Service of Contrasts: In Your Face Excess & Merriment vs. Poverty & Tragedy

December 23rd, 2021

Categories: Advertising, Christmas, Commercials, Contrasts, Museums

2021 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Photo: Bob Gula

Striking contrasts seem even more vivid this Christmas season.

If you watch commercial TV you’ll notice the shattering contrasts of some commercial lineups and you might wonder who determines their order in a typical 4 minute run. One station plays gut wrenching videos of emaciated, starving young Africans to generate donations to Save the Children immediately followed by extreme jollity as a family rips open presents or welcomes a child to the grownup table that is groaning with food. These are sponsored by Walmart. Obviously the company doesn’t control placement.

Image by Kai Pilger from Pixabay

Nothing new: There have always been unfortunate pairings in print of advertising and editorial subjects placed together on a page or across from one another. My friends in advertising had to frequently deal with the fallout: Their clients’ ruffled feathers.

I wonder if some who position ads are paying attention.

The headline of Valentina Di Liscia’s article illustrates a similar point:  “While 11% of Staff Was Laid Off, Guggenheim Director Made Record $1.5 Million.” She wrote “The museum says its director, Richard Armstrong, took a 25% pay cut during the pandemic — but the reduction didn’t apply to ‘compensation earned in prior years.'”

As you walk around a city like New York you see homeless huddled in doorways or holding pleas for help spelled out on cardboard. In contrast holiday lights and decorations in office and apartment lobbies, store windows and in front of landmarks dress the city, brighten chilly short days and punctuate early nights. Nevertheless they seem jarring while so many suffer. Big money is spent on some of these seasonal pick-me-ups. Could we dim the lights just a bit and help the hungry and unfortunate at the same time? The 50-foot high tree outside of Fox took 21 hours to install and had 10,000 glass ornaments and 100,000 lights. News reports estimated the damage–a mentally ill homeless person set it on fire–at $500,000.

What strident contrasts have you noticed?

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14 Responses to “Service of Contrasts: In Your Face Excess & Merriment vs. Poverty & Tragedy”

  1. BG Said:

    The NY Post had an article about sanitation workers making $300,000 a year with overtime. We struggle to pay higher rent and maintenance to pay for this inflated pay. All because the unions run the city.

  2. Hank Goldman Said:

    This topic is very upsetting, because it’s true. Life isn’t fair. The world isn’t fair. As evidenced daily on any news show. Hard to just forget it all.

    Wishing you a very merry Christmas! Trying to be cheery after thinking of all the contrast isn’t easy… But we really should try.

  3. Deborah Wright Said:

    This is the one that has always gotten under my skin: a handsome young white couple are standing outside a picture-perfect house and the snow is falling. Suddenly the man whistles and a beautiful pure-bred puppy (Bernese mountain dog) comes trotting through the snow and is scooped up in Ms. Perfect’s arms. Then Ms. Perfect whistles and a huge expensive vehicle comes barreling through the snow to Mr. Perfect.

    Okay, who gives gifts like that? That car must cost well over $80,000! And it shows a sickening lack of sensitivity to the majority of people in this country. And the rest of the world, for that matter. Buy! Buy! Buy! Materialism is our god, not charity.

  4. Tracey Price Eds Said:

    Tracey on Facebook I agree. The disparity is complete selfishness. Sinful.

  5. TC Said:

    Wonderfully insightful thoughts and sentiments!

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Not sure what the reason is but $300,000 is quite a salary for anyone. Many of us have missed our vocations!

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Examples of unfairness nibble at any observant person almost daily. The lights in the city lift one’s spirits but if those responsible could find ways to cut the costs and share the rest of the budget with the hungry and homeless more of us could enjoy them.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I wondered about that commercial and why they would be in the middle of nowhere and who would let a puppy go loose and how it would know to go to a stranger and not run away and who would be driving the oversize vehicle and why it seemed to leap over a hurdle at the top of the hill.

    In addition, I agree with your impression but we wouldn’t see it as often as we do if it didn’t impress not so beautiful couples to rush to a dealer so that they, too, might look perfect.

  9. lucrezia Said:

    Look around and there are countless non-profits along with generous individuals out there feeding the hungry and helping the destitute not only during holidays but throughout the year. Unfortunately, not everyone can be helped, but folks are out there doing the best they can.

    Let’s not take it out on museums. The Guggenheim is not the only museum having to let people go because of loss of income. So has the 9/11 Museum and possibly others. Small businesses have had to do the same, often on a temporary basis. The virus has done a job on everyone, so let’s put the blame where it belongs!

    I question criticizing those who command large salaries since a) it’s their good fortune & negative remarks suggest envy. b) any such person may use a sizeable amount to charities. Even a huge cut of a CEO’s income won’t bring back enough employees to make much difference.

    Anyone wanting to put money where their mouth is may consider giving to City Meals on Wheels, Isaacs Denter, both non-sectarian, and/or countless other worthy organizations of choice.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I doubt there is a country as generous ours. I’m not suggesting the city go dark and eliminate all of the wonderful Christmas lights and decorations. Moderation–with excess going to charity– might add even more to the coffers of the homeless and hungry. Noting that there will always be more people to be helped is similar to thinking “why bother making my bed in the morning because I’m just going to get into it again tonight.”

    Were the Guggenheim a museum I supported I would think twice about the compensation of its director before sending in another check. In addition, the post was about contrasts. This isn’t the time to pull in record compensation and if this director was smart he and the board would realize it. It doesn’t look or feel right.

  11. Edward Baecher Said:

    Edward on Facebook: That is a great point about the TV commercials.
    The duality Americans dying from obesity whilst other countries dying from starvation.

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Succinct, to the point and spot on. Wonder if those of us who are lucky realize it often enough?

  13. Martha T Takayama Said:

    The contrasts, the inconsistencies, the outrageous extravagance and the mythological aura about so much of the holiday season has become not only tedious, but almost offensive, How can we ignore the misery around us, the inequalities, the economic and racial strife, the political divisions and the consequences of the pandemic and continue to be impressed by “let them eat cake” advertisements, promotions, and endless written, visual and digital nonsense? It appears there is no place for reality in so much of our culture.

  14. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You’ve put your finger on it. The contrasts are depressingly and increasingly unfixable in the climate of anger and strife we currently experience.

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