My anger management has been going well, thank you very much. Even christmas music doesn’t rile me. Only one thing of late has disturbed my legendary seasonal bonhomie and general goodwill-to-all-bastards demeanour.
And that is obviously-hyperbolic advertising. We all understand the tropes of advertising so, of course, tell me that what you’re peddling is better than your competitors’ offerings while it’s actually identical; naturally, I understand that your product is consumed by pants-moisteningly attractive people and that, if I use it too, I will be considered to be attractive. That’s all fair enough.
No, I’m talking about the ludicrously unrelated association of mundane products with high concepts: imagine if toilet paper were marketed as preserving democracy, that kind of thing.
Exhibit one, the televisual rectal cyst that roused me from my semi-pissed slumber last night to begin foaming at the mouth, is the £3m ‘freedom’ ad campaign for LG (watch it if you really need to).
Cue a film of a small baby swimming in water (all very Nevermind); “the day we are born is the last day we are truly free” intones SeriousVoiceoverMan. “Before you know it, we’re boxed in; held back; constrained” he continues over images of cubicle farms, ranks of desks. Tantalisingly he asks “What if we knew we were free to go further?” over sunny visuals of flowers opening, wide open vistas, and a gratuitous pretty women in a bikini being hosed down.
So, that’s the set-up. We can see by this point that whatever it is they want you to buy is inextricably linked with the concept of “freedom”. Never mind that the ad agency’s idea of freedom is being submerged insensible in warm amniotic fluid and strapped immobile to a placenta (all very The Matrix with a dash of Oedipus complex: rather sinister, if you think about it).
In Adland, freedom usually means cars or tampons. Tampons because, as Mrs Pankhurst would have told you, women never feel truly free unless they’re swimming or wearing white trousers while simultaneously menstruating and risking toxic shock syndrome. The way to advertise cars is to remind us of the single USP of the car (you can go where you want whenever you want) that is shared by every motor vehicle, while insinuating that flooring the accelerator of the Audi Mingé is the act of an eco-warrior that does the planet a favour.
Back to the product. Tampon or Motor? Neither. Our advert is for an LG television. Now, I have nothing against televisions. I was recently persuaded by my family to purchase one the size of Luxembourg and I spend many an hour balefully peering at it. During those periods of stupefaction, I have concluded that TV has three primary purposes:
- It’s the best way to find out who the government requires us to hate at the moment.
- When used in conjunction with a games console, it’s invaluable for stimulating endorphins and adrenaline in your children without them having to go anywhere. This negates the risk of their being touched up by one or all of the 4.9 million rampant paedophiles who are roaming YOUR TOWN right now. It also means they never need move, accumulating body mass until they die aged 50 of diabetes and obesity thereby saving the nation a fortune in medical care.
- It’s perfect for married couples to avoid speaking to each other. Instead, they can watch Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks pretending to be in love, just like they thought they were before transient sexual attraction cooled to become festering resentment and then crusted into mutual contempt.
I’m a coward. I wouldn’t have opposed fascism, put a flower down the barrel of a soldier’s gun and certainly wouldn’t have mustered up the courage to stand in front of a Tienanmen tank. But even a happy Epsilon minus like me understands that a big TV does not equate to the concept of liberty.
In fact, the ad is like Orwell for lazy people. Freedom isn’t slavery in this hyperbolic hyperbollocks, but Freedom is passivity. Be free! Be free to absorb more advertising like this! The obsequious marketing media reports (seemingly without irony) some lovely doublethink from George Mead, the LG brand manager who says
the TV, print and online campaign aims to promote LG Electronics as ‘refreshing and sophisticated’ … Mead said LG was trying to ‘dumb down its marketing’ to make it simple and educate consumers.
In other words: advertising people are clever. Consumers are stupid. TV=freedom.
(Part two: “More stupidly hyperbolic advertising” )