16 April 2009

Mercedes-Benz Telling the Future

Having moved more times than I care to remember, I am always amazed by the curious things I've managed to hang on to. Random postcards, clippings, rocks, candle holders . . . you get the idea. Some of the clippings are collected in a small file folder that travels with me from place to place, giving me a sense of permanence and a tangible past in whatever new surroundings I may find myself.

So it was this sense of stamping my new place with some sort of "This space belongs to Inez" that led me to go to the folder once again.* It was there that I found an ad I had torn out of a magazine in the early 1990s:

Der zukünftige Präsident der Vereinigten Staaten?

It was a pull-out ad that unfolds into a poster. The images were a series of of children and questions about what they might grow up to be. The image above was the centerfold and the question is, "Future President of the United States?"

I remember laughing when I saw it, with a kind of "as if" attitude, but then on closer inspection being deeply moved on many levels. That this child is so precious and tugged at my heartstrings is probably clear. Beyond that, however, lies the fact that as recently as last year, I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined that I would live to see a black president of the United States, much less as far back as the early 1990s. So this ad became a symbol of America's failure to live up to its potential; and for black children whose dreams were restricted by the world in which they live.

Happily, it has now has become a symbol for something else entirely and I think it's about time I put it in a frame.

If all their subsequent ads have been crap I haven't noticed and don't care. Mercedes-Benz gets a life-pass from me for this one. Well done!

*I had skipped this ritual on Bürknerstraße, as if I knew when I moved in that I wouldn't be staying.


  1. So many conflicting points come to mind in this it is difficult to see the motives in its use.

    Yes on the surface its the cutest kid asking a real question we all have to consider. Does it have anything to do with selling cars? yes. How by changing attitudes in a different way.

    Mercedes Benz along with Sennheiser are my two favorite companies in the world. What the Germans do in manufacturing is the best in the world no matter what it is. The world's premier Auto is a marriage made in cooperation and understanding for the betterment of the relationship. I have always heard and i think there by i must have read somewhere that. The Cooperation of the Union Mercedes workers and the Management is an example the world should view as a model for building the best cars in the world. Each have a vote noting is changed unless they both agree. Like a successful relationship they are separate and equal rather than forcing there ideas one on the other. In this they build the finest automobiles in the world by cooperation rather than greed.

    Beyond the surface of the add what is it saying. An excellent concept.by an obviously progressive company.

    But wait why wouldn't it say Chancellor of Germany. What is implied by saying this should be a goal for American kids but not German?

    My Fathers parents were all German Von Coogler or Cooglar or with out the r i do not know the spelling.
    fled Germany over the war. That's the Question.

    What would be said if General Motors ran an add With a cute little Jewish child and it said one day i will grow up to be President of Germany.

    Both countries fought wars over there bigotry and hatred and were forced to give it up. While there were no extermination camps in the Civil War the loss of life over time is said to be the same. The Germans did include Homosexuals in their Genocide but that's another story yet told.

    Should a Jewish child consider that they could grow up to be Chancellor? I do not know German society or politics but is that an even realistic statement that has been addressed?

    Mercedes of today is nothing of the company of the past. In my opinion this cute kid is saying more about changing the Germans ideas about their own past than the future of America.

    Inez this is not a culture exchange unless you come across with some intellectual ideas besides this is a cute ad. Americans have met the challenge and succeeded. But how would the Germans feel if GM had done this to them. The Germans have made incredible improvements for their people but is it continuing and where do they stand on the next challenge of Bigotry and hatred Gay and Lesbian marriage?

    Lest the next ad ya see in Der Spegial is a Drag Queen spread on the hood of a Cadillac talking about one day he will be Chancellor!

  2. I get your points. I think the issue here is context. Of course, I could have written about the fact that Mercedes-Benz could have featured a Turkish kid with the question, Future Chancellor of Germany? But it was "safe" for them in a German magazine to create an ad for a German audience, that projects the issue of diversity and success on the USA.

    My response to the ad, however, had less to do with the intentions behind it, but my completely emotional reaction to it. Had I seen that ad in English in Time Magazine, the reaction would undoubtedly not have been the same. I would also not really have been affected had Time Magazine featured a Turkish kid and asked the question about whether or not he was the future German Chancellor.

    In fact, I saw it the way I saw it, and that's the context that interests me.

  3. You should be proud and proud of the American people in what we accomplished. Something many did not consider possible. In one swift moment i was reassured and once again felt good about being American. It was a powerful moment in life.

    My larger point is we cannot stop fighting. Next we must break the glass ceiling for women after 8 years of Hilliary Clinton as Secretary of State. Or perhaps that VP run with President Obama in 2012. Then on to 2016. The generational shift has taken place and there's no going back.

    Inez frame that Ad. It's not something to be put back in a box its priceless. Hang it on the wall proudly as a reminder that together what good people can accomplish

  4. Thanks Marty! I am VERY proud of what happened . . . especially being over here. We had fallen out of favor to such an amazing degree, and it's an amazing thing to watch the world open the door of friendship to us again.

    And you're absolutely right about women's issues. I think the Good Old Boys must be a bit nervous to think that they are losing their grip on the US. Well at least I hope they are. But yeah, let's keep the struggle going and work towards an America that actually fulfills its promise!

    When I get it framed, I'll update this post and add a second pic.