I had dinner with my mother last night - as I sat down she thrust into my a hand a post-it note with the name "Barney Roundtree" written on it, and provided an incoherent account of a programme she'd heard on Radio 4 about advertising, something to do with Y-fronts and brain imaging. The restaurant was showing Al-Jazeera's coverage of the war in Gaza on a huge flat-screen TV, so the conversation was punctuated by the sound of explosions and screaming. After some confused discussion it became clear she was talking about the second part of the series "The Most Fun You Can Have With Your Clothes On". It was of special interest to my mother as she is a world-renowned lobotomist (some of my earliest memories involve having metal pads attached to my body, which grew intensely hot or intensely cold, whereupon I had to report the sensation registered to a group of scientists) and it is a continual source of disappointment to her I didn't follow her into the family profession. And here was "Barney Roundtree" talking about selling Y-fronts and brain imaging, like the two things were more or less two sides of the same biscuit. Hence her excitement. Though it may have been the war.
I dutifully listened to the program on the BBC. And first, can I just say, who doesn't want to be "Barney Roundtree", doyen of Campaign, The Sartorialist and Radio 4? What a dude.
The other thing that caused me to prick up my ears was his description of the Peacock's Tail theory of advertising - being that consumers trust brands that appear to waste money beautifully and plentifully, and that this, in evolutionary terms, suggests that the brand has excellent genes. This sounds to me rather like someone has picked up the wrong end of Bataille's Accursed Share - why attach the idea of genetic utility, just 'cause you're mates with Richard Dawkins? What does it mean, afford to waste? That you have an excess, that more than enough is an indicator of just enough? And if it does mean you have good genes, good genes so you can do what? Breed away the waste?
Waste is attractive in itself and that's where it stops. You're only trapped in brain-loop otherwise.
I'm training myself not to say things like this in meetings.
It also included an extremely interesting analysis of Sony "Balls". I know I'm occasionally disparaging about things Argentine, but I must admit a grudging respect for Juan Cabral - not that my good-opinion of him counts for fuck all. There is something so centrally weird about all his scripts, I reckon they are all about inevitability. So "Gorilla" is about a gorilla playing the drums - only it's not, it's about a gorilla not playing the drums for most of the spot. Or "Trucks" is about a race - only it's not about a race, we never see the end of the race, only the start. Or "Balls" is about balls bouncing down a hill - but they never reach the bottom - they just must go down. It's in the closing of the circuit that we register pleasure I think. It's very hard to write scripts like these, I have tried based on this principle, but it requires an arrangement of very few elements that I imagine is something like what certain abstract artists do.
In fact the thing in "Balls" that "Barney Roundtree" said really lights up peoples' brains is the frog in the pipe, which is wonderful.
In a Q&A I once asked Tony Davidson about the moustache in the "Impossible Dream" spot. To me the moustache seemed so key, it makes the whole thing. He looked slightly bemused and just said, "Oh the guy just had a moustache, so we told him to keep it."