Advertising is everywhere.
Perhaps as a result of its sheer, deafening ubiquity, advertising is often characterized as a confident, knowing beast, operating upon you in ways that you’ll never know.
Advertising is clever — it’s subtle — and if it’s accorded any flaw it’s usually that of sleaziness, of inhumanity.
Advertising is powerful. Advertising can tell you what to think.
Advertising can control you.
We were stunned when this thing rolled by. Locating ourselves, like we do, as the powerless drones upon whom advertising is realized, we just didn’t know how to read this calibre of design.
Let’s start with the subject: it’s not immediately apparent who or what is behind this advert. We can only really be sure who it’s not, and that’s Don Draper.
BERMUDA is at once too unmediated and too broad a target, but you assume it’s the tourist board. And yet the quality of this ad is totally incongruous with how I’d conceive an official body communicating, or wanting to communicate, itself.
The tagline isn’t even nonsense. Feel the love.
Probably the most striking thing about this ad is the shorts. They’re weird, the idea is goofy, and the gradient colouring exacerbates the fact that they look like the free clip-art from Publisher 95 .
Then there’s that tiny corner of ocean, teasingly severed like a naughty peek at Bermuda’s pubes. It’s the only bit of photo-realistic texture on the whole creature, which comes as a relief when you eventually find it. But it also contrasts with the raw pink of the rest of the body, which comes as two fluorescent fingers down your salmony throat.
The pink itself actually makes sense when you go to the Department’s website; they’re pitching their place as a ‘pink-sand paradise’. Indeed, the pink is the only part of the vehicle that functions as an advertisement; not, unfortunately, because it’s in any way recognized as pink-sand (I think ‘irascible-prawn‘), but rather because it contrasts with THE REST OF THE WORLD.
Could it be that eye-catching was chosen over (and in opposition to) eye pleasing? That the design was overruled by the ability to attract attention? And further still, if this wasn’t a decisive preference — does it work?
* * *
At least the Bermuda ad made us smile. It’s quite sweet, after all, and for me its tyranny seems about as distant as its subject.
But once you see bad design implemented on that kind of scale (read: outdoors), the whole idea of advertising as a singular — or at least homogeneous — authority starts to fall away. People made these. And it’s not just about the sore thumbs that stick out like irascible-prawns, it’s about how uninspired, unimpressive, and generally just boring ads are.Of course, different ads try to reach out to different victims. This one, I have been advised, is aimed at kids. Equally, there are different relationships to the victim that advertisements adopt. Some try to ally themselves with you, or convince you to improve yourself. Some, like the above, are simply poster-like. They compete through presence, or refer to another ad in another medium. Who knows, maybe BERMUDA has an accompanying TV ad, or PowerPoint presentation, that contextualizes everything.
Then there’s the influx of contemporary ads which communicate the idea that This is an ad, or We know this is an ad, or Advertising is pretty heinous, isn’t it (typically as advert-victim camaraderie). I’d say that, in the cases which convey these notions, it is indeed more about the extent of attention gained than the quality of the production. Anything with standards floppy enough to let such apologetic compulsions past is limited solely to being read, and anything that trades against its own function has already foregone the majority of its message to such differentiation and distancing.
As a highwayman, as a citizen of public space, as a wayfarer of brainwaves, you start to realize how disenfranchised you are.
You also realize your ass has a better slogan than most of these campaigns. You just wouldn’t know how to spell it.