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l’effet de placement: “we are the deal”

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From AdAge:

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — Apple may not have paid for its new and much-ballyhooed iPad device to be woven into a main storyline in last night’s showing of “Modern Family” on ABC, but everyone is acting as if they did. You can see why, especially when you consider how much ABC might have gotten if it had charged for all the iPad play.

Apple has been telling other media outlets it paid nothing for “Family’s” bumbling Phil Dunphy character to spend the better part of the program yearning for a new Apple iPad (due out this Saturday) and even stroking the machine wistfully at show’s end. And two people familiar with the situation reiterate that notion, telling us Apple and the studio that produces “Modern Family” — News Corp’s 20th Century Fox — collaborated on its hard-to-miss cameo. Also worth noting: On Twitter, actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays Mitchell on the show, said “I will say that no ‘Product’ has been ‘Placed’ in my itchy little palm. I am excited about the iPad & will probably break down and buy one!”

Whether or not it is true, I guess that marks the end of another branding strategy. It’s a strange situation though foreseeable situation when consumer products that seem not to have been placed for pay into sitcom scripts nonetheless acquire the anti-aura of having been worked into the plot because of a marketing deal. We might as well revise the key paragraph of Barthes’s essay “The Reality Effect” on the realistic detail into accordance with current conditions, mostly by substituting the word deal for the word real. First the original paragraph:

This is what we might call the referential illusion. The truth of this illusion is this: eliminated from the realist speech-act as a signified of denotation, the ‘real’ returns to it as a signified of connotation; for just when these details are reputed to denote the real directly, all that they do – without saying so – is signify it; Flaubert’s barometer, Michelet’s little door finally say nothing but this: we are the real; it is the category of ‘the real’ (and not its contingent contents) which is then signified; in other words, the very absence of the signified, to the advantage of the referent alone, becomes the very signifier of realism: the reality effect is produced, the basis of that unavowed verisimilitude which forms the aesthetic of all the standard works of modernity.

Now the revision, with changes to the original text in italics:

This is what we might call the market-deferential illusion. The truth of this illusion is this: eliminated from the realist speech-act as a signified of denotation, the ‘deal’ returns to it as a signified of connotation; for just when these details are reputed to denote the deal directly, all that they do – without saying so – is signify it; Modern Family’s iPad finally says nothing but this: I am the deal; it is the category of ‘the deal’ (and not its contingent contents) which is then signified; in other words, the very absence of the signified, to the advantage of the referent alone, becomes the very signifier of branding: the branding effect is produced, the basis of that unavowed verisimilitude which forms the aesthetic of all the standard works of modernity.

Written by adswithoutproducts

April 4, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Posted in ads, barthes, realism

“I won’t have seen the ‘kiki’ of a single Chinese man.” (reading the weekend papers)

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Trying to unwind as my term’s now over – the busiest term I’ve ever had by a mile – I’ve been reading the papers this weekend. Lots of stuff to point out to you:

1. Terrific long piece in the NYT today by Nicolai Ouroussoff featuring ideas for urban investment in America. Concrete (mmm) ideas here about both what sort of projects might be taken up, and even better a suggestion toward the end about how the funding might work:

I am also a fan of a National Infrastructure Bank, an idea that was first proposed by the financiers Felix Rohatyn and Everett Ehrlich.

The bank would function something like a domestic World Bank, financing large-scale undertakings like subways, airports and harbor improvements. Presumably it would be able to funnel money into the more sustainable, forward-looking projects. It could also establish a review process similar to the one created by the government’s General Services Administration in the mid-1990s, which attracted some of the country’s best talents to design federal courthouses and office buildings. Lavishing similar attention on bridges, pump stations, trains, public housing and schools would not only be a significant step in rebuilding a sense of civic pride; it would also prove that our society values the public infrastructure that binds us together as much as it values, say, sheltering the rich.

2. A little snippet appeared in the Saturday Guardian’s “This Week in Books” column that, had I missed it, might well have seriously messed up some writing I will do in the near future.

These days, the Parisian intellectual is commonly seen on both sides of the Channel as a species on the fast track to extinction. But there are still enough of these old dinosaurs roaming the Left Bank to cause a noisy literary scandal. This is what happened after the recent publication of two journals by Roland Barthes, the philosopher and critic who died in 1980. The publishers of Carnets du Voyage en Chine (“Notebooks of a Journey to China”) and Journal de Deuil (“Diary of Mourning”) have been attacked because these unfinished texts were never meant for publication and allegedly reveal intimate secrets about Barthes’s private life. His admirers are arguing loudly that these secrets undermine his authority as a thinker.

It’s true that the China book places Barthes closer to Russell Brand than his more high-minded peers. The diary of a “fact-finding” trip to China that Barthes made in the company of like-minded Mao fans in 1974, it begins with the author moaning Pooterishly about the airline food and a stain on his new trousers. The tour is a dreary round of ping-pong matches and choir-singing. Not surprisingly, on a trip to see Buddhist statues in Henan province, the author’s attention wanders. Contemplating his imminent return to Paris, he laments: “I won’t have seen the ‘kiki’ of a single Chinese man.”

The novelist Philippe Sollers – a fellow traveller on the expedition in every sense – has been quick to defend Barthes’s point of view here as “heroically political”, a comment on sexual repression in Mao’s China. Others have been less kind, pointing out that the word “kiki” is rarely used by anyone of either sex over the age of 11. The veteran wit Raphaël Sorin has likened the text to an unworthy parody. Angriest of all is Barthes’s former editor François Wahl, who has launched a fierce attack on the publishers and talked of a betrayal of the real Barthes.

Barthes’s 1974 trip to China is going to be a pivotal moment in the monograph I’m going to write after I finally finish my dissertation book. Luckily, the above doesn’t at all contradict the thing that I’m going to say about it. No, rather, it’s, um, material confirmation of just what I was thinking. Good…

3. Also in the Guardian‘s Saturday review was a fine piece by Brian Dillon on Chris Marker’s La Jetée of 1962 and Marker’s career as a whole. Here’s La Jetée, in case you’ve never seen it….


4. Lots of reviews of Geoff Dyer’s Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, including this one. Just ordered it after a valiant attempt to purchase said volume the honorable way at my local (and largely useless) bookseller. So that makes the grand total for the weekend (ugh this is bad): the Dyer novel, the new Paul Muldoon, the Barthes bit on China, Marker’s Immemory DVD, Harold Pinter’s Plays (Vol. 2), Dyer’s The Ongoing Moment, Xiaolu Guo’s 20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth (I like Chinese fiction, like stories about “making it in China,” especially like reading them now that the entire machine is running in reverse.) I was also given The Watchmen, Chekhov’s Plays, and an edition of Longinus (I think I was given the last two – Pollian left them on the desk in the guestroom when he departed…) Jesus. I always do this at the start of the summer. I don’t, per se, read during the school year, so there’s this spike of ambition that happens and I buy a shitload of books.

5. Where did the Guardian’s Saturday “Writers’ Room” feature go? I can’t imagine that they’re discontinuing it. Here’s the one for Dyer, while we’re on the subject, from a little ways back. (As a Canadian national – CANUSA dual citizen – I was seriously thrown by the “Don Cherry” thing in that article… Is he once of us, I thought? But it must be another Don Cherry, right… Just to keep things clear, I’m going to put a photo of the real DC over my desk at the university the next time I’m there…) Anyway, maybe they’re just taking the week off with the feature – or they’ve run out of writers to call up and annoy. I think I’m especially fascinated by these rooms lately because (as I’ve grumbled about many times) I don’t have a writers’ room of my own. I’ve included an image of my, erm, workspace before, and here’s one of my current home library:

6. IT’s not a newspaper, but she has posted a very good paper by Jeff Kinkle and Alberto Toscano on The Wire. More to say on this when I have time….

7. This “op-art” in the NYT by Miranda Purves and Jason Logan is worth looking at….

In the weeks before the M.T.A. vote, the artist Jason Logan and I spent a lot of time on the buses and subways that, unless the state steps in with a last-minute rescue package, will soon be gone or severely cut back. We met people whose jobs or health depended on their routes; we met some who simply didn’t want to walk far in the cold. Many — and it seemed often those most dependent — were unaware that their means of transportation could disappear.

Both Jason and I have always been drawn to this phenomenon of people, behaving for the most part civilly, getting from here to there, side by side. And we wanted to find some way to convey the less tangible costs of service cuts and fare hikes. Here (pdf), large X’s are adults; small x’s are children.

8. An interesting piece in the Observer today by Tristram Hunt on the long history of attacking banks here in London. I doubt I’ll make it out to any of the fun, wish I could, wish I could….

Written by adswithoutproducts

March 29, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Posted in barthes, criticism

barthes blogging

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From this excellent book, on Roland Barthes’s “Chronique” column that ran in the Nouvel Observateur for three months toward the end of his life, from December 1978 to March 1979.

Each column comprised an average of four separately titled and unconnected entries ranging from a few lines to a couple of substantial paragraphs. In each case Barthes gave his reactions to a few things that had caught his attention that week, for example, in the first column, a book about Leni Riefenstahl, an encounter at the hairdresser’s, media coverage of the collective suicides of a sect in Guyana, and a rumor that Mayor Chirac planned to outlaw busking.

[…]

On 26 March 1978 Barthes’s readers were confronted with a single entry announcing a temporary suspension of his column that would in fact prove permanent. In ‘Pause’ Barthes outlines very lucidly what he had been trying to achieve and then explains why he feels he failed. Scotching the rumor that he was trying to resurrect Mythologies, Barthes insists that his ‘Chronique’ was an experiment, a quest for a new form of writing that would be deliberately brief, minor, and gentle, whilst at the same time political. In fact the political and moral chanrge would come from this deliberate doceur, aimed at contrasting with the overheated clamour of surrounding discourses. For Barthes, to use the pages of a political weekly to talk about incidents that had struck him that week, ‘mes scoops à moi’ (my personal scoops), was to counteract the scale of values imposed by the press’s obsession with big events. To risk talking about ‘le ténu, le futile, l’insignificant’, is to change the scale […] the media should make room for ‘weak’ events that nevertheless point to real malaises.

He even, it seems, understood what the problem is with blogging:

“The flaw is that for every incident I bring up I feel myself drawn (by what power – or weakness?) to give it a meaning (social, moral, aesthetic, etc.) to have the last word.” What prevents the columns from embodying the kind of writing Barthes had dreamt of is the seemingly irresistable tendency to moralize, to make a point, to have the last word, to lay down the law (even if it is one’s own).

Written by adswithoutproducts

July 10, 2008 at 2:14 pm

Posted in barthes, everyday