In an effort to turn around its longstanding image and reputation as one of America’s true backwaters, the state of Mississippi has embarked on an interesting advertising campaign (NYT subscription required).
Created by a local ad agency, the campaign uses such provocative, self-deprecating headlines as: "Yes, we can read. Some of us can even write." The text then lists such notable Mississippi writers as Faulkner and Grisham. Another one states, "Yes, we wear shoes. A few of us even wear cleats." The list of cleat-wearers includes such NFL legends as Walter Payton and Brett Favre.
I like the "in your face" tone of the campaign. Some state residents disagree, however, believing it’s too defensive. But, hey, when you’re always at the bottom of the list when it comes to poverty, education, per capita income and any number of other key indicators, why not ruffle some feathers? The campaign hasn’t made me change any short-term vacation plans, but I definitely know a little bit more about Ole Miss and its remarkable achievers and achievements. And, in my book, that’s the hallmark of any communications program.
Born and reared in Mississippi, a student at Ole Miss, six years in Wyoming, twenty years in North Carolina, returned to Mississippi to die and my old high school friends are bigots like I left them. Mississippians do not like African-Americans because of their numbers. California is racist toward Mexicans because of their numbers.
People, this includes Mississippians, need to realize the importance of all mammals. If we did not eat cow, pigs, and chickens we would love each other more.
Mitch, old boy, I seriously doubt that Ole Miss is a racist school any more than I think you are an illiterate ignoramous despite you grammar: “was ran off the rode”?
You know Ole Miss is a racist school and it stems from their name, it has to be lived up too. White Mississippians sometimes need to change. Just last week a Black classmate of mine was ran off of the rode by a couple of drunk good-for-nothing white trash. Were they disciplined? of course not! they’re White. The school mascot and nickname should be banned because it denotes slavery. Or, Ole Miss should be a private White’s only school and we know thats not going to happen.
Repman jr that is!!!!! I’m so very sorry Trish!!! Please forgive me.
The comment hat Trish made is simply a lie.
She made it up out of hate and ignorance.
The ads are great.
As one who was born and raised in NC, educated and now living in NY, I’ve pretty much heard (and said) it all. Every geographic region has images that others, unfamiliar with the area, cling. I applaud this head on tongue-in-cheek approach to Mississippi’s reputation. I have joked that the family’s silver is buried in the back yard, that my branch of the family prospered because we were the only ones to have all our own teeth, that I have “white lightening” coursing through my veins and still refer to the Civil War as the “War of Northern Aggression.” A little more self-depreciating humor is needed in this world. Remember everyone can make jokes about themselves that no one else can. And sometimes that’s the best way to deliver a serious message.
And Rep Junior: Even though the phrase “Ole Miss” is a term used slaves, it is not the origin of the nickname for the University. The University adapted that nickname after a contest was held in 1896.
As a Mississippian (and a fellow Ole Miss alum), I personally find the ad campaign a bit demeaning. As a Southerner, I have come to know my share of grief over being a transplant from the South to New York. I have found that people really do think we all sit around in our stocking feet, shuckin’ peas, and pluckin’ the ol’ banjo and it is infuriating to have these stereotypes still lingering about. However, what I have found to be the best solution is to smile and nod when people make disparaging remarks about my home state. Better to ignore it than to make a scene or a fuss. The ad campaign is a good idea in theory but I feel that the finished product looks a bit cheesy. “Some of us wear cleats”? Please. That’s what the rest of the nation already thinks of us – hicks who are good at kickin’ a ball or tackling. Perhaps the campaign should also acknowledged such Mississippians as Oprah Winfrey, Jim Henson, Leotyne Price, James Earl Jones, and Morgan Freeman, people who have made a great contibution to the arts and humanities. All in all, I’m just a little tired of the bum wrap that the South is getting from the rest of the country and I don’t really feel that the campaign does well to shake the ghosts of our past. As the new film “Borat” points out, basically all of America is stuck in a timewarp of racism, homophobia, and ignorance. It ain’t just us folks whistlin’ “Dixie” who can be blamed for that one, y’all.
I think the campaign is brilliant. Do you know what it’s like to be from the South? Really… do you? I actually graduated from the University of Mississippi(Ole Miss). Oh, Repman Junior…we should have a talk. The “Rebels” aren’t going anywhere. Have you seen the Mississippi flag? Why don’t we start there? What it boils down to-tradition. Yes, it’s wrong, offensive and outdated. I know this more than anyone-believe me. However, change is feared and people are set in their ways. I remember when we were asked to vote and I’m proud to be a Rebel. I understand your concern but I’m not hearing it. =)
Perhaps Ole Miss should address a more important aspect of the university’s image problem: the name itself. Most people probably think that “Ole Miss” is short for Old Mississippi. On the contrary “Ole Miss” is a racist term which dates back to the era of slavery. “Ole Miss” is how a slave would address a mistress of the house or plantation. The equivalent term for addressing a master would have been “Ole Massa.” In fact, in past decades, the school elected to give the students the vote on what to dub their school’s nickname. Coming in first was the present name, “the Rebels.” Finishing in a close second was, “the Ole Massas.” I believe Ole Miss should come to grips with this problematic image and reputation issue sooner rather than later. It’s a miracle that organizations such as the NAACP have yet to confront the school about it.
These ads are really fun – if anything they provide a little state history to everyone. I know it makes me think who would be worthy to be in such an ad in my state.