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Home > Media

Adverjism: The Future is Shite

11 October 2005

If you've got a mobile phone to flog, you must after a few years of intense post-modern peddling be approaching some psychotic state of desperation, staring into an abyss of idealessness. Everyone living has a mobile - most people couldn't give a toss what it does as long as it makes calls, is small enough so as to keep its owner socially acceptable and large enough to be seen by the naked eye. Some people even keep the same mobile for more than six months, the capricious bastards. How to reel them in like the dead-eyed rotting fish-in-a-barrel they are? Make like 3, find a new universe in your own arse, and vanish therein to the bemusement of all who watch.

Mobile phone advertising has become some sort of perverse over-thought in-joke that only other burning-out ad execs truly get. 3 have produced a string of smug, baffling ads that are intermittently pretty, but mostly just a horrid bag of invasive nothing. The current one involves some translucent pulsing squidgy things being illictly passed around some orgasmic Oriental women, infuriating in its lazy weird-for-the-sake-of-weirdness and its frankly pervy undertone (the holes! See the *holes*!). Of course it's all about brand recognition, and bollocks to whether or not anyone actually goes for the product, or gleans any scant detail as to what the product is, for that matter. You can choose whether or not to buy what's being advertised, but it's hard to evade being impregnated with
awareness. It's like some expensive remake of Alien, only gorier and with more screaming. This new-ish strand of super-manipulation seems to have propelled mobile ad-men into a new layer of Hicks-banished hell.

Orange were one of the most successful executors of the suspenseful what-the-hell-is-it campaign, implanting its logo into the national psyche months ahead of revealing its purpose. Last month they had their wrists slapped by the ASA for misleading their customers over a free-minutes deal. Now they're aiming to out-3 their rivals with a TV campaign that seems meant to actually mislay customers. The first - admittedly dreamy, striking and perfectly-composed - tells us this is the New York blackout, 14th August 2003. Beatific souls drift about, swopping candles and rediscovering the neighbours they never used to see in the light. It's like some idyll of harmony and understanding. 'Sometimes things need to switch off... for people to switch on,' croons the voiceover. Followed by the quiet lower-case strapline, 'good things can happen when your phone's off'. It's priceless. Where logically you'd think there would be panic, disorientation and looting of the pants from one's very arse, there is peace. Where in a sane and rational world you'd expect advertisers to encourage you to use their product, there is some passive exhortation to remove its battery and hurl same skywards. It's a revolution in counter-intuitive... er... let's just say we're pioneering anti-advertising. Next.

The second spot takes us to Rio in 1997, where Renato the street cleaner is doing an honest day's soul-sucking grind. As the carnival shimmies by, he starts to dance like a loon. Someone films him, and before you know it he's a national hero. 'One day he's a street cleaner - next day he's the biggest thing in Brazil,' says the voiceover through its horrid nose. They even name a street after him. A street in what is clearly a slum, with 'Rue de Renato' scrawled in scavenged felt tip on cardboard. At the end Renato is sweeping, futilely, in the pouring rain, and grinning like idiocy squared. 'It just goes to show,' intones voice, 'whenever you've got something to say - just say it. Why? Because You Never Know.'

Yes, it's evocative, yes, it creates an association; yes, yes, yes. But - but - after all the gabblingly insane ad rationale has boiled away and the skilful imagery is filed neatly in your gaping head, what remains is; these people are using a street cleaner who lives in a gruesome Brazilian shanty to sell a shiny new phone. Which is just... utterly unclean. It's patronising and noxious. Thank the lord, then, for the new Guinness ad - stunning and funny and clearly discernable of point, and totally human. Orange with its lower-case, low-highbrow arsery is hardly that anymore - its advertising DNA has more in common with a crab. Or maybe a giant jellyfish hanging from a ceiling.

Watch it and weep.

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