Schmaltz or Cheugy? EDEKA’s Shabby Slic
Why the mega-grocer’s latest ad works—for some people.
Finding the right word to describe EDEKA’s latest viral ad presents a dilemma. It’s good because on some level it works; it also works because, well, it’s a bit bad.
As “Loop Daddy,” Marc Rebillet brings a sharp, anti-art jab to deeply commercial aesthetics. There’s something satisfying about watching someone deploy produce as sample triggers or MIDI controllers. None of that really registers as the most “zany” part of what’s going on here.
On its surface the ad is straightforward. There’s the familiar pun in the homonym Marc/marque. More subtly, the tagline “We celebrate everything we have. With everything we’ve got.” riffs on the look behind the curtain that gets the whole thing rolling. It’s an extra-loud description for how people like Rebillet compose sample-based electronic music. The real belly laughs, though, come from the contrast between Rebillet’s high-quality production values and his outrageous presentation.
The overriding atmosphere here is a sensational performance of nonchalance. We might charitably call it musical schmaltz, a Yiddish-derived term for larger-than-life sentimentality, often understood as dipping towards the painfully excessive. Younger viewers might roll their eyes and declare it wholly cheugy: “square,” or “out of touch.” That’s not necessarily a problem these days. Viral “badness” has its own pitfalls and charm. It certainly isn’t keeping away viewers, much less Rebillet’s fans.
Super! But is that cool…?
There’s a certain slickness to the whole affair. Advertising agency Jung von Matt is no stranger to glossing that audacious sheen in their partnerships with EDEKA. (Their partnership is no stranger to successful positioning through controversy, either.) It takes real confidence to release a teaser for a commercial of all things.
Super Marc descends from their previous mega-viral collaboration, a contrafact of Friedrich Liechtenstein’s Supergeil [lit. super cool, but also, more colloquially, very lewd].
EDEKA’s success with that bombastic version drew at least in part on the context of Liechtenstein’s original release as part of the purpose-branded group, DER TOURIST.
The subject unraveled here is how Liechtenstein’s character breaks down, revealing the distance between his “super slick” image, the “super expensive” life with “super content” or a “super blog,” and the lonely, almost pathetic shabbiness he performs, while he convinces himself that the super glam makes his mundane struggles OK. It’s a real comic twist for a super chain retailer, the ultimate mundane space, selling itself on super schmaltz. The question is: who, precisely gets to live that aspiration?
Liechtenstein’s Tourist spoke to the type of highly mobile individuals who, through gentrification, contribute to the rising costs of cities like Berlin. You don’t need to know much about the German language to catch how both versions of Supergeil sprinkle in hefty doses of Denglisch for effect. There’s an aspirational fresh lifestyle in Germany that simply doesn’t appeal or even mean the same when it’s rendered more natively as frisches Wohnen. Those loanwords have taken on localized characters that border on neologisms. They live in the same space that provides for a Rebillet at EDEKA.
Liechtenstein’s performances were very much of their time. (Recent attempts to call back to the campaign more directly received a muted response.) Revamped for the TikTok generation, Rebillet brings an equally satirical edge when he mangles the pronunciation of German sour cream, or Schmand, hyper-anglicized into shhmunt. Poking fun at himself is a big part of his schtick. But whether that comes off as self-deprecating cheuginess, or a schmaltzy appeal to self-aggrandizing globetrotters, might just depend on where you sit on people who could just buy everything on a whim. Does Rebillet play the naive immigrant, or arrogant expat?
Do you remember how groceries used to be?
Like many other facets of public life, the corona virus is unveiling a number of related, latent concerns. German policy makers continue to struggle with the cultural implications of the delayed vaccine rollout. More than most countries, there was pushback against having a “corona passport” other than the standard vaccination booklets that people already maintained. The very real concern is that society might bifurcate into a Zweiklassengesellschaft, or two-tiered society. That comes off heavier in a country which once mandated two very different kinds of armbands for explicit racial divisions. Monied individuals are still freer to wait in queues for earlier vaccinations.
Yet the imagined breakdown in civil order corona skeptics conjured simply has not materialized. In many ways that conversation now looks more like recent handwringing over Parallelgesellschaften, usually referring to an imagined fifth column of self-enforced Muslim immigrant ghettoes. Those discussions overlap now at times, just as the bigger divisions appear to exist between skeptics and the rest of society. German projections about Jewish feelings are never far from hand, either.
As newspapers wrestle publicly with anxieties over immigrants, far less attention is paid towards the parallel existences of long-term expats. There are English-speaking bubbles. They are an accepted, somewhat tolerated, part of existence here. Clearly some feel that courting their attention could pay off handsomely. No danger there it seems.
Pardon me, but there’s something more than cheugy about those backwards presumptions. Can we imagine such a distinct border between those communities with a clear conscience? To explain the birth of techno in the German musical scene, we need a much finer approach to the diverse identities that make up immigrant and expat spaces. Without those contributions we might never have gotten a Rammstein, a Liechtenstein, a Rebillet, or perhaps even the vogue that brought Berlin’s glut of permanent tourists in the first place.
Chewing that fat might leave a bad taste in your mouth, what with EDEKA depicting such a polite reception of Rebillet’s shhmunt. (It’s quite optimistic, for one.) Perhaps the schmaltz starts to feel like it’s in the wrong aisle here. The wrong class. Wrong lane. Depends on where you’re dancing. Depends on who’s watching who.
All the same, Rebillet’s Super Marc worked because it flirts with those divides. It’s a raucous fantasy grounded in awfully familiar realities, the same old refrains that keep coming back. Let’s hope we can all get on with things and leave the loops to him.