Knocking the Hustle 💪

The controversial nature of the gig economy, as reflected by a tone-deficient Super Bowl ad, may come from the fact that a “gig” means different things to different people.

(Garrhet Sampson/Unsplash)

As someone who has found a lot of value in the idea of doing things on the side of my main gig, I feel a little weird about the discourse around Squarespace’s newest Super Bowl ad, which features a somewhat controversial update to the Dolly Parton classic “9 to 5.”

The joke is that Squarespace, or sites like it, are often used by people for passion projects, which they work on in the evening hours. (Looks at time.)

Of course, changing the song to “5 to 9” to reflect the fact that people work at night on things other than their day job is astute, although it comes with some complex gender politics, given the fact that the original song is seen as a feminist anthem.

Apparently, Squarespace did not get the memo that the commercial, directed by the guy that did La La Land and choreographed by a Tony Award winner, might possibly be misread.

“Coming off a particularly challenging year, we wanted to put work out into the world that was inspiring and uplifting,” Squarespace CMO Kinjil Mathur said in comments to AdWeek. “It was important to use that platform to share a modern rallying cry for every dreamer working to turn an after-hours project into their own business. We know that many people are struggling this year, and the spot is intended to empower anyone to take a chance and try something new.”

Honestly, I see both sides of it, to a degree: The fact that day jobs may not match our external passions; the fact that being able to invest time in passion projects done on the side is obviously a huge privilege that not everyone gets; and the fact that Squarespace and companies like it are there to highlight and exploit the disparity that leads some people to start up a side business.

I don’t have all the answers to this issue, but I do think that the “gig economy” is a complex problem that underlines disparities for different types of people.

But the challenge I run into is this: That ad is targeted toward people specifically like me, people who actually like doing things on the side, because it’s how we’re built. We want the freedom, because it’s creatively fulfilling.

The gig economy is a messy, poorly optimized thing that fits in people making minimum wage (or less) picking up delivery orders and journalists who can command two dollars a word writing for magazines published by Condé Nast. There is a lot of in-between there, and it’s perhaps why efforts to rein it in, along the lines of California’s AB5 and the Proposition 22 ballot measure that partly usurped it, have proven so controversial.

There are those who want to be their own boss because that’s how they’re wired. Squarespace was selling to those people. And then there are those who want to make a little more money to make ends meet—and they’re being sold to as well, but not in quite the same way. To me, I see less dystopia, more confused messaging.

I just kind of wish a Dolly Parton classic hadn’t been caught in the middle.

Time limit given ⏲: 30 minutes

Time left on clock ⏲: 3 minutes, 1 second

Ernie Smith

Your time was just wasted by Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

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