of free play as news media pick up on it.
The question is, will Americans buy it or are they now wise to what the Koch brothers and other multimillionaires are trying to do to the American political system? And while I can kind of see Morning Joe presenting a demographic the brothers might want to reach, how far does their desire to hire good employees really go?
In other words, will I see the ad tonight on Rachel?