In the newest Santander ads, a man (presumably a banker) says the best service he can provide is ending the commercial after only 6 seconds. It’s superficially unremarkable. Another self-aware ad in our self-conscious world. Yet underneath this is an interesting paradox built into production in Capitalism. When we think of the process of self-erasure we associate it with generosity of heart and the freedom of moving beyond – the epitome of this image being Christ’s crucifixion. He generously sacrificed himself so we could move beyond our sins. These are antithetical to the intent of a commercial, however. A commercial demands remembering for personal gain. So it seems that Santander emulating self-erasure to enact its antithetical qualities is ridiculous on its face. It’s an impossible contradiction.
But this very contradiction is highly functional. Plainly, the commercial invites appreciation because it take less time. It makes note of its generosity. Instead of an unskippable 15 seconds, or 6 seconds of garbage, it has the honesty of a call center. Of course, call center honesty is a fiction – the commercial is contractually mandated to be 6 seconds; the generous act is a scripted act. What the viewer’s left with is the fact that Santander has made a commercial that uses self-erasure as a tool for profitable memory. There is nothing impossible about this contradiction. It mirrors the contradiction Engels sees developing in the history of Capitalism in Anti-Duhring: “The means of production, and production itself had become in essence socialised. But they were subjected to a form of appropriation which presupposes the private production of individuals, under which, therefore, everyone owns his own product and brings it to market.” The medieval mode of individual masters and journeyman gave way to corporations paying with experience. Production by the masses for the owners of the means of production.
Think of the call center employee. 8 hours of solely commission work. If they manage to sell 10 $10 widgets that 100 dollars that money is divided by hierarchy – always with the call center employee at the bottom. Think of the tedium and acknowledged uselessness of such a job, which haunts you as you say “it’s a paycheck.” You go to work tired and bored and leave tired and bored. You’re told that hard work is your worth but can’t feel love for your work, so does that mean your worth is in question? You’re told that you’re valuable and will make many numbered lists if you make a lot of money but your commission is either too low to live or not high enough to make it on any list. You’re one of thousands without protection from the whims of economy, without effective ties to fellow workers to demand better treatment, sometimes in another country with fewer enforced regulations against mistreatment. Jeff Bezos and Robert Mercer, by this definition backed by political/economic reality, will always be better and more important than you. Yet you make the calls.
And perhaps that is the take away from Santander’s 6 second ad. Its pretension is a moment of revelation regarding the falsity of the capitalist narrative. Equality is necessarily non-existent wherever capitalism exists – or, as has become a popular catchphrase, Capitalism is “Socialism for the rich.” Santander covets your attention so badly it pretends to erase itself. It crucifies itself in order to avoid execution. For it’s the end goal of every institution is its own end. Like war’s aim for peace or doctor’s aim for health. That an ad like this one can exist now could be seen as a symbol of a true crisis of capitalism: in aiming to perpetuate itself, it must play dead. It reminds us that capitalism adapts to its time. Yet how can it adapt to calls for its death? You make the calls.