Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Freeze the placenta Mark, do it.
This post on the Kidney Hat blog has attracted rather more attention than I'd intended.
Everyone with a computer and their eight year old nephew seem to think it's all so obvious and you'd have to be utterly perverse and morbidly fixated to believe that the Passat ad could refer to anything apart from the light at the end of the tunnel in the most optimistic sense possible.
You're thinking too much about it they say.
There are some things you can think about too much. Like the fact that the people you hold dear only demonstrate their affection to you in order for you to reciprocate that affection so as to allow them to feel loved and successful. Or the fact that, when you die, it probably won't cause anyone to be so upset that they miss their breakfast for more than two days in a row.
But I believe your job is one of the things you're allowed to think about as much as you like. Particularly if your job involves thinking about ads. You may as well try and prevent a microscopist going into so much detail the whole time.
And let's face it people who say 'You're thinking about it too much' are probably the same people who say 'Leaving early then?', or 'Why are you wearing those shoes?', or 'Why don't you like football?', or 'Why don't you read the Metro?', or 'Why don't you drink?', or 'Why don't you have a TV?', or 'What, do you secretly believe that you're better than me or something you preening upper-middle-class cunt?'
Anyway for new readers, that's basically my schtick, applying close reading to advertising.
Kidney Hat magazine pay me to do this, but I'd probably do it anyway, because I really hate the anti-intellectual streak in advertising that says 'well it's just an ad isn't it?' and leaves all the thinking to the planners. It's why all advertising is art direction these days and everyone is Swedish.
But back to the ad. Clearly the creatives meant it to be the light at the end of the tunnel, that was never what I was trying to dispute. What I found strange was that all this other stuff seemed to have got in without anyone noticing.
Irony is quite a slippery term, but the OED gives it as something like a figure of speech where the 'intended meaning is the opposite of that expressed by the words used'. Obviously we're used to this in advertising where the visual says one thing and the words say another. But in this ad it seems like all the bells are ringing for irony, the irony alarm is going ballistic in fact, and yet the message we're meant to receive is utterly unironic: the world may be shit, but you can rely on a Volkswagen.
This is interesting, especially if you're employed by a diurectic headpiece periodical to apply critical theory to advertising, because if it was art we'd obviously say 'ah yes, death symbolism, dix points.' But because it's advertising it just seems uncontrolled.
When we look at advertising we're actually trying to work out what the person on the other end of it means. We judge an ad on its ability to communicate precisely where as we allow art to be rich and mysterious. As I've said before, I think at the moment the two things are colliding.
If you like I can email and ask them.
Posted by william at 6:06 pm