Colonising paradise

The excellence of ‘Mad Men’ notwithstanding, I have very mixed views about advertising in general (he announced, for no very good reason other than it’s been on my mind of late)

On the plus side there’s the high levels of craft skill usually displayed in advertising in most media. Something genuinely beautiful/astonishing/provoking happens along often enough for it not to be co-incidental.

Any industry – make no mistake, it is an industry – that comes up with something as daft and beautiful as this

can almost be forgiven for routinely (and apparently shamelessly) calling people ‘creatives’…and all the other  crimes against grammer, punctuation, common usage and even common sense committed on a depressingly regular basis.

Who else would be mad enough to want to fill the streets of New York with plasticine  bunnies…and then go and buy 3.9 tonnes of the stuff and hire 40 animators and actually do it, in real time with no special effects trickery ?

Worth putting up with hours of  slick, heartless exhortations to buy rubbish for this, surely ? Hard to think of any other commercial (or even, dare I say it, artistic) context that would support such a wonderful realisation of an endearingly simple idea, or have taken it to such exhileratingly bonkers extremes. It’s a joyful thing, even though I suspect the multi-coloured bunnies will linger far longer in the mind than will the brand – Sony Bravia – that paid for their creation.

Even if you deplore the squandering of an alleged £10m (enough for several full length independent films) on what is claimed to be the most expensive add ever made, you’ve got to admire the sheer beauty of thing. I first saw this in a cinema, and had to restrain a strong impulse to burst into applause at the end of it.

Phenomenal amounts of talent, time and money are clearly being expended in the service of….well, what, exactly?  Other than the commercial imperative, obviously….

Except even this last is by no means obvious. As far as I’m aware, there’s precious little serious research (as opposed to focus-group consultation, which is a rather different thing) to show that any of it actually works, that our purchasing decisions are influenced to any significant degree.

I’ve no evidence for this, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to discover that the extraordinary levels of skill and ingenuity expended on TV/Film adds especially actually achieve little more than lodging themselves – the advert – firmly in our consiousness, and make little impact on our purchasing decisions. That what the best ads do is actually just advertise themselves, as distinct artefacts in their own right. A circularity that seems either pleasing or irritatingly self-satisfied, depending on mood and how many times a particular example has interrupted my evening’s viewing.

Then along came this little number…

Which forcefully reminded me of something that first occured to me a while ago – that one of the more worrying things all ads share is what I think of an underlying desire to colonise paradise.

As Jim Reeves sings, ‘Welcome to my world, built with you in mind’.

How much more explicit could you get?

The obvious implication being that the vendor in this case has the wherewithal to create a bespoke world just for you, the customer.

In other words they will build paradise, indvidually tailored to your specific requirements.

The underlying claim of snake-oil salesmen since the beginning of time – the only thing notable about this particular example being, perhaps, it’s astonishing degree of truthfulness (almost certainly un-intentional) disguised as a bit of sophisticated word/image play. Which of course we all understand, without even having to think too hard about it.

Of course …

So maybe I’m just being stupidly literal, unsophisticated, reading too much into it.

Think about it for a minute.

Strip away all the clever language and dazzling imagery and surely the underyling logic of most (if not all) advertising runs something like this :

‘The world is sadly imperfect, and your place in it less than you deserve/desire’ – esablishing a lack or need

‘We have created product (or service) x especially for you, to solve your problem and meet your needs’ – filling the need

‘To achieve true happiness all you need to do is buy x’ – the benefit, closing the circle.

(If you’re not convinced by this analysis, check out the text from Victorian/Edwardian newspaper and magazine ads, many of which replicate this structure almost exactly)

The modes of delivery have diversified hugely, the means employed become extraordinarily sophisticated but the basic message remains the same.

There is such a thing/place as Paradise, and you can attain it…

Not by the excercise of any moral or spiritual discipline or effort, but simply by the application of money.

But never mind, because nobody actually believes any of this – we know it’s a con, and are (at some level) willing participants. We even enjoy it, if it’s well done.

Surely we’re all clever/sophisticated enough to shrug off any tarnishing effects (on the soul, or any other bits we might we to keep unsullied) brought on by long-term hosing beneath the myriad commercial torrents constantly aimed at us.

So you probably won’t be interested in this little excercise/game I invented for myself a while back.

It’s very simple. Any time you encounter advertising that makes a clearly identifiable claim to something or other you just assert the reverse. Boldly, clearly and with complete confidence.  For e.g.

“Gillete, the best a man can get”

to which you respond in a loud, clear voice (you have to do it out loud) anything from,

“No it isn’t”


“Is it f**k you lying bastard”

according to personal taste and sobriety.

Try it. Probably best in the privacy of your own home, but if you’re feeling adventurous…

It’s fun, and I gaurantee you’ll feel better about yourself.

Actually, on second thoughts, I don’t offer any gaurantees of any kind, but it works for me.

The chances of any of us achieveing any sort of paradise are, I feel, pretty slim, but it never hurts to take sensible precautions.

Just think how pissed-off you’d be if your own personal, cherished version of Nirvana not only turns out to be just like everyone else’s, but full of strip-malls and smug gits and improbably slim women in over-priced cars.


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