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The Absurdity of Nescafe Advertising

By Matthew Yglesias  

"The Absurdity of Nescafe Advertising"

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I contended back in June in response to a question on le bac that it is, in fact, absurd to desire the impossible. John Holbo struck back citing the Nescafe ad reproduced here, which he says “crosses over into Kierkegaardian territory.”

It is absurd to expect to get more from something than you think it is possible to get from anything. Especially if it’s instant coffee.

Still, I don’t think it is absurd to want coffee that would be better than life itself could possibly be. That would be a damn fine cup of coffee.

I think this is exactly backwards. It’s perhaps misguided to have unrealistic expectations about your instant coffee. But it’s not absurd to want an instant coffee that far exceeds the performance of any real-world instant coffee. And, indeed, with its Nespresso line I would say that the Nestle corporation has in fact succeeded in far exceeding my instant coffee expectations, albeit at a price that’s higher than I’m willing to pay. But to want more than “the most” is absurd. It’s on a par with wishing that you could put your coffee in a mug shaped like a square circle.

The larger story here is simply that Nescafe ad copy is often absurd. For example, when I visited Nestle HQ outside Geneva on my junket to Switzerland they had this in their office:

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And also this puzzling statement of overall corporate philosophy:

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Ever since I saw that last one, “creating magical enjoyment you feel good about” has been my informal mission statement here on the blog.

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