"The history of advertising yo-yo’s between hard and soft sell. During hard times we get the hard sell, during affluent times the soft.Until we got video,cable, and the remote control, we could observe the yo-yoing in approximately fifteen-year cycles. Hard or soft, however, the one thing advertising has not been ironic. But it seems to me that irony is becoming more and more a staple of Adcult and that irony is the deflation of Adcult. This irony often becomes parody, as if the only way to get through the clutter is to give up the charade and come out in front of the curtain.
This "I’m your pal" persona collapses the usual voice of advertising, which is the strict "I’m your doctor, I know what’s best for you." The ads on MTV and inRolling Stone preview the future of selling to a generation that has been sold out. Although "Perception is reality" is certainly true, ads need not acknowledge that, let alone flaunt it. In giving up the guise of defied expertise to assume the new role of wise-cracking buddy, advertising may not be throwing in the towel, but it is coming close. Priests wear back robes for a reason.
To be sure, this dropping of the facade is the result of horizontal and vertical saturation. All this generation sees , and has ever seen, is endless advertising. If you want to be noticed, you now have to sell so softly that the product is almost overlooked. The product is no longer the hero; it is often not even a participant. The mystery is gone. As is typical of post modernism, the authorial voice often gains attention by confessing its presence and admitting base motives from the get-go. Many of the ads on MTV -post modern television, it calls itself- follow this path to the audience.
Here is a series of three Bugle Boy ads from DDB Needham Worldwide (N.Y) that aired on MTV recently. For thirty seconds we see pneumatic, bikini-clad women frolicking across the upper two-thirds of the screen.The spots are made with rock video techniques, quick cutting, weird angles, and abrupt close-ups. Scrolling across the lower third is the text, which runs in white against black. Here is what it says;
"Attention all guys. This is a commercial for Bugle Boy’s new Color Denims. At least that is what we told Bugle Boy. They wanted to show a bunch of male models. We said showing nothing but beautiful women would work better. So if this is the sort of thing you want to see more of,buy some Color Denims. Otherwise Bugle Boy will force us to put men in the commercials. Like this ........None of us want that. Do we?" "Attention all guys. Although Bugle Boy is pleased by our response to the first commercial, they are still not convinced you know enough about their new Color Denims. We told them showing nothing but beautiful women should subliminally convince you the product is available in many colors and styles. Of course they’ll probably check. So if anyone asks, tell them you understood. Otherwise, we’ll be forced to put men back in the commercials .....Not a pretty picture is it?" "Attention all guys. First the bad news. Bugle Boy is demanding we show their new Color Denims in this commercial. Now the good news. Nobody said we had to put them on men. "
Although the trading of soft porn for soft sell is how jeans are sold,the premise of the ad agency in active collusion with the male viewers is startling. The quid pro quo is not implied, it is stated. If you’ll buy the product, we’ll show you what you want, and we’ll keep running the ads as long as you keep purchasing. The product is not the hero,the ad agency is. No need to buy the jeans because you like them. Buy them because you like these pictures."