In 1968 Charles Paul Wilp, an ad man, designer and artist, was charged with rejuvenating the German soft drink brand Afri-Cola. The result demonstrates an astonishingly avant-garde sensibility for broadcast television. The spots feature models and singers of the 60s and 70s such as Marianne Faithfull, Amanda Lear, Donna Summer and Marsha Hunt. Super-sexy-mini-flower-pop-op-cola – alles ist in Afri-Cola!
Posts filed under ‘Advertising’
Reunited with my old friend Keith today. More funny insights on his site.
For the past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about production and consumption. About what it means to be a consumer. About the word “consumer,” which tends to leave one with a kind of cupronickel mouthfeel. We don’t like to think of ourselves as consumers. The notion evokes images of Macdonald’s-eating, Suburban-driving, Walmart-shopping drones. Always on the take. Languishing in guilty, greasy pleasures. We prefer the idea of producers – artists, designers, architects, writers, musicians – the people toward whom our culture-making edifices lend their mortar and trowel.
Michel de Certeau tried to upset this distinction between producers and consumers by recognizing that consumption often contains elements of play and invention. He wanted to investigate the ways that people adapt everyday products, spaces and situations to meet their own needs. He preferred to talk about “users” rather than “consumers” at a time when the internet was still an ARPANET project. Anyway, the important point de Certeau made was that the economy of production and consumption is a dialogic process, not a one-way transmission. I think that recent developments in social media have both complicated and illuminated this issue. With so much information available to us, and so many channels through which to gather, ingest and reproduce that information, I’d say we’re giving new definition to the term prosumer. Check out the video below to get an idea of what I’m talking about. This kid’s 12.
Now, Tavi G would like to have a word with you.
Since I’m mentioning Wieden-related activities, Jelly Helm presented a lecture at Rontoms a couple of nights ago. I appreciated his humble approach to his role as MC, but had a few issues with the general argument. The talk was titled Conversation/Advertising, which sounds relevant to much current discussion about networks of communication, interaction, audience participation, etc. So I was a bit surprised to hear that Jelly’s notion of conversation (which was demonstrated via an exercise that required 5 minutes of
passive intense listening to one’s neighbor) is awfully close to the classical TV model: A speaks to B who receives – but does not respond to – A’s message.
Jelly went on to present a diagram of what he calls post-consumer brands. These include Apple, Toyota Prius, Wii, Facebook, Nascar, Google and Barack Obama. I’m a bit perplexed by the use of the term “post-consumer” to describe these brands. What is it about buying an iPhone or a hybrid car or a gaming system that disrupts the model of production and consumption? Maybe I’m dickering about semantics, but economies are by definition about the production and consumption of goods, services and resources. All engagement equals consumption – an attempt to interiorize something outside oneself. That process in part shapes and defines the various identities associated with a person.
Jelly stated that what he means by a post-consumer brand is one “where experience trumps advertising.” But are the two really divisible? Jelly’s use of the Toyota Prius – and not the Honda Civic Hybrid – as an example is significant. Both are solid cars with roughly the same real-world miles-per-gallon performance/carbon-footprint-reduction effect. So why is the Prius an emblem of post-consumption, but not the Civic? Why is there a months-long waiting list to purchase a Prius, while the Civic hybrid hasn’t experienced that kind of demand? I have a feeling that the explanation has much to do with the same desires for goods of distinction that were diagnosed by Thorstein Veblen in the late 19th century, the same desires that have guided human consumption for, well, probably for as long as there has been human competition. People buy more Priuses not because the experience of driving this car trumps advertising, but because the experience allows for an invidious distinction to be bestowed upon its possessor. The terms of that distinction (its “cool” quotient) are shaped and enhanced by the advertising and marketing invested in the product.
What’s interesting to me is how transparent it has become that much brand marketing is performed today not by paid agencies, but by individuals who use technologies old and new to enhance their own self-concept through brand advocacy. Advertising isn’t something that we passively receive; it’s something that all of us are constantly engaged with through the process of telling others who we are. So, pace Jelly’s theory, I would venture that advertising isn’t dead; rather, we’re just starting to realize that it’s advertising all the way down.
I’m not a fan of the AMC TV series Mad Men, and here’s why: it portrays women in advertising as feebleminded coffee-brewers whose idea of advancement is sleeping with a powerful exec. The stereotype is, no doubt, couched in an appeal to period authenticity (the show is set in the world of 1960s New York), but how authentic is this portrayal?
The Dec/Jan issue of Bust magazine features an illuminating article on the women who out-Drapered the Don Drapers of Madison Avenue and rose to the top of the ad business – so much so that by 1969 the highest paid ad executive in the US was a women, Mary Wells Lawrence (who, btw, developed the I [heart] NY campaign for which Milton Glaser often seems to get all the credit). Yet this minor narrative of women in powerful positions is conveniently absent from today’s TV drama, which, sadly, stands in for historical fact and, I fear, shapes the way that advertising is viewed – both internally and externally. Case in point: the Nov 23 Times Magazine featured a piece titled “Multiscreen Mad Men,” a roundtable discussion with three of the leading men in digital advertising. Two points I’d like to make about the piece: 1) Would it have been difficult for the Times to find female exec in advertising to sit in on the panel? If you answered “yes,” I’ve got a few names I could throw your way. 2) A quote from the piece: “It used to be really easy for us to advertise anything because consumers had no idea what they were buying. We could basically sell them whatever we wanted. But the Internet has made everything so transparent.” I can’t be the only person surprised by the frank arrogance of that statement. It seems almost like a lament – nostalgia for days of yore. Or perhaps Lars has just been watching too much Mad Men.
Note: Unfortunately, the Bust article (“Man Women” by Erin DeJesus) is not available online.
Me and the people who I worked with….
The whole “smoking is bad for you” thing hasn’t really hit China, so there’s an almost whimsical, celebratory attitude towards nicotine. Cigarettes are given as gifts, purchased by the boxload at duty free shops and are generally considered an inexpensive luxury. Lyn Jeffery over at Virtual China posts about the beauty of Chinese cigarette packaging and the latest “cigarette phone.”
Sorry, there hadn’t been a good (or bad?) pun in the title in awhile. I was one of 11,000 advertising/marketing/media/etc people to go to Cannes last week and I’m glad I was able to experience the craziness at least once.
The beach looked nice, but there was no time to sit around!
This funny sticker was on my mini-fridge. Classic.
Some really amazing architecture in this town, from the ornate to the modern.
One of the awards ceremonies.
We got sucked into watching the game between Sweden and Russia. Russia won, Swedes were nonplussed.