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Sticking It To The Man

Lately, I have seen a Sprint PCS commercial on TV. I call it the "sticking it to the man" commercial. But that's pretty much all I got out of the commercial; I don't understand it. I know that the old man sitting behind the desk is "the man". But is he the man of the Sprint PCS Corporation? Or is he the man of a competing wireless communication corporation? Or is he the man of something else all together?

Ok, so instead of being lazy and forget about it, I decided to do a search on Google with these keywords: "sticking it to the man commercial". The first two links that popped up are no help. The first site wanted a donation to view the content, which is an oxymoron. The second site seems so cryptic and questionable that I'm not even sure it has the content that I'm looking for. But, alas, sixth entry on the list is an article titled, "Talking the Talk", which spent several paragraphs about this commercial. I will excerpt one of the paragraphs here:

"That commercial was so interesting because commercials, for decades now have been using this "Outsider" appeal, this "stick it to the Man" appeal. Which, of course, has been a crock all along. But this commercial was acknowledging that it was a crock, and that was its selling point. It was adding one more meta-level where we can identify with Sprint because they know that they have used this kind of appeal."

This paragraph hinted at who "the man" is. And I inferred that the man is "the man" from the Sprint PCS Corporation. But the passage gives no explanation on exactly what this commercial is about, other than the fact that it is a joke. But still, I have no idea what this joke is all about. The author seems to agree with the Sprint PCS commercial that it is clever and identifiable with the masses. But, perhaps, they are forgetting about me, who so far, haven't been able to identify with the commercial nor the article.

Unfortunately, there are no further results on the next two pages of Google. So it looks like I'm stuck without an answer unless you can give me some insight.

Chieh Cheng
Wed, 30 Nov 2005 19:08:50 -0800

This is a brilliant commercial and the actors are great! Especially "The Man". Haven't I seen him before in some movies or TV shows?

Hosoh del Rosoh
Sun, 18 Dec 2005 19:31:42 -0800

The young actor is amazing!!!
I love him!

Sat, 31 Dec 2005 12:41:27 -0800

Chieh Cheng;

Don't stress yourself out. The funny thing about the commercial is that the older gentleman is part of the corporate America establishment, who are supposedly getting rich at the expense of 'everyday people', yet he is taking satisfaction out of 'sticking it' to the executives of a phone company. The young guy is really just reminding him how silly it is that he would refer to some other corporation's management as 'the man', when for his company he is 'the man'.

Wed, 11 Jan 2006 16:08:57 -0800

So, bottomline...is either one of the actors corporate employees of Sprint?

Tue, 17 Jan 2006 15:02:56 -0800

I just viewed the 19 executive pictures on Sprints web site. None of the photos resemble the actors in the commerercial. I was disappointed.

Wed, 18 Jan 2006 19:22:45 -0800

No. Neither employee is a Sprint employee. To me, the figure of speech known as "sticking it to the man" refers to the point of view of the "little guy" who is always trying to "rebel" -- in general against the establishment who get to enjoy all the advantages of their place in a company -- the unnamed "authorities" (presidents, COO, CEO, etc)in any organization who have the final say, the all inclusive upper hand, who, because of their power and position, can make decisions and benefit from certain perks and advantages because of their title, and thus, are in the eyes of the average employee "sticking it to their staff." As in, "well, he's the big shot CEO, he can go on vacation at will, we have to plan our work around HIS schedule...he can get the latest laptop, I've got an old junker...he's got the big office while we have to sit in cubes...he's got the latest Blackberry...the corporate jet...the first class tickets...the front row seats" etc. So in the context of the commercial, Sprint is trying to suggest there's a real sense of power in their "all-inclusive" cell phone plan -- power that is tangible, power that is liberating, power that makes the little guy feel like he's gotten a perk that puts him on an equal level as "the man" -- it's so powerful that it can be enjoyed by even the "out of touch" boss, who feels liberated by the plan -- to such a degree that he feels that he's "rebelling against that guy in the corner office who always gets the perks" when in fact, he is that authority, he is "the man." The idea is that this plan of Sprint's is so empowering that even "the man" in any company can feel a sense of "I'm getting a perk here." I always laugh out loud when the out of touch boss says, "Maybe..." I think it's brilliant.

Thu, 19 Jan 2006 04:04:47 -0800

i've been wondering thesame damn thing... it seemed more interesting when i thought he really was "the man" ... now it seems dumb

Thu, 19 Jan 2006 18:29:17 -0800

(Hi, I ended up here because I was looking for a copy of the Sprint ad to post somewhere else...)

"The man" is a way of referring to "the establishment" - in other words, all those white (sorry - "Caucasian"), middle-aged executives who rule over corporate America. "Stick it to the man" is a way of saying "I'm gonna take something that white middle-aged corporate execs don't want me to have," whether it is more freedom, more perks, the chance to live in luxury myself, etc.

That is the joke! The balding man you see in the ad is a perfect embodiment of "the man" that everybody under the age of 30 wants to topple from his corner office, nice view, cushy chair. Except this guy doesn't understand the phrase himself. He says it because he thinks he is "cool" for having the Sprint phone, and maybe once upon a time he was a rebel from the 1960's himself (he looks about that age). But, the 60's ended, most people grew up, and became another version of the establishment.

If you are talking about who does/does not work for Sprint, you are completely missing the point.

Perhaps if you've never heard the phrase "the man" before, then perhaps this commercial just isn't going to make sense no matter how well we explain it.

Brilliant ad!

Fri, 20 Jan 2006 14:08:55 -0800

I went looking for info about the ad because I too thought "the man" really was a man of wealth and power, like Donald Trump - who moves in and out of business and show-business. It it isn't so, and he's just an actor, I'm disappointed and unsatisfied too. The whole thing reminds me in some way of the "Seinfeldt" episodes featuring the Yankees' boss (with whom I was not familiar, so the joke was always mostly lost on me). I have the same feeling of failing to fully appreciate an in joke that involves this "the man" guy.

Sun, 22 Jan 2006 13:52:53 -0800

who is the actors who play in this commercial ??? -- thanks mitch

Tue, 24 Jan 2006 20:05:50 -0800

he looks like Stephen R Covey to me. Is Covey moonlighting?

Tue, 24 Jan 2006 22:31:12 -0800

The guy that says "you are the man" is Jimmy Owens. My brother went to high school with him in upstate New York. Really talented guy, used to watch him in high school plays.

Ryan Schick
Wed, 25 Jan 2006 11:32:48 -0800

I definitely got the commercial -- funny. But I also thought that "the man" was really a big shot who was playing himself - because he looked SO familiar. For some reason I thought he was a sports team owner or something. I also thought of Seinfeld; was that the guy who played the owner when George worked for the Yankees? Anybody know??

Sun, 29 Jan 2006 15:10:46 -0800

The humour of the commercial depends on understanding the context of the phrase "the man": a stock phrase from the revolutionary rhetoric of the sixties referring to the entire governing establishment, not just a single individual.

Wikipedia has a good entry on it: The Man

The humour comes from the irony of this senior executive, so obviously part of the establishment, being so swept up by the freedom of the phone's plan that he expresses his delight in terms normally used by those cultuarlly opposite of him, targetted at him.

But like the old saying goes, jokes are like frogs: by the time you've dissected them, both are dead.

Wed, 15 Feb 2006 15:25:41 -0800

This spot has been playing since last September! And deservedly so. It is brilliant! I laugh every time I see it. That's how good the actors are. I'm sure I have seen "The Man" in several films and TV. He's great.

Angio Plasty
Mon, 27 Feb 2006 18:56:06 -0800

It was an easy google search that found the info. 'the man' is John Mackay. Go here: http://www.boardsmag.com/screeningroom/commercials/1963/
if you need proof.

Powdered Toast Man
Fri, 3 Mar 2006 02:17:07 -0800

I though he looked like Jack Welch the old CEO of GE.

Thu, 30 Mar 2006 19:27:06 -0800

"The Man" is John Mackay. It was driving me nuts trying to figure out who that guy was.

Great Ad!

Crazy Texan
Mon, 8 May 2006 12:03:03 -0700

I have been raving about this ad since I first saw it. I laugh every time I see it. Topcat, EY, and Miles get it and explain it well, above. You need to understand what "the man" means, and also get over the fact that none of the people in the ad are Sprint employees.

Tue, 11 Jul 2006 12:36:41 -0700

I just saw the ad again, and I realized what is so funny about it. The executive has this awesome smirk on his face, evidencing the fact that he loves sticking it to "the man" (i.e., himself) as much as the rest of us do. In fact, he sort of infers that he doesn't really like being "the man", and relishes in sticking it to the man whenever he can.

Another funny part of the ad is the hesitation (almost confusion) of the younger actor to remind the older actor that he is, in fact, "the man," and that the older guy is sticking it to himself. This hints that the younger guy really wants to be "the man" (it's his career goal, after all), and can't quite understand why the older guy still appears not enjoy sticking it to "the man." Brilliant writing and acting!

Tue, 11 Jul 2006 12:53:03 -0700

What I get from the commercial which I think makes it soooo funny is the fact that EVERYONE is held down by "the man" - No exemptions. Everyone has to follow a set of rules. Even executives. And yes, even executives like sticking it to the man, even though he himself may considered "The Man" by others. It's brilliant. For a full explanation on The Man, go to the source:

Who Is The Man

There are 3 types of people in this world - People who can count, and people who cant.

Thu, 13 Jul 2006 14:02:28 -0700

What's really funny is that, according to an article in Advertising Age, the ending line "Maybe" was improvised by actor John Mackay. The director then used that to replace the original dialogue.

Mon, 20 Nov 2006 13:32:58 -0800

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Wed, 12 Sep 2007 19:33:50 +0000

My dad showed me this commercial from 2006 and it is still hilarious...! Both actors are brilliant...! Everyone laughs when they see it! Both actors became very wealthy from this spot...the older guy retired to Majorca....has a beautiful villa over there and a knockout wife 30 years younger than he...! Saw a spread about him in Esquire a couple years back.....the young guy bought a thoroughbred farm in upstate New York and has bred two Kentucky Derby winners....so far....!

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