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Archive for February 19th, 2009

the mystical physiology of advertising

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Interesting article in the NYT about an exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs on French TV advertising.
But one thing in it has left me intrigued and confused. The guy speaking in the following paragraph is the “chief creative officer for Havas, the country’s second-biggest advertising agency”:

Or as Mr. Séguéla formulated the situation: American commercials go from the head to the wallet, British ones from the head to the heart, French, from the heart to the head. That accounts for why, as in a classic French commercial for Canal Plus, the French pay television station, a man describes a movie about emperor penguins in Antarctica to a woman who pictures hundreds of Napoleons sliding around the ice. Or why, in an ad for Air France, sexy models use clouds as pillows, clearly not dreaming about low fares and on-time departures.

Could be that I’m that I’m again taking throwaway langauge too seriously, but I’d love to understand what all of the head-to-wallet, head-to-heart, heart-to-head stuff really means. The idea that there are national trajectories to ads, or even to the little plots that constitute ads, is too attractive not to wonder about for a bit…

Written by adswithoutproducts

February 19, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Posted in ads

the rhythm method

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One of the many things I’ve been figuring out lately about myself is what to make of my religious upbringing. That sounds wrong: “religious upbringing.” Makes it sound like we sat around discussing Bible stories at night instead of watching TV. Wasn’t like that. But I did go to Catholic school from the age of 3 till 18. 16 years of religious education, that makes. And I attended Mass, weekly, from 3 or so until 17, when I got my driver’s license and I could claim I was going to church and instead go sit around in exotic Barnes and Nobles scattered around northern NJ. I most definitely, and thickly, went through the whole I am going to hell, definitely going to hell. I promise I’ll never lock myself in the bathroom again and do that to myself. I am going to hell phase. Not nice! Horrible at the time, then came to seem trivial and cliche a bit later once I’d “lost my faith,” now seems more serious and deformative than I had thought, those early years of sexual efflorence while still under the chastening, condemnatory wing of Jesus H. Christ.

It’s funny. During a moment of real stress the cause of which I can’t quite put my finger on now, I started going to Mass again for a week or two during my second year of grad school. Talked to my wife about converting, even. (There was a funny scene where I tried to explain to her why she couldn’t go up and receive communion with the rest of us Catholics – she still thinks I’m crazy, but when we talk to other Lapsers they agree that, no, I told her the right thing). I can’t remember now what this was about – I think it was an intellectual crisis of some sort but it remains hazy.

But then again, on the other hand, there’s this sort of thing:

…I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

I always listened quite closely when people told me to listen. Quite a lot of Catholic education is self-contradictory, equivocating, incoherent. You’d put your hand up and ask, But father, does that really mean that rich people basically can’t go to heaven? I mean, if that’s what Jesus is saying, it means that… and they would sort of brush you off and say that it’s a lot more complicated than that. Or sometimes, they’d have a well-prepped response to blur things out a bit. “Rich” doesn’t mean “rich” in the sense that we think it… Etc… It was a frustrating, confusing experience for someone with a predilection to very, very careful reading and taking things very seriously in general.

Even though there’s no heaven, and no kingdom of god, I happen to believe, no know, that Jesus was right about the rich man. This is how the religious stuff has stuck on me, absolute rules and imperatives unanchored by any visible system of reward or punishment. Ads without products, in a sense. But true to the first and basic a priori of religion itself, just because this seemingly necessary structure of consequence is invisible doesn’t mean it’s not there… It may be all the more there because I can’t touch it, edit it, argue with it….

Written by adswithoutproducts

February 19, 2009 at 11:46 am

Posted in selfcriticism