Full frontal psychoanalytic symbols?
Does this billboard (photographed at a bus shelter just outside of the Hoboken, NJ PATH station) hold the record for the largest number of Freudian symbols in one image? There’s the plush yellow carpet that highlights the model’s hair. Then there are the pink flowers with the curved, undulating petals and the stems inserted into the water-filled vase. There also is the pair of oval glasses with a pair of oval slices of lemon. The collection finishes up with low-hanging fruit.
Scrutinizing the photo, it’s not certain what the yellow hue in the window is. Sunlight? A reflection of the floor? When walking by I had the impression that the yellow area was a drape. That brought to mind the wisecacre comment concerning window treatments-rug color coordination.
I first thought that the bucket of Libido fuel being thrown on the Id fire of passers-by was meant — through a subliminal stratagem — to generate (heterosexual male) interest in the ad. This excitement would then — as is the Pavlovian standard in many liquor ads — be associated with the product. I later learned that Absolut sponsored an edgy little faux retro flick — Lemon Drop — that the poster was supposed to promote. Is the concatenation of sexual hints meant to be a sort of Sigmund Hirschfeld collection of Ninas? An adult version of “How many faces are in this picture?”
Absolut wanted the Lemon Drop video to go viral, but it seems not to have achieved the intended momentum. The URL printed in the billboard only comes up as SERVICE UNAVAILABLE.
BTW, the reflection of the building and the glare are just that — artifacts of poor lighting.
The images above are of a billboard in Jersey City west of the Holland Tunnel. These photos were taken on 12/24/10, nearly two months after the Hoboken bus shelter shoot. The featured Web Site is still down, but now forwards to the generic Facebook login Page. As it seems that Absolut abandoned the Internet movie feature, it’s curious that they persist with the advertising.
In 1974 I saw a slide presentation given by an American who had visited China, which had been terra incognita until only a couple of years before. She showed images of Chinese shops selling American and European-style women’s clothes. The traveler also presented photos of people walking about the streets – all in Mao suits. The explanation was that the Chinese women wore the colorful garb underneath the drab uniforms.
Why have Harleys become popular with the well-to-do? Might this be an inverse of the Chinese practice of forty years ago? Could Americans today be using a symbol of rebellion to hide an internalized grey flannel conformity?
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From the Hell’s Angels
By Hunter S. Thompson
The story of Harley-Davidson and the domestic motorcycle market is one of the gloomiest chapters in the history of American free enterprise. At the end of World War II there were less than 200,000 motorcycles registered in the United States, very few of them imports. During the 1950s, while H-D was consolidating its monopoly, bike sales doubled and then tripled. Harley had a gold mine on its hands – until 1962-63, when the import blitz began. By 1964 registrations had jumped to nearly 1,000,000 and lightweight Hondas were selling as fast as Japanese freighters could bring them over the ocean. The H-D brain trust was still pondering this oriental duplicity when they were zapped on the opposite flank by Birmingham Small Arms, Ltd., of England. BSA (which also makes Triumphs) decided to challenge Harley on its own turf and in its own class, despite the price-boosting handicap of a huge protective tariff. By 1965, with registrations already up 50 percent over the previous year, the H-D monopoly was sorely beset on two fronts. The only buyers they could count on were cops and outlaws, while the Japanese were mopping up in the low-price field and BSA was giving them hell on the race track. By 1966, with the bike boom still growing, Harley was down to less than 10 percent of the domestic market and fighting to hold even that.
. . .
There is surely some powerful lesson in the failure of Harley-Davidson to keep pace with a market they once controlled entirely. It is impossible to conceive of a similar situation in the automobile market. What if Ford, for instance, had been the only American manufacturer of autos at the end of World War II? Could they have lost more than 90 percent of the market by 1965? A monopoly with a strong protective tariff should be in a commanding position even in the Yo-Yo market. How would the Yo-Yo king feel if he were stripped, in less than a decade, of all his customers except Hell’s Angels and cops?
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As if spotting someone in the crowd, the mechanical women’s eyes flash interest.
The Svedka Vodka female robot ads are frequently seen in open – and not so open – air advertising galleries: billboards, buses, bus stop shelters, phone booths, and subway stations.
A common technique of liquor advertising is Pavlovian conditioning with the use of images of scantily-clad women as the primary stimulus. In close proximity to the affable young lady will be a picture of a bottle of an alcoholic beverage. In the same way that attention is drawn to the ad, the excitement will then link to the brand. Through this training, the consumer prefers a certain product.
Competition presents an immediate complication. How do you get men to look at your bikini girl poster in a public space filled with images of similar free spirits? One way that advertisers attempt to make the images increasingly interesting is by decreasing the clothing. The Cabana Cachaça magazine ad model’s high heels and a tan line demonstrate that there is a limit to this sequence. And in the interest of the safety of pedestrians – if not the public morals laws – outdoor advertisers must stop the display of skin at some point well before this reductio ad somethingorother is reached. Standing head and shoulders (and with nearly every other part of their gleaming anatomy) over all rivals, the Svedka bot girls are the solution to this problem. Since stainless steel women don’t wear clothes, nobody will be shocked by any amount of exposed sheet metal – but the idea comes through all the same.
There are other advantages, too. No one seems to mind a metal Ms. being treated as a sex object. After all, a robot is an object. And with metallic grey skin (plus just a hint of rouge or a blush signaling attraction) basically the same color as the Svedka bottle, the fembot is not just associated with the product. The feminine machine essentially is the goddess or spirit of the brand, dea ex machina.
I do see a drawback to the pinup girl liquor ads. Much marketing is based on either faulty polls or the faulty interpretation of polls. As their surveys show men making the overwhelming majority of alcoholic beverage purchases, the companies use “cheesecake” ads. The error is in failing to realize that men do what women tell them to do. If a wife or girlfriend sends a man to the liquor store to fetch a bottle of rum, gin, scotch, or wine, no landscape full of ruby-lipped robots will convince him to do anything else. And if is to be vodka and orange, how can a significant other be expected to invite Svedka?
A Svedka Vodka fembot billboard photographed at night
Though the breasts are partially hidden by the text and the derriere
stops at the margin, the unconscious will fill in the blanks.
As an attention grabber, some “cherry” billboards / posters are designed to appear vandalized — including you know whose. So, perhaps the real deal might be worth a look-see:
Ron English – Popaganda – Street Art
Back in 2008, I ran into Ron English one morning. (Ron then lived around the corner from me in Jersey City.) I asked him what he thought about billboards that are designed to appear “modified.” His reply: “I’m not surprised. They (advertisers) always steal the best ideas.”
National Malaise CURED!
– – –
Winter Wonder Brand
By MICHAEL IGNATIEFF
A version of the article appeared in print on February 7, 2010, on page 9 of the New York Times Sunday Magazine.
. . .
The Olympics have done their part in replacing war with sport as the way nations earn respect. Modern nations compete by branding their identities, and hosting the Olympic Games is the biggest branding opportunity a nation ever gets. . . .
. . .
The Olympics are branding Canada to the world, but they are also branding Canada to Canadians. At first we grumbled about the cost and did not take ownership of the whole expensive spectacle. But as soon as the Olympic torch relays began this fall, Canadians started lining the route by the thousands to see Olympians and other local heroes carrying the torch aloft through their communities. From Alert, the northernmost community on earth, to the American border and from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island, the torch relay has brought the country alive and brought it together.
. . .
# # #
An article on the Olympics and national branding with no mention of Leni Riefenstahl? And – with the exception of Maestra Riefenstahl’s rule-proving exception of Berlin – has any Olympics projected anything except a small, small world Disney mish-mash of diversity?