You can avoid the throngs taking to the streets of Washington, Philadelphia and New York this week to glimpse Pope Francis and still experience his historic visit at home via the wonders of virtual reality. But not without enabling one of the most tone-deaf marketing promotions I've seen since the great, which saw a GS4 launch full of sexist stereotypes.
Here's the pitch: You can get access to free virtual-reality footage of the pope's visit, including his canonization of Father Junipero Serra, but to do so you have to install a grocery store chain's app on your smartphone, hand over your email address and cell number, and then, I guess, order some tortillas from the official tortilla brand of the VR pope promotion (yes, there really is such a thing) while you wait for a notification that it's time to put on yourVR headset and feel like you're right in the middle of the canonizing action.
Just to be clear -- this is not a satirical article. This is a real promotion. You can go download the DigitalFood app (the official app of budget grocery chain Food 4 Less) to see for yourself. As of this writing, there's a promotional banner for the footage touting the canonization of "America's First Hispanic Saint," but none of the footage is available yet. There are also links in the app to learn more about the official tortilla brands and VR headsets of the promotion.
Let's pretend for a second that it's not totally tacky to capitalize on the occasion of bestowing sainthood upon a man of the cloth to sell tortillas, no matter who is doing the canonizing. Even then, you'd have to ignore the pope's record of criticizing unfettered capitalism, recently calling it the "dung of the devil" to think this is a great idea.
And how many Food 4 Less shoppers (or Whole Foods or Trader Joes or whatever shoppers, for that matter) actually have Google Cardboard or a similar VR headset for their phones?
But marketing is deaf to irony and once again, the marketers have already won, because I've given them my email and now some of you probably will too.
Perhaps the worst part is that I have to admit, Mission Tortillas -- the official brand for the VR pope experience -- are actually pretty good, even if they are the dung of the devil.
Welcome to America, your Holiness, we're not all so ridiculous, I promise.