Tuned In

Dead Tree Alert: Pop Goes the Inaugural

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In this week’s TIME, my Tuned In column takes the temperature of pop culture around the Inauguration. It’s arguable whether new Administrations affect the culture or if it’s the other way around. But either way, if the national mood is changing, TV programmers and soda salesmen want a piece of it: 

How do you know when a President is a pop-culture fixture? When he becomes a can of soda. During the coverage of Barack Obama’s swearing-in, Pepsi showed off a new advertising campaign that audaciously hopes to benefit from his buzz. Brandishing graphics similar to Obama’s change ads and a new logo not unlike his red-white-and-blue O, the spots declared, “Yes you can”–get it? can?–and announced, “Every generation refreshes the world.”

Joining Pepsi’s quest for O-mentum are advertisers like Audi (“Progress is beautiful”) and Ikea (“Embrace change”). Trying to make a buck off the zeitgeist is an old story, but these ads also capture a particular mood of today. America right now is like some kind of agitated subatomic particle holding two opposite charges at once: dread and excitement. Just so, these ads convey both desperation–someone, please, buy something!–and the thrilling sense that a big change is afoot in the country’s mind-set.