Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Gift of Giving

I came across this very odd article on the BBC today. Apparently, the nation is enraptured by an advert for a department store in which a little kid counts down the days, the hours and the minutes until he can give his parents a present on Christmas Day. You see, he's not counting down the days, the hours and the minutes until he can rip the wrapping paper off of the little red fire engine he has been begging and pleading for since September. No. Not like the little brat that you (dear parents) have to put up with. This cherubim has only goodness in his heart and wants nothing but the gift of giving.

If you believe the PR puff, actual grown-ups, the men and women you see walking around town and who you talk to at your place of work, have openly confessed to crying at the sight of this manipulative marketing claptrap.

Is this where we have arrived at as a nation? Welcome to 21st century Britain, where an advert for a shop has the power to make people weep.

There is no doubt that the 'reaction' has been staged managed very well. When the 'campaign' was being dreamt up in a corporate boardroom, the executives would have probably cried themselves if you had told them about all of the media attention their simple little advert would attract. The 'event' has been planned to perfection by a very shrewd marketing team (and now I am adding to the frenzy), so well done to them.

That, of course, is all boring business as usual and to be expected. What I find more troubling, more strange is the write up on the BBC. The clear, clipped, corporate prose has all of the bland certainty of a copywriter and is akin to something cooked up by the advertising company's own PR department.

To what is the BBC dedicating valuable pixels, in its role as a public service broadcaster? Not a film, a song, a book or a play, but an advert. *sigh*

For all I known, the filmmakers who produced this mini-epic are worthy of the praise and attention their opus is now receiving. I had remained blissfully ignorant of this cultural 'happening' until Charlie Brooker wrote about it in Monday's Guardian. But, why, in this new media age, is an advert garnering such a high level of attention?

The triumph of commerce over culture (or commerce elevated to the status of culture) is bad enough but the clever campaign is still more insidious than that. As the BBC article points out, 'True to anything that becomes an instant hit on the web, the ad has already spawned a number of online spoofs. The most popular take has been to keep the ad but change the music to something from a chilling movie. There is the "Shining" version which features spooky organ music, and the Se7en version which is accompanied by dialogue from the 1995 thriller.'

The sad truth is that these 'anarchic' attempts to 're-contextualise' the advert, by casting it as something other than what it is, are only helping the monster to grow. The spoofers, the spammers and the pisstakers are doing the work of the marketing men, helping the advert to reach a still wider demographic who will associate the brand with the outré and anti-establishment sentiments implanted by their friends. It is little wonder why 'John Lewis chiefs don't appear too bothered by the spoofs - after all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery', the BBC reminds us, helpfully.

To resist is like fighting against The Blob or a stinking bog, the more you fight, the more slime, the stronger the enemy becomes.

Don't struggle, it'll be over soon.lunarpark.blogspot.com - The Gift of Giving - Keyword description


Post a Comment

<< Home