Repackaging

Have you caught the video that’s making the rounds online these days (it was posted on youtube on January 27, 2017, and it’s  already got over two million hits) : the ad for a Danish broadcaster, in which they ask:

What happens when we “unbox” each other?

Not seen it?

Well then this is your lucky day. Continue reading “Repackaging”

Critical Thinking Applications #47

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There’s a new commercial playing in these parts, in which a toothpaste company tangentially links their product to enhanced school performance.

Take a look. Continue reading “Critical Thinking Applications #47”

“But When it Comes to Investing…”

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Did you ever see this Prudential ad from a couple years back? It features some fun footage from the Candid Camera TV show, back in 1962.

What’s so interesting about the ad is not the basic lesson in sociology — though it’s pretty good, I admit — but the punchline at the end. For the company is literally banking on the fact that it is indeed human nature to follow others despite the closing’s apparent message to the contrary. For the whole point of advertising is to sway the public’s opinions and actions — whether it’s to get us to take off our hats or give our money to this as opposed to that investment firm.

They’re hoping that, when it comes to investing, you’re no different from those poor guys on the elevator — you know, the ones who no doubt felt like they chose to turn around. Coz if you’re the only one — the truly lone wolf, the rugged individual — who opts to go with Prudential, well…, that doesn’t help them, now does it.

Given his interest in understanding myth as something that carries two messages, one smuggled in by the other and which might even contradict the other, I think Roland Barthes would have appreciated this ad.

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Words We Choose From a List

Picture 22In honor of Don Draper’s departure from our TV screens last night I thought I’d share a piece of advertising that makes evident that it’s not the words you use but how you say them. Continue reading “Words We Choose From a List”

“I Was an Orphan. I Grew Up in Pennsylvania…”

Picture 21Tonight is the series end to Mad Men, the story of the early years of Madison Avenue ad men (and women). When last we saw him, the protagonist, Don, had given away his car to a young scam artist, offering him a new start, and was seated alone at a bus stop, his belongings in a big paper sack. His ex-wife, Betty, had been diagnosed with lung cancer but was going back to school anyway. His onetime boss and then partner, Roger, was playing an electric organ in their freshly vacated offices while Peggy, once a secretary but now an integral part of the creative team, had rollerskated her way into a new found self-confidence and a new office, armed with some erotic Japanese art.

peggy Continue reading ““I Was an Orphan. I Grew Up in Pennsylvania…””

“Slowly. Slowly. Against the Beat”

Picture 2Like others who may read this, I’m old enough to remember when toast suddenly popped up when it was done; if the springs were not calibrated properly, then the crisp, warm bread might launch into the air and maybe even fly across the breakfast table, like a man shot from a circus cannon. But not anymore, for at least upscale toasters now lower and raise the bread in a slow, deliberate manner when you push a button, taking a few seconds to accomplish automatically what we used to do by hand in a sharp instant.

To put it simply, you wouldn’t name them “Pop Tarts” today, if you came up with a product that only gradually, incrementally emerged from the toaster. The whole point of their early marketing campaigns was that it popped up when it was done.

Ta daaah! Continue reading ““Slowly. Slowly. Against the Beat””

It (Wasn’t) The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

pottery barn catalogI always breathe a sigh of relief when Christmas is over. Don’t get me wrong – I like Christmas carols, watching my kids open gifts, and the smell of Christmas trees, so I’m not a total Scrooge about the affair. But the logistics of travel, the cost of those gifts, the “We put up the decorations; We take down the decorations!” cycle is enough to leave me eager for January.

From a pop culture perspective this rather common feeling is particularly ironic, since most forms of holiday media already sent the very clear message that all of these things that generated such stress for many of us were, in fact, also supposed to be the source of our greatest happiness. Take, for instance, another sign of the season: the retail catalog. For those of us who were barraged by them (and I’ll choose Pottery Barn’s catalog for the sake of a specific example), the messages within unequivocally communicated that, with the proper décor accessories, one’s home can become the most idyllic, cozy shelter ever, capable of withstanding almost any sort of stress that either the holidays or the coldest assaults of winter might bring. Continue reading “It (Wasn’t) The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

Why It’s Not “Victor’s Secret”

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As I often point out to my Feminist Theory students, there’s a reason why Victoria has a secret, but Victor doesn’t. In other words, there’s a reason why women have “lingerie” and men have “underwear.” Although we’re clearly talking about undergarments, the words here matter. As might be obvious, the former term has a sexual intent behind it that the latter simply doesn’t. One could argue that what the model is wearing in the above photo has sex appeal because the consumer ultimately imagines its removal: lingerie is something you take off, while underwear is something you put on. And yet part of the allure of the lingerie above is that it must also be on to “work” – through the magic of underwire and spandex and every other sort of “suck it in, push em up” technology, the above body is simultaneously a manufactured one that the lingerie makes (a function perhaps desirable only to those who are non-supermodels). And here we come across another interesting double-standard in undergarment function, for I cannot recall hearing of any sort of mainstream line of men’s underwear that has a “tummy control” panel. Continue reading “Why It’s Not “Victor’s Secret””

We Already Arrived Yesterday

bookbookBy now you’ve likely seen the new IKEA commercial for their annual catalog — the one that is a bit of a parody of those smooth Apple product launches to which we’ve all grown so accustomed. Continue reading “We Already Arrived Yesterday”

“All Words We Choose from a List”

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Have you seen this video, deconstructing advertising? A selection of unconnected images and words that creates an impression…, to which you can tie virtually any product, interest, or identity.

“Here’s a picture of DNA…”

(The original post on which the video is based.)