December 17, 2005

Up against the wall, Marshalls shopper

Jim Hanas thinks that "Marshalls Law" might not be an appropriate theme for a retail advertising campaign. But the responsible ad agency promises "a Big BANG! ... that enables a brand to explode into the marketplace", and who can provide a bigger bang than the armed forces? The actual laws in the ad copy are pretty wimpy, but a little editing would fix them: "You don't need mistletoe an M-16 to get your hands on something cute"; "The best way to hint at what you want, is to buy one for yourself convene a military tribunal"; "If you don't save on gourmet holiday cookware, your goose is cooked subject to extraordinary rendition".

The real shocker, according to Jim, is that this campaign echoes the now-forgotten events of March, 1999 in France, when

In response to weeks of rioting and panic in the streets of France’s major cities, French Premier Jacques Chirac declared a state of Marshalls law yesterday. The measure, which Chirac says was necessary to prevent anarchy in the economically and existentially troubled nation, is the first time that the French government has declared a state of emergency modeled on an American discount apparel retailer. ...

"All constitutional civil liberties are hereby suspended in France," he said. "In this, our time of utmost emergency, we will be governed by only a single precept: the availability of brand-name family apparel, giftware, domestics and accessories, at much lower prices than you’d pay at department stores."

[Update: Lane Greene points out that the Weekly Week's joke is weakly weakened, if not entirely spoiled, by the fact that France doesn't really have an office appropriately translated in English as "premier". The closest thing is the "prime minister", which Jacques Chirac was in the 70's and again in the 80's. In 1999 he was the president, as he has been since 1995. In 1999, the prime minister was Lionel Jospin.

Of course, this is the same article that tells us that

In the 1990s, two factors have indelibly altered the landscape of France and placed it on shaky footing as a nation. The first is its devastated economy, with little to no growth and an unemployment rate that has hovered around 20%. The second is the realization that they have no actual language but are merely saying the phrase "Je be de" in different intonations, pretending that they understand each other in accordance with a centuries-old unwritten pact. ("I like the 'English', with the actual words," said one Paris resident.)


Posted by Mark Liberman at December 17, 2005 08:28 AM