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impossible is nothing: adidas’s socialist art

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What a strange world we live in. Adidas has made a series of TV ads for the China market that look, well, properly socialist. That is, they seem to me to be the sort of things that an actually-existing-socialist state might make, if they still existed and had hotshit marketing firms on hand to help out. A logical, if very slick, development from the sort of posters the commies liked to do for sporting events and the athletic ideologies of communism.

And the towers of people – people as architectural elements – are particularly interesting and strange in the adidas ad.

Of course, of course, it’d be easy to describe these as more nationalist than socialist. But almost all Olympic themed ads are nationalist – and these are different. Easy test: could you imagine the same ad being made for the American market? For the UK? No, but it’s trickier to say why not…. Some options I’ve come up with:

1) Americans don’t go in for a sense that our athletes are somehow built by society, that they are products or embodiments of the collective. It breaks against the libertarian self-made myth that we love our jocks to live out. (I remember – but cannot find in the usual repositories – an ad that I think Home Depot did a few Olympics ago that would be fruitfully paired with the one above. Working-class athletes in minor sports doing their humdrum jobs only to train, night after night. I think it may even have had something to do with some sort of program that Home Depot had to employ poor Olympic hopefuls. Or was it FedEx? But you see the point – bagging your boxes of nails and mousetraps, not diving into a sea of countrymen….

2) Westerners don’t like to be portrayed as a gray mass of depersonalized semi-individuals. Sports ads more typically revolve around the fantasy that you have been magically been brought into the game – that you somehow are A-Rod or Beckham or whatever. Look how easy they make it for me:

3) A little more complex, but we tend to figure “nationhood” through emblems, scenes, symbols, and physical / topographical elements rather than as a mass of people. Masses of people as nation is a bit scary, and sends the wrong message.

Anyway, it’s an interesting piece of work, this add, and deserves to be filled-away in everyone’s drawer of hauntological repetitions with a big difference….

Written by adswithoutproducts

July 21, 2008 at 12:22 am

Posted in ads, china, socialism

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