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Archive for the ‘Wishful Thinking’ 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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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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Sometimes it’s not the fault of advertisers that their commercials suck; sometimes it’s the fault of the product. Take, for example, this Heineken ad. It’s a pretty good idea and the execution perfectly fine, but unfortunately the inherent lameness of Heineken lets the whole side down.

Put it this way; filling a fridge that beautiful full of Heineken is like filling a wardrobe that beautiful full of clothes from Primark.

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I have a cat. I love my cat. I’d do anything to make my cat happy. But you know what? He’s still just a fucking cat. He eats the remains of dead animals. He drinks from the leftover washing up gunk. The other day I saw him nibbling the remains of a take-away that had been discarded in the street, and then licking his own arsehole.

Cats tongues are sterile. They have sterile tongues because of all the disgusting shit they put into their mouths. Do you think they give a second flying fuck whether or not their food is inspired by a gormet chef?

There are three possible reasons why someone may spend £6 on a box of cat food.

  1. You have no children but desperately want them.
  2. You’re a sad lonely fuck with no human friends.
  3. You’re a fucking moron. Full stop.

Like I say, I love my cat – but if I ever found myself considering buying him A La Florentine with Pollock cat food (let alone having him sat on the kitchen worksurface while I prepare dinner) I’d have to put him down. Then shoot myself for good measure.

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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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Here we have a prime example of the advert outshining the product; it really is far too good to be wasted on Travelodge. They’ve got good design, a humourous concept and a charming delivery… things which Travelodge as a company have none of.

Anyone who’s ever stayed in a Travelodge knows that a good nights sleep is something you’re guaranteed not to get. I have stayed in hundreds of Travelodges up and down the country and have been subjected to all manner of overheated hotels, rude staff, cold breakfasts, failed wi-fi, loud noises, broken keys, echoey corridors, drunken guests, lumpy beds, dripping showers and the same bland uniformity that follows you everywhere like an episode of Neighbours on repeat.

That’s not to say that Travelodge doesn’t provide an important service. The fact that they’re cheap and everywhere is their main selling point; you don’t expect quality and class, you expect a bed in a room for a few quid. You can’t blame them for making an ad which makes them look brilliant – that’s the whole point of advertising after all – but as we consumers already know, it’s simply not true.

Now the Premier Inn adverts with Lenny Henry – that’s more like it. Low class, cheap ‘star’, bad gags – that’s a far more accurate representation on the cheap hotel market than the Travelodge ad. They’ve aimed above their station, they’ve developed delusions of grandeur, and they’re really pushing it in the honesty stakes.

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