(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘advertising

“Commercials are about products… in the same sense that the story of Jonah is about the anatomy of whales”*…

 

760px-Television_commercial_1948

 

In a civilization organized primarily around the funneling of capital to corporations, commercials offer a space of transcendent communion with the objects of our dependence and desire. They take place in a realm understood to be ideational without quite being imaginary—existing not in any one person’s mind, but ambiently, on a level of reality we rarely think to question, encoded in the daily order of things as neatly as the peanut butter aisle of a suburban grocery store. (This bare proximity to capitalism’s exposed nerves, combined with a habitual callousness to human dignity, is I believe why, in the recent words of A.S. Hamrah, “TV commercials are the worst thing to see on hallucinogenic drugs.”) These commercials embody and transmit all kinds of cultural norms, declaiming on the career-destroying horror of “even one flake” of dandruff, the correct way to manage a labor force, how women should interpret cough syrup viscosity, and so on.

Commercials also encode and preserve basic aesthetic and narrative conventions. Musically, they’re a trove of low-rent original product psalms, in styles ranging from quietly sophisticated poultry rock to funky rugged simplicity jams that sound like a person in a boardroom frantically describing the inner life of a coalminer. They introduce stock characters from discomfiting gym teacher to comic book nerd. They offer an education in America’s throbbing corporate epiculture, whose dark world they echo in a thousand ways—through who gets represented and who not, portrayals of nations and cultures, depictions of idealized daily life, enshrinement of a particular commercial landscapestyle parodiesintimations of eternitymessages of warningmessages of beneficence, and more—all calligraphed into air and sent streaming through the walls of our homes by giant corporate antennas…

From Ian Dreiblatt, “Toward a Theory of the American TV Commercial of, Oh, Say, About 1990.”

[image above: source]

* Neil Postman

###

As we take it all in, we might celebrate National Tooth Fairy Day.

In the mid-1920s fairies were used for all sorts of health education from bath fairies to fresh air fairies as a way to get kids to remember to eat their vegetables, wash behind their ears and get a good night’s rest. Unlike toothpaste today, that advertises fruity flavors and sparkles to get kids excited to brush their teeth, in 1925 it was probably quite a bit more difficult considering the pastes were mostly peroxide and baking soda. One advertisement was for a Fairy Wand Tooth Whitener. This product promised to brush away cigarette and coffee stains.  The ad was aimed at both children and adults, we hope!

Then in 1927, Esther Watkins Arnold printed an eight-page playlet for children called The Tooth Fairy. It was the same year Sir Arthur Conan Doyle “proved” his claim that fairies and gnomes are real and “verified” with pictures of two little girls surrounded by fairies. The world was ripe with imagination and primed to have a tooth fairy about to come collect the lost teeth of little boys and girls and leave a coin or two behind.

Arnold’s play began to be performed in schools the following year, and the tooth fairy has been slipping into homes ever since.  She (or he) started leaving nickels and dimes under the pillows of sleeping children. Over the years there have been variations on the theme.  In 1942, in an article written by columnist Bob Balfe in the Palm Beach Post, his children received War Stamps to put in their books when they lost a tooth…

National-Tooth-Fairy-Day-February-28-1024x512 source

 

Written by LW

February 28, 2019 at 1:01 am

“The secret of my influence has always been that it remained secret”*…

 

bernayw2_

Edward Bernays, second right, with other delegates of the Committee on Public Information to the Paris Peace Talks, 1917

 

Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud’s nephew, began his professional life as a press agent.  But with the advent of World War I, he found his true calling when he served on the Committee on Public Information, the war-time propaganda office, in the Wilson administration.  After the armistice, he took his experience in shaping public opinion, as guided by his uncle’s emerging theories, into the private sector, helping to establish “public relations” (and later modern advertising) as professions…

Bernays’ methods… opened a new chapter in public relations, a profession that he and others pioneered in the 1920s. Bernays was not the first man in the field. There were a handful of others before and beside him, notably his great rival Ivy Lee. Bernays, however, may have had the greatest impact. He bolstered the new profession with theory, gave it a philosophical framework and processed the findings of the blossoming psychological disciplines by coming up with new methods of manipulating the public. Although practically invisible to the outside world, Bernays became an influential architect of modern mass persuasion techniques, which continue to inspire the PR industry. Harold Burson, CEO of Burson-Marsteller, one of the world’s largest PR enterprises, was quoted in the 1990s as saying: ‘We’re still singing off the hymn book that Bernays gave us.’

Bernays was related to Sigmund Freud on two sides: Freud’s sister Anna was Bernays’ mother and his father Ely, a grain merchant, was the brother of Freud’s wife Martha. Bernays was born in Vienna in 1891 and emigrated to the US with his parents a year later. He was to die on March 9th, 1995 at the age of 103 in Massachusetts. Another member of the Freud family followed in his footsteps: Matthew Freud, who is considered one of Britain’s most successful PR men.

Influenced by his famous uncle, with whom he corresponded regularly, Bernays got to understand the power of the unconscious, of universal longings, of emotions and instinct. He exploited them for whatever he had to sell: artificial flowers, racehorses, gramophones, politicians, ideologies. No matter what it was, he often worked according to a certain dramaturgy, which his biographer Larry Tye described thus: ‘He generated events, the events generated news, and the news generated a demand for whatever he happened to be selling.’ In Bernays’ eyes, generating events was one of if not the most important task of a PR adviser. He himself labelled it as the ‘creation of circumstances’, the staging of apparently spontaneous events to influence people’s behaviour, according to the wishes of the clients. This was genuinely innovative, because until then business advertising was relatively straightforward: extolling the product and its functional advantages. Bernays, by contrast, aimed at the unconscious and trusted in the indirect method. ‘It’s like shooting billiards’, he once pointed out, ‘where you bounce the ball off cushions, as opposed to pool, where you aim directly for the pockets.’…

More on the uncanny ability to mould public desire that made Edward Bernays one of the 20th century’s most influential – yet invisible – characters, the architect of modern mass manipulation: “The Original Influencer.”

And for more, both on Bernays and on the world that he did so much to create, see Adam Curtis’ award-winning documentary Century of Self.  It’s available in four hour-long “chapters” or here, in its entirety.  Either way, it’s eminently worthy of a watch:

* Salvador Dali

###

As we muse on our motives, we might spare a thought for a man who had absolutely no time for lies of any sort, Immanuel Kant; he died on this date in 1804.  One of the central figures of modern philosophy, Kant is remembered primarily for his efforts to unite reason with experience (e.g., Critique of Pure Reason [Kritik der reinen Vernunft], 1781), and for his work on ethics (e.g., Metaphysics of Morals [Die Metaphysik der Sitten], 1797) and aesthetics (e.g., Critique of Judgment [Kritik der Urteilskraft], 1790).  But he made important contributions to mathematics and astronomy as well; for example: Kant’s argument that mathematical truths are a form of synthetic a priori knowledge was cited by Einstein as an important early influence on his work.  And his description of the Milky Way as a lens-shaped collection of stars that represented only one of many “island universes,” was later shown to be accurate by Herschel.

There is … only a single categorical imperative and it is this: Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.

– Chapter 11, Metaphysics of Morals

 source

 

Written by LW

February 12, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are”*…

 

 

Food

Food regularly plays a role in religious life, in forms that range from communion wine to Kahlua cheesecake…

A sampling of 34 cloistered comestibles: “A Guide of Heavenly Cuisine.”

* Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

###

As we devour with devotion, we might recall that it was on this date in 1993 that the first “Got Milk?” ad premiered.  Created by the advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners for the California Milk Processor Board, it  was later licensed for use by milk processors and dairy farmers nationwide.  The campaign launched with the now-famous “Aaron Burr” television commercial, directed by Michael Bay.

 

Written by LW

October 29, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it”*…

 

Dan Wieden explains how the infamous Gary Gilmore inspired him to create what is probably the most famous ad tagline ever:  “Nike’s “Just do it” slogan is based on a murderer’s last words.”

* Bob Dylan

###

As we go for it, we might send cinematic birthday greetings to Shelton Jackson “Spike” Lee; he was born on this date in 1957.  The creator of 35 films (and counting), he is an acute observer of race relations and the role(s) of the media in contemporary American life.  One of his best-known films is Do the Right Thing.

 source

 

Written by LW

March 20, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising”*…

 

A ghostsign for Black Cat cigarettes

 

Ghostsigns are the typically faded remains of advertising that was once painted by hand onto the brickwork of buildings.  In 2006 London resident Sam Roberts began the Ghostsigns Project, collecting the work amateurs and professionals in appreciation of the painted history found on walls around the world.

Philadelphia Belting Company (Lawrence O’Toole)

 

More at Ghostsigns

* Mark Twain

###

As we admire ancient advertising, we might recall that it was on this date in 1958 that Archibald MacLeish’s JB premiered at the ANTA Playhouse in New York.  The play, a retelling of the Biblical story of Job in free verse, went on to win the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony for Best Play and Best Direction (Elia Kazan).

 source

 

Written by LW

December 11, 2014 at 1:01 am

“What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons”*…

 

The title of this post is one of the 365 fashion quotes paired with 365 fashion ads dating from the 1900s to the 1990s (the above quote went with a 1966 ad for Eye-catchers Panty Hose that was targeted towards teens) in Fashion Ads of the 20th Centuryby Jim Heimann and Alison A. Nieder.

Because ads are created with wads of money, meticulous planning, and highly creative talent, the ads that color these pages make for a gorgeous, provocative book, and the accompanied quotes are clever, humorous, and revealing.

But beyond the surface of beauty and frivolity, this collection of ads also gives us a glimpse of our changing cultural norms throughout the last century. For instance, up until the 1970s, the term girl was used frequently for woman, especially when referring to women as amusement for men, such as, “From morn, ‘til night, at work, at play, be a dream girl too, the Formfit way” (from a Formfit bra ad of 1942). And although not nearly as often, boys was used in place of men when referring to a gang of mischievous young lads out for a good time.

In the 1930s, the Depression was reflected in ads such as the do-it-yourself Simplicity Patterns ad above, while by the 1980s we started seeing independent-looking women in business suits, or a suit-like dress with very wide padded shoulders. (Of course these more feminist-minded ads were overshadowed by sensual, nearly naked women in other ads). One of the biggest changes between pre-and post-1970s were the incredible number of ads that included both women and men who were sexually charged, wearing very little, if any clothes at all.

Of course the differences in ads between the decades pale in comparison to the big similarity: sex, sex, sex. As the old saying goes, “Sex sells,” and that is pronounced over and over again as you flip through Fashion. Even though this isn’t new news, it’s fascinating when you witness the craft behind ads in such a visual compilation as this book…

Read more about Fashion Ads of the 20th Century— which functions as either a coffee table book or an “undated calendar”/day book– at Wink Books… an invaluable site that celebrates “remarkable books that belong on paper.”

* Don Draper (Jon Hamm) in Mad Men

###

As we contemplate our costumes, we might spare a pining thought for Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca); it was on this date in 1327, after he’d given up his vocation as a priest, that he first set eyes on “Laura” in the church of Sainte-Claire d’Avignon– an encounter that awoke in him a passion that spawned the 366 poems in Il Canzoniere (“Song Book”).

Considered by many to have been “the Father of Humanism,” and reputed to have coined the term “Renaissance,” Petrarch was most famous in his time for his paeans to his idealized lover (who was, many scholars believe, Laura de Noves, the wife of Hugues de Sade).  But Petrarch’s more fundamental and lasting contribution to culture came via Pietro Bembo who created the model for the modern Italian language in the 16th century largely based on the works of Petrarch (and to a lesser degree, those of Dante and Boccaccio).

Laura de Noves died on this date in 1348.

Lura de Noves

source

Petrarch

source

 

Written by LW

April 6, 2014 at 1:01 am

The Ghosts of Advertisements Past…

 

This old advertisement for Harold Lloyd’s 1922 classic silent comedy, GRANDMA’S BOY, was rediscovered in February 2012 when the building next to it, built in 1923, was torn down. Sadly, this building was also scheduled to be demolished, and indeed it was just a couple of weeks later, taking the advert with it. Source: C. Browne, http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolbrowne/6937438297/. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licence.

“Ghost Signs” are advertisements painted on the sides of buildings (before the advent of billboards), then obscured by subsequent construction/redecoration (or simply left to weather nearly away), only lately to be uncovered/rediscovered.   Once a vital part both of America’s young consumer economy and of its visual landscape, they are beginning again to attract attention, as at The Basement Geographer (via which, the image above), and in the Ghost Signs and Faded Signage pools on Flickr and in the Wikimedia Commons.  (C.f. also, the UK website Ghost Signs.)

###

As we dream in technicolor, we might send fertile birthday wishes to Jonathan Chapman; he was born on this date in 1774.  A pioneering nurseryman, he introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois… earning him the nickname by which he is much better known:  Johnny Appleseed.

 source

 

Written by LW

September 26, 2012 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: