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Archive for the ‘Celebrity Endorsement’ Category

So it’s come to this:

  • You go to a giant multinational superstore.
  • You call your sister to ask what she wants for Christmas.
  • She tells you what to buy her family, with all items coming from huge multinational suppliers.
  • You buy those multinational items from a catalogue.
  • Those items are delivered unwrapped to your sister by the multinational corporation ahead of time.

Christmas. Tesco style.

For years advertising has been gently pissing on the spirit of Christmas but with this advert they’ve finally slipped into rampant corporate wish fulfillment; no personality, no individualism, no charm, no special consideration – just the purchasing and exchanging on items at a specific time of the year.

If an advert could have eyes this Tesco commercial would be dead behind them.

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So that’s what “Argosed it” means is it?

Interesting. I always thought that “Argosed it” meant paying twice as as much as necessary, waiting 20 minutes to discover it’s not what you asked for, dealing with a member of staff for whom the word “incompetent” would be a compliment and then discovering that you’re not allowed to return the item because of the Faustian pact you apparently signed when paying for it.

All this time I didn’t realise that “Argosed it” actually meant… um… hang on… what does it actually mean? Remix something? Improve something?  Update a classic? I don’t understand. From their normal selling point of ‘having a catalogue to make things easier’ this makes no sense whatsoever.

I see what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to make “Argosed it” a phrase that catches on across the playgrounds of water coolers of Britain. Every time someone does something unexpected, or wacky, or off the wall they want friends to gather together and nod sagely that Darren has indeed “Argosed it.”

Yeah. That’s probably not going to happen.

It is sad, though, isn’t it? I remember when bootlegging was a genuinely art-form – pre YouTube – when video mixing and recontextualising was in the realm of DJ’s, VJ’s, artists and cultural commentators. Now it’s an advert for a shitty highstreet store.

Wait! Now I get it. When something has been “Argosed” it means it’s been done before; better and with more style – it means that it’s a pale imitation done entirely for money. And you can’t get a refund. Makes total sense now.

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I’ll come back to Little Britain and this horrible character whoring out at a later date but for now I just wanted to point out that what their characters are doing is fraud, and the customer assistant is helping them out with their deception.

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What I like about this advert is the unbridled optimism of it; if Martine McCutcheon was so damned busy, popular and glamorous that she had an army of stylists and lackeys behind her she wouldn’t need to do adverts for yogurt, would she?

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I don’t know much about Twilight, but then again why would I? I’m not a lovelorn teenager, a commercially created goth or a depressed suburban cougar. I know it’s about vampires, I know it’s chemically created to tap into basic childlike desires and I know it’s really a metaphor for the Mormon fear of sex.

Quite why kids are falling over themselves to revel in abstinence I’ll never understand – but fall over themselves they do, and with that comes a slew of marketing tie-ins and product placements.

Many of these I don’t understand either, but the one which is really befuddling me is the Volvo thing. At first I thought it was just an odd tie-in with an awkward advert…

There’s more to life than a Volvo; there’s what to expect – like being kissed, desired, loved… um… jumping over rivers… and… being chased by CGI wolves…

…but it turns out that the Volvo tie-in goes much further. Apparently the Volvo is an integral part of the movie; it’s Pattinson’s signature vehicle, it’s ogled and adored by fans and is seen as a status symbol for acquisition if you want to emulate the vampire lead.

Now this is fucking baffling and, frankly, very depressing – being a teenager is explicitly about rebellion, about throwing off the shackles of your parents, your school and the world around you and finding your own way. To embrace an anti-hero who is so intertwined with a commercial product is the very opposite of what youth is about…

Furthermore, what does this say about the romantic, vampire, 200 year old tweenie-fiddler himself? He’s meant to be an immortal; a cursed soul forever searching the world for his love – and he drives a Volvo. A Volvo? A fucking Volvo!

Volvo’s are the least sexy cars in the world. They are the definition of boring; they are the ultimate Dad cars – they’re safe, and reliable, and boxy, and absolutely everything that anti-establishment rebellion isn’t. Why doesn’t Edward Cullen just wear some comfortable corduroys, a Gortex jacket and a pair of sensible shoes and talk about the importance of paying into your pension from an early age?

Good grief. Is this what teen symbols have become reduced to? James Dean killed himself driving at 200mph, and it sure as fuck wasn’t a Volvo he was in at the time. In 10 years time, when this teen generation have come of age, we’re going to end up with a bunch of dull, thrill-less twentysomethings who extol the virtues of good mileage and find mixing a scoop of real coffee in with the decaf is what a mad Saturday night is all about.

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Sometimes, in the course of writing this blog, I have to wonder if I’m going slightly insane. Am I the only person who sees an insidious element to advertising? Am I the only one who’s offended by most of what I see? Am I justified in being offended, or am I just overreacting to what is basically a forgettable and transient commercial form? Am I basically the nut in the corner of the room shouting about something which no-one else cares about?

The thing is – I understand the need for advertising, I really do. I think it’s a horrible, manipulative assault on basic decency that cannot be trusted for one single second – but I’m not stupid enough to think our current economic model can survive by getting rid of it. I resent the way in which it has wormed it’s way into every fabric of our society, the way it shapes and controls the way we’re meant to think about ourselves, about others and about the world – but I also realise that it subsidises aspects of our society that are underfunded elsewhere.

But how much does the negative side of advertising matter in the long run? Is it any worse than tabloid newspapers? Or crappy gameshows? Or any number of the other things which make up the capitalist worldview? There’s no great conspiracy involved – advertisers aren’t deliberately setting out to cheapen family relationships, or ruin self-esteem, or generalise entire races, or genders, or peoples – these are just side effects of the culture; they’re the leftover slag from an industry which priorities money over common decency, or self actualisation, or factual accuracy.

So, with the notable exception of L’Oreal and a few other campaigns which really are evil, most of my criticism is in the interpretation. Taken at face value very few adverts are genuinely offensive or insulting – it’s only when you look at the culture as a whole do you begin to see patterns.

I’m not a conspiracy nut; the way advertisements present the world is not a deliberate attempt at subversion or overthrow, but simply a slow socialisation of values that better suit the business world. The problem is that as advertising becomes ever more important, the worldview it promotes becomes stronger – superficiality and materialism are essential aspects of the collective psyche of our society, and advertising will continue to support them because it ultimately benefits consumerism – not mankind.

Which brings us nicely to yogurt; on the surface the advert above is really nothing more than a cheap tie-in with a simple idea behind it. However this is precisely the kind of advert which appalls me so – the sort which prompts me to write about them in the first place.

There’s always been this image of ‘us vs them’ within the media. They are the trend setters – those who are viewed as the consumerist leaders, whose devotion to – and application of – wealth and materialism guide the rest of us. They are the ones we look up to, the ones we are supposed to emulate – and there are fewer perfect examples of this than the Sex and the City girls.

This isn’t to say that Sex and the City hasn’t contributed in our society in positive ways, but they are still held aloft as beacons of modernity – they have the money, the sexuality, the clothes, the status symbols that are listed as desirable in our consumerist society. An association with them is supposed to offer the consumers the impression that they too could have the lifestyle proffered up by these fictional creations.

So what’s the idea behind the advert? That the closest most ‘real’ people can get to haute cuisine is yogurt, and the closest they can get to desirable men is teenage shelf stackers? That by-all-means they can carry off the sophistication and self confidence, but keep it within the setting of real life – don’t aim too high. Leave the real glamour, the real excitement, the real beauty to the professionals.

Now, obviously that’s the not the point behind the advert – nor is it even the intended subtext. It’s just what I read into it as part of a larger whole. But tell me, am I mad, or is it really there?

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UPDATE

This is magnificent, and sums up everything I said far far better than I ever could. Except for the yogurt bit. Kermode doesn’t mention yogurt.

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There was a time when marketing synergy was carefully planned in advance; when a product tied in because it shared the same values, message or audience with the larger release. Nowadays they just throw product franchises out to whoever is the highest bidder and see what sticks…

I never really understood why Albert Bartlett bother to advertise. They’re potatoes – are people really that bothered by potato brands? TV advertising is expensive, celebrity endorsements are expensive, buying into Disney franchises is REALLY  expensive. Is there that much money in the potato business that all these marketing costs can be recouped and have a healthy profit.

It’s also worth pointing out that Albert Bartlett have the exclusive rights to produce Rooster potatoes in the UK. They are competing against nobody else.

I suppose the point is brand recognition; aligning yourself with the biggest film of the summer can only be positive – but why would Disney agree to this deal? They’re potatoes. Potatoes. What do they get in return? It’s not like their film will be any cooler, any more popular, any more zeitgeisty. Will they get a bigger audience, or will more people be aware of it’s existence? Probably not.

And how come they missed the opportunity to include Mister Potato Head in the advert? If ever there was a character to use when you’re selling potatoes then it’s him.

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