After years of having advertising pushed at me during almost every waking minute, and trying to deny that it affects me in any way whatsoever, I finally have to own up to a disturbing talent for spotting those standard photographic images that accompany advertisements time and time again. And again.
For instance, we’re all familiar with the men in pants advertisements (or, if you like, those pictures that have become known as the ‘home shopping catalogue shots’). Two men, mustering everything within their macho expressions in order to look as defiantly non-homoerotic as they can, stand next to each other in nothing but their pants, whilst one of them narrows his eyes and points at something in the middle distance.
Since these two strapping and manly blokes — not gay, remember, definitely not gay — are standing out in the middle of the open countryside, the one with his hand in the air is probably pointing towards that woman standing a few feet away on the public footpath, as she screams in horror at the sight of two men in nothing but their underwear posing in a field next to a herd of cows. Well, you would, wouldn’t you?
Then, this evening, as I was yet again mulling over the thorny issue of whether to get broadband at home (and no, I still haven’t decided), I happened upon a photograph on the Pipex site. It was another case of instant recognition, because it was the kind of image that I’ve seen a thousand times before: a woman smiling brightly in the foreground, whilst two less colourful figures lurk in the shadows eyeing her with immense suspicion, and possibly a little jealousy.
Those people — and in the Pipex photo I’m particularly thinking of the man who is rubbing his chin thoughtfully — are obviously whispering to each other, “Hmm, what’s her secret? Why is she so smiley and happy, but we look so dull and miserable?”
Normally, of course, the reason for her annoying jollity would be the artificial scent of the Impulse body spray that she’s recently squirted onto herself, or the fact that she’s wearing new formula super-absorbent Bodyform, or even that she’s got a wonderful new ring of confidence. But no, in this case, she’s beaming so radiantly because she’s got broadband whilst, presumably, the people behind her are still connecting to the internet via their slow, creaking dial-up connections. What sad, meaningless, empty little lives they must lead.
It would, however, be entirely possible to copy this picture and use it to sell almost anything you want.
“Why is she looking so pleased with herself?”
“Well, she has Hellman’s mayonnaise in her sandwiches, whereas we’ve only got stale bread with a thin slithering of peanut butter.”
“Why is she always smiling in that infuriating way?”
“It’s because she’s got the love of the Lord Jesus Christ in her life, whereas we’re just good-for-nothing heathens who are going to burn in hell for eternity.”
“Have you noticed her irritating cheesy grin?”
“Yes, and do you know the reason for it? It’s because she’s got broadband, so now she can download movie files ten times faster from that dodgy Romanian website that we’ve been trying to access unsuccessfully from work.”
Proof that there’s nothing new in advertising, then.