Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Watch as advertising eats its own head.

During a dark period in my life, about three years of it, I worked in a methadone unit, typing up the invariably traumatic case notes of the patients from the psychiatrists’ dictaphone tapes. My touch-typing, which had been somewhat erratic, soon became sub-cortical, so that I could type the same tape twice without noticing. I did, however, begin to dream of close friends injecting heroin into my feet.

This already unpleasant job was rendered even more unpleasant by my colleagues, who insisted on listening to XFM all day long. To my surprise and displeasure the smug, dickless MOR rock (it was an era of Coldplay, Snow Patrol and Keane) was not the worst thing about XFM. Because of its audience – 18-30 year old young men and women – it was the media of choice for practically every COI brief going. So that a typical commercial break might consist of the sound of a speeding driver flying through his front windscreen, followed by a larynxless man warning listeners of the perils of smoking, which would segue into a spot that discouraged benefit cheats by telling them that THE GOVERNMENT WAS WATCHING THEM EVERY FUCKING SECOND OF THEIR LIVES. The life stories of chronic heroin addicts were easy-listening by comparison.

Which brings me round to this ad from Simon “Scamp” Veksner and his scowling Art Director at BBH, designed make us reconsider our attitude to teenagers.

We are all paedophobes these days, those of us that aren’t peadophiles. What we need to do is empathise.

Clearly (and I’ll just get this out the way) I think this is a really good advert and to some extent I wish I had made it. I should say, it’s intentionally unpleasant, almost traumatic, to watch:

They're going mad for it on YouTube:

crohnoes (16 hours ago)
hahahahaha this was fucking hilarious

nykiepaul (17 hours ago) Show Hide
on 0:22, the slap is fuckin quality lmao

Ok, with the crying FX over the super there is a hint, just a hint, of “unless you give us money the girl gets some more.”

And you might say, well yes, it is nasty, but then the world is a nasty place and frankly you can choose to put your fingers in your ears and loudly sing “What a Difference a Day Makes” all you like but that is precisely the kind of attitude that has caused this sad predicament in the first place.

At least where most advertising seems to offer us a version of reality that is much better than our personal reality, this does the opposite, by offering us something much worse. Worse than mine anyway, even on a bad day. If most advertising causes misery and disatisfaction, by the same logic this should be a cause for happiness. Using less perverse logic, if you want to do something about it, you are empowered to by the charity.

It’s because it’s good that it gets complicated. It points up the fact that the thing that we’re always advertising is advertising.

In Infinite Jest (written in 1994) David Foster Wallace prophesied the teleputer – this being a television that delivered viewer-selected, rather than programmed content. We might call this the internet. In the book a corollary effect of the teleputer is that it causes advertising to kill itself. Viewers become harder and harder to reach so that advertisers have to strain harder and harder to reach them, and advertising becomes so shocking and unpleasant that anyone who possibly can avoids it totally.

According to DFW the next step was advertisers desperately searching for other media, resorting to branding anything they could, even time(The Year of the Dove Soapbar, The Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment etc.) Something like this is happening now, with the branding of sporting events, awards, festivals, celebrities and basically anything with a flat surface you can put a logo on.

Also, the US is governed by an Obssessive Compulsive whose hygeiolatry extends to catapulting all of America’s waste into Canada. This hasn't happened. Although Obama does look very clean and fresh.

I'm just saying.

Recently my Art Director produced a visual for charity ad that was so unpleasant anyone seeing it involuntarily recoiled in shock. We were all ready to do it, but at the final moment discovered that, like most unpleasant things you’d really like to do, it had already been done in France.


Dave Trott said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
faris said...

infinite jest is one of the most prescient texts about advertising.

rip dfw.


vinny warren said...

just arrived here via scamp. i've found a new favorite. refreshingly great bloggage.