Sunday, August 26, 2012

Invisible Ads

Picking on the advertising industry is a little like shooting sloths in a barrel.  But when they keep offering themselves up for light-hearted critique, who am I to argue?

Ads in the old days used to be simple.  The TV would show you a picture of the product, a man with a loud voice would tell you to Buy Now To Avoid Disappointment, and you would (but usually still be disappointed).  The point is, you KNEW what you were buying and what it was supposed to do.

Just recently there have been a number of ads on Aussie TV that have been less than forthcoming about what it is that they are advertising and what they expect you to do about it.

Example: Qantas.  Thankfully the schoolgirl choirs have been put back in the closet and (for a year at least) "I Still Call Australia Home" has been silenced from public broadcast.  But one thing that the old ad had going for it of planes!  The ad invited us to gaze up at the Aussie sky, always on the lookout for that red-tailed symbol of hope and patriotism streaking across the sky.  If the Kangaroo was soaring, then we all could soar in our own way.  What other airline could there be for us Colonial Scum?  NOW however there is not a plane in sight!  Not even a jetstream.  Instead (accompanied by the classical wanderings of Daniel Johns), the viewer looks down from on high at ordinary citizens going about their everyday business, not even thinking about the miracle of flight taking place right above their heads.  But Qantas will always be there, for the airline is now a Service.  Something that will be there in times of trouble. But the Individual is now at the centre with the airline looking in.  You would be forgiven for thinking it was a Tourism Australia ad.

Now, this is OK because Qantas is a reasonably cuddly company (unless you're an airline mechanic or a baggage handler).  If the average Australian takes one trip a year on a Qantas plane they're not doing too badly.

Sadly, another ad shows that this Invisible Product trend on our screens is far from benign.  During the Olympics a new ad for Crown emerged...

A footman leads the viewer of a tour of a Typical Crown Resort.  We pass through ballrooms, kitchens, luxury suites.  Attention is drawn to the large numbers of people Crown is employing and training (implication: A successful Crown makes a successful Country).  We're invited to think, "You know, that looks like a great place to spend a relaxing/romantic getaway."

What's missing?  Poker Machines.

Lots and lots of poker machines.

Apart from one coy reference to "gaming", there is little to suggest in the advert that Crown is in fact a very large and powerful chain of casinos.  All the wonderful images of the ad are really the garnish next to the steak.  The whole aim of Crown is to fleece as much money out of their guests pockets as is legally possible in the shortest amount of time.  What Crown are in effect selling is not an opportunity for a comfortable retreat.  They are selling a corporate whitewash of their record of targeting the most vulnerable in society (the working class, pensioners, new migrants, and gambling addicts) and robbing them blind.

I know that advertisers get a positive hit from a Reveal.  But nothing is being revealed in Crown's ad, and with a product that continues to do so much damage to our society I think there is a model obligation for this industry to advertise itself honestly.

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