Posts Tagged ‘advertising’

Time for some old news

November 21, 2010 1 comment
The way ahead - murky and poorly lit,with an uncertain destination?

The way ahead - murky and poorly lit,with an uncertain destination?

Time for some old news.

Nostalgia in the new big thing.

Wikipedia defines it as a yearning for the past, often in idealized form. Feeling nostalgic implies a longing for the ‘good old days’, a period when life was simpler, easier, happier and more prosperous.

What period that might be, exactly, is something that probably varies depending on one’s age and life history. Maybe, for most people, nostalgia harks back to a period when we didn’t have feelings of nostalgia because we hadn’t suffered many of life’s downturns.

Feelings of nostalgia often come when times are hard, and because a lot of people are experiencing hard times right now, there seems to be a lot of nostalgia about.

I’ve been poking about in retail industry publications and it seems nostalgia is big business right now. In fact, by mid-2008 many of those publications were screaming that in order to survive the recession, companies should anticipate and ride the wave of nostalgia they saw coming.

Many of them have done precisely that. A lot of 1970s foods, from steak and kidney pies to baked beans, have come back into fashion, a lot of companies have returned to or recreated the look of labels and advertising from the seventies and earlier. The new (old) look is intended to imply that these are long-term, trusted brands that offer some emotional security. Apparently the best-selling toy game of 2009 wasn’t a Wii or Xbox or computer game, but Scrabble.

The same thing’s been happening with advertising, of course, with the return of the Milky Bar Kid among many others.

In music, I’ve noted increased interest in folk music. Presumably the folk musicians have been there all along, playing in small pubs and clubs, but now they have a larger stage and more media exposure. Not that folk was a 1970s thing, particularly, but it meshes with the retro ethos going around.

On TV, there’s been a sudden increase in programmes about the past, from attempts to recreate period shops to revitalise a high street, to ‘thrift’ programmes about how to get a period look in your house by buying second-hand or developing craft skills.

Also on TV, and maybe a little more difficult to understand, I’ve been noticing a lot of old science fiction and horror making a return. Is that just a function of where my own attention has been going? Is it reminding us that thirty years ago, we expected the future to be better than it is? Or that thirty years ago, the dystopian views of broken societies we had then are finally coming to pass? I’ll have to ponder that one.

Conclusions? Well, none very startling. To repurpose that famous quote by Baudrillard, when society is looking broken, what we can do is play with the pieces – in this case, pieces from our past that we want to recreate and cast somehow, like runes or dice, into new patterns that will offer new solutions.

A couple of the resources I used – Talking Retail and Reuters.


The ad execs’ conspiracy exposed!

April 9, 2010 Leave a comment

The secret is out. Advertising execs, scriptwriters and producers are rebelling against the yoke of capitalist tyranny!
Seriously though, I’m noticing a lot of TV ads these days (actually it’s being going on for a while, but it’s got me particularly amused at the moment) where things happen, or music is on the soundtrack, that is totally inappropriate to the image you might expect the adverts to convey.
Two examples.
There’s an ad for some financial product that involves a pile of banknotes that becomes a sort of glove puppet creature on a stage, singing. It opens its arms wide and notes fly off and flutter around it. Now: if I’m buying a financial product I want one that gathers up all the banknotes and keeps them safe, not one that throws them around in operatic abandonment for bankers to pick up when I’m not looking.
Another one is for a sofa company. It has a bouncy, upbeat song on the soundtrack: Lily Allen, LDN (presumably textspeak for London, which is what the song is about). First part of the chorus, which is what they play: ‘Sun is in the sky oh why oh why / Would I wanna be anywhere else?’ However the song continues, in the segment they don’t play (but which I and many other people would know): ‘Everything seems nice / But if you look twice / you can see it’s all lies.’ So I’m sitting watching the advert and thinking ‘Hmm, that’s radical: they’re actually advertising the fact they tell lies about their products.’
I’d tell you which bank and which sofa company these ads are for – except I can’t tell you, because I can’t recall these bits of information. Maybe that in itself tells you something about how good or how bad advertising is these days.
I’ve cited these two, but I’m pretty sure you can find similar off-key connotations or meanings in almost any advert running.
Explanations: (1) advertising producers/copywriters/executives have the attention span and cultural awareness of dwarf hamster (2) they know they’re doing it but don’t care, and the companies hiring them have the attention span and cultural awareness of (etc.) (3) the one I like best, they’re doing it deliberately because they’re all protesting against the existentialist paradox of being paid to give boxes of breakfast cereals or whatever more personality and meaning than they possess themselves (4) the one I like least, they do it because they cynically figure 99% of the population won’t have the wit to deconstruct the ads.
If I’m honest, explanations 1, 2 and 4 are probably the real ones – though I still like number 3, and I suspect number 4 is actually incorrect – there’s a reasonable amount of evidence that people are very media-savvy and cynical these days.

Beauty and the beast?

March 15, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s been an interesting weekend. Not a lot of sleep, but interesting. In the early hours of Sunday morning someone I know was assaulted outside a nightclub and ended up as an emergency admission in hospital. Actually he’s ok and now discharged, and this post isn’t about him. I drove his mum, V, over to the hospital, and we found him in an assessment unit, under observation.
In the same ward was a woman waiting for psychiatric assessment. And we got to talking. Her story was essentially this. She’s a single mother, professional job, and she’s bought into the whole commercial/advertising beauty thing of how unless you’re perfect in every physical way, you’re worthless as a person. Bought into it really heavily, because once you start noticing it, it’s in every women’s mag and a huge proportion of TV adverts, along with every other advertising media you can think of.
Now at this point we’re into ‘as if’ speculations. Because I’m male, I have grey hair and my teeth will start falling out soon unless I can be bothered to fix the overdue dentist’s appointment. And basically I don’t really care. For 99% of the time, anyway, all anybody ever sees of me is the words I write.
But if I were female, late 30s/early 40s, and there’s that much media telling me how I need to be perfect physically, and I’m also trying to work and bring up a kid and feel insecure and don’t have a partner to support me, how would I react to that kind of pressure? Would I feel completely insecure if I had lifeless hair and a couple of crow’s feet beginning to show around the eyes?
OK, so I have no idea if there’s a longer back story to her illness. And there probably is. But it seemed at face value as if she’d touched on something important to her and possibly to many other women as well; the way advertising, and other media content, exploit women’s insecurities in search of a fast buck and the ‘collateral damage’ of this exploitation.
So the three of us – me, V and the woman – went and had a cigarette (another of my failings though socially useful in this case), for which we had to walk about a mile to some specially designated zone. And in the course of the smoke, both V and I told her that beauty isn’t about physical appearance, it’s about how you feel inside. Everyone has a kind of inner beauty that comes with confidence and feeling secure in yourself. If you can connect with that, you look beautiful to others irrespective of your physical looks and makeup. Equally, we all have dark periods when we lose the plot. That’s life. And we know that in those dark periods you think you’ll never come out the other side, but somehow we do. And if you can find a way to get just a little bit of confidence back, it can all come back really quickly.
So as a tribute to an unknown woman waiting for psychiatric admission, I’d say this is a story about beauty and the beast. Except in this version, she’s the beauty but she just doesn’t know it. The beast, unfortunately, can’t be slain. But it can be made irrelevant and powerless if she just realises she’s beautiful anyway.
And while I’m on a rant I’d just like to nod to Karen Ranney on writing romance, which is a powerful post and one that was waiting on my PC when we got back from the hospital. It was that post, really, that made me think I should write this one. OK, she writes romance and I write SF and horror, but there’s something fundamental about human experience that she touches on and it transcends our respective genres…

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