Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Finding Art In The Terrible Advertisements Of 2013


Adverts are supposed to deliver us striking images in order to get us to buy their things. The images they show however, for reasons that I'm sure stems from the steady self destruction of the modern attention span, are becoming increasingly irrelevant to the product that they're trying to sell. Advertising worries me even further because I imagine that the people in charge of making these have done some sort of psychological experiments and come to the conclusion that the human mind is most effectively sold the idea of going to buy meaningless household items from John Lewis by watching a short animated film about a tired bear and an overly emotional hair to a cover song by Lilly Allen.

Personally I didn't think my mind worked that way but John Lewis has given me and everyone else in England a psyche exam, of which the results prove that we are consumerist emotional wrecks.

But I'm not going to talk about how ridiculous or how predictably sentimental this year's Christmas adverts have turned out in the bid to get us to buy more stuff, since that is a subject that will be covered in what I'm assuming will become an annual Christmas article; an article where we look at what should be a wonderful winter festival through the lens of the shit heads and greed stricken grabloids that make up most of human kind around this time of year.

So anyway back to the point, I was wondering around Sainsburys the other day and saw quite a strange thing. Around the frozen meat section there was an advert for gravy which was pretty inconspicuous and had my mind not been exhausted through sleeplessness and yet being thumped into life by the ceaseless intake of cheap energy drinks, then I probably wouldn't have given it a second thought other than to think it looked stupid. The picture was for a brand of gravy that I can't now remember and remain unable to find, which leads me to believe that it may have just been possibly the most incredibly boring message from God. Aside from the logo plastered over the image though, I looked beyond the words and to the actual picture itself. Shown was a chef looking outwards towards the audience, holding a gravy boat above his head and pouring it, without ever taking his eye off of you, down into a bowl that rested at his feet.

Without the context of trying to sell me gravy, I just found this to be such a strange image, one that if it hadn't of been an advert and had I been walking around an art gallery, as I'm prone to do when I go to holiday destinations where I begin to run out of activities, I would've thought this was an expression about something other than gravy. Of course adverts try and have weird striking imagery all the time, much like the gorilla playing the drums from that Cadbury's advert that every idiot on the planet seemed to think was the best thing ever. Weird adverts are very memorable and could quite happily be mistaken for not having been adverts at all, but instead works of art, if they were outside of that advertising context. But of course, that's by design that they're made this way so you'll remember the product in conjunction with its strangeness.

What I wanted was the middle ground. The gravy advert zone. The place where advertising isn't trying to be striking or strange, but simply creates an image that, if separated from the product it's referring to, takes on a whole different tone. 

Below are the adverts from 2013, that I think separated from their source could be quite happily placed along any piece of modern art as an expression of the human condition. I have written the source of their adverts and then my proposed title for the piece which I would put up for artistic scrutiny. And for a thing that was invented by a dead minded committee struggling desperately to scrabbling at whatever idea they can reap from their dried up minds in order to sell trinkets to the wider stupid public, fighting off desperately their inevitable redundancy that snaps at their heels at the threat of most people being able to do their jobs; that isn't a half bad achievement.

Sky Advert – 'Multiple Dimensional David Beckham'

Along with weirdness or humour, the next most effective and lazy attempt to grab people's attention is to simply dump a celebrity in the mix. The brand of celebrity that you go for can really capture the budget and audience that the advert wants to apply to. Morrisons supermarket will usually go for nicey smiley friendly telly faces like Jennifer Saunders, Richard Hammond and that bloke with the deep voice that talks over the football. They want you to feel like they're all very friendly and all the millionaires appearing in their advert are very friendly too and because of their shared love of being friendly they have chosen Morrisons as their supermarket of choice so you should come on down so you can enjoy a friendly and budget atmosphere that rich people also partake in, except that they definitely don't. Marks and Spencers often goes for attractive and recognizable models because they want you to be drawn in by the glamour and sexiness of their incredibly sexless and unglamorous overpriced ready meals and chicken.

Although obviously the models will more be frolicking in the brands own lingerie and not the before mentioned meat products

Sky in a bid to go for a friendly and inoffensive face, but a face nonetheless who can be relevant enough to sport so as to push their new Sky sports package deal, have gone for David Beckham, a footballer who seems to have done very little actual football in the past decade and instead seems to spend most of his time having a kick about with kids and the rest of it posing blankly in his underwear; both components of being a paedophile when combined, but have been milked in their independence to form a vast money printing empire.

But Sky took it one step further, giving us not one, but multiple David Beckhams all sitting around glued to their Sky boxes in what seems to be some kind of trans dimensional collision of multiple David Beckhams across multiple worlds. Take this one image, this one freeze frame of the Beckhams all emptily smiling at their Sky box and I think here is where you start to find the accidental art in advertising.

I think what Sky have done here for art involving celebrities is tantamount to the work Andy Warhol was doing during the sixties. Put this up in any art gallery and it almost seems like it would be at home in any art gallery. People would lean in, hand on chin in silent contemplation and later drink wine with their friends and discuss the many facets of the piece. “Why are their so many David Beckhams?”, each individual Beckham is a separate entity, all doing its own activity and yet they are all one man. Does it represent, as the advert originally intended, that David is enjoying the multiple functions and moods that his Sky tailors too, or instead is it a statement about the nature of allowing yourself to become an advertising spokesperson for a company. Regardless of where David is, what he's doing and no matter how long ago he finished the advert, Sky in a way is always a part of him. Sky owns his image in a way now and no matter how much David tries to separate himself from Sky, Sky will always be a part of him because for a few moments at one point, Sky owned him. Sky is now a part of his life, directly represented through his enslavement to the Sky box. In all forms David will always be enjoying Sky, a part of its offerings and Sky will always be a presence lingering in his life. He even smiles at it, as if it is a friend or a companion.

Who the hell smiles at their television anyway. Everyone knows TV is such a mind numbing passive experience that the only way you can look whilst experiencing it is the same way that you might if you were enjoying some electro shock therapy; laid back, drooling and watching the colours dart across aimlessly in front of your eyes.

Diet Coke – 'Man Violently Pissing On Self'

Everyone is well aware of the new Diet Coke adverts. The ones which all begin with a group of young women walking through an office building or park before stumbling upon an attractive man who they then ogle at for a few minutes, and then go on to quickly disrupt his day, by for instance, soaking him in sticky Coke while he tries to get on with his job, for no reason other than their own sexual enjoyment. I'd like to see an alternative advert where a bunch of blokes run up to a woman and chuck an open can of coke at her just so she has to get her tits out.

This of course isn't any less annoying than the Coke Zero adverts, which began with a bunch of male arseholes strolling down the streets in some grand dick parade talking about how much they wish they could have x without the y, before devolving into complaining about women and their jobs, whilst at the same time enjoying low calorie drinks that taste like a worse version of the original. Diet Coke has gone down basically the exact opposite path, which no less irritating, does leave me at the end wondering why Coca Cola has decided to stage a gender battle across their different diet cola divisions and also how this is in anyway relevant to soft drinks.

I wish that they would eventually turn the original Coke adverts into a platform for mid-operation transsexuals to discuss their life's woes and then every gender can be represented within the realm of Coca Cola adverts. Maybe we can even start bringing this method into politics and other public rallies where every person aligns themselves with a pre set denomination or philosophical view relating to a recently released Coke product.

I think vanilla coke would be the perfect representation of Marxist Feminism

Taking a shot from this Diet Coke advert gives us quite a striking image. I will happily submit this to any gallery under the before mentioned name, 'Man Violently Pissing On Self' and would await eagerly the critical response. Why is the man pissing on himself and why are the sprays of piss so violently spewing from what I can only imagine is now a gaped and bleeding bellend? Is it because he is angered at himself? Is he so frustrated at the idea of he himself being the product of advertising, unable to escape the immortality of the advertisement industry, constrained for all eternity in his fickle frames that his only method of disruption is to piss violently upon himself and ruin the sexual image that Coca Cola wishes to utilise in the selling of their drinks.

Many questions remain unanswered, but his intensity is not a thing to be questioned.

Renault Megane 'Never Ending Driving Pleasure' Commercial – 'Never Ending Existential Crisis'

This one of the more accidentally ironic adverts this year. With a name like never ending driving pleasure as the tagline of the ad, you'd expect some pleasure. But this advert mostly involves a man, who is apparently a famous sports person, driving around in the car looking as un-enthused as he could possibly muster, before becoming so underwhelmed with the vehicle he's driving, he stops off to look awkwardly at an old fisherman for some brief semblance of stimulus. Maybe it was the fact he wasn't an actor, or an all smiles guy like Beckham that held back his ability to express joy on demand. But take a few screen grabs of this ad and you have some real melancholic moments.

In every shot it's the same thing; a man standing or sitting next to his new car, but seeming somewhat empty and deflated by his experience. Everywhere he drives there's only emptiness and yet he continues to drive, always searching, never finding anything, but also never quite looking for anything, only led on by the quivering ache in his soul that something remains unsatisfied and lost within him.

And at every turn, at every event, every expressionless gaze he gives out to the audience, there is the car, his failed purchase of self fulfilment stays motionless, ominously out of focus in the background. A constant reminder of the holes he tried to fill with products and petty things, a mistake that can now never leave him in his escaping years.

Even when he tries to connect with his other fellow humans, he finds no one willing to listen or care, just other lonely souls like himself lost in their own little lives, indifferent to his own individual longing for contact.

Change For Life – 'The Plasticine Scream'

This is an advert for healthy eating straight from the government. Freeze a moment in time and I present to you the plasticine equivalent of Edvard Munch's 'The Scream'. 

An individual sitting peacefully in his first world cocoon, surrounding by the creature comforts of his home and food, in a moment has it dawn upon him that he is an insignificant consumerist husk, trapped in an endless and vapid cycle of labour to bring to him the products he is so reliant on and yet never bring him any deeper sense of joy as he and his family, apparently so close, rot away their hours in front of a flashing screen that offers them nothing but the wasting of their futile and brief existence that they lead into nowhere. Even with all of this, he also knows that regardless of how meaningless he knows it all to be, he is too constrained and sedated by the system he has now come to despise and will forever to continue his servitude to it until the bitter end. He lets out a great scream, so shrill that it pierces his own thoughts like a knife, and bursts their poisonous innards, to seep ever further into his consciousness and infest his mind with inescapable doubt. His family at this sudden human outburst are understandably shocked, but ignorant to his internal turmoil, only feeling irritation from their robbed enjoyment as they are startled from their concentration on yet another forgettable ITV Saturday night game show.

Natwest Bank – 'The Beasts Break The Frail Wealth Of Man'

A dog sits chewing on a credit card. Its owner frantically panics, calling the bank to have another one sent immediately. If he doesn't his entire life will fall apart. How will he buy his shopping, his items, his luxuries? How will he live?

The dog chews idly at the piece of plastic shattering between his teeth. A simple pleasure to him; unaware of its importance, yet not requiring its complications.

Argos – 'Modern Capitalist Alien Family'

Taking everyday situations involving people and then changing the people aspect is pretty common in most mediums. Look at any Dreamworks film and you'll quickly see the way in which they make the simple adjustment of turning a dull and rehashed story about people, freshly into a dull and rehashed, but now more colourful story about talking animals. Works like a charm every time.

But what is Argos trying to portray here? This is their depiction of the average Argos customer and yet they're so freakish. They're so mutated and alien compared to the usually only slightly creepy smile fests that inhabit every other advert about buying a Hot Wheels set or a new Ipad.

But here we have a family, of our world, and yet they sit here, gathered around an Ipad like its some of religious relic of the ancient, staring open eyed at the screen; their blue skin draped in badly fitting clothes from which extrudes their elongated necks on which their inflated globe like heads balance on top.

And look at that baby's eyes, so awe struck by the Ipad at his tender age that he seems to be under some form of hypnosis from simply glancing at it. And yet while its swollen eyes twist in hypnotic obsession with the screen, none of the family seem to mind, too invested in their own personal time with the Ipad. This is a family so obsessed with Argos and buying its products that they have neglected themselves and each other. Consumerism and greed have degraded mankind from a promising species to nothing more than blue mutilated lump on the sofa of a tacky apartment wanting nothing more than the flashing of an Ipad screen in their laps and the dry taste of stale popcorn on the table.

Technology has turned us into sub-humans and yet, we're too distracted to notice or care.

So there it is. My 2013 advert art gallery. A gallery comprised of solely the most harrowing and accidental artistically worthy stills from the most generic and boring adverts of this year. Search next year's adverts for brilliance and you may be surprised what you find among the sludge.


  1. So, this is how you spend Christmas eve? Me too. Enjoyed this, and the piss take of the John Lewis advert on Back Chat Christmas show. Have a good one buddy.

    1. You have a nice one as well mr pink. What better way is there to detox yourself of the advertising gangbang that makes up christmas by writing something bitter about them on the internet.

  2. Peter Crouch advert where he joins an old boys football team by mistake wins it for me. Happy Christmas Harvey. Indulge.

    1. Had to track it down. The shot of him miserably standing between 2 happy men was a poignant image.
      Enjoy your christmas as well. I just ate an entire cadbury selection box and now feel like a piece of shit. Indulging has bought me no joy.

  3. You should be dancing round a tree naked except for a holly crown, not posting on here.

    Do as I say, not as I do.

    1. That can only keep me entertained for so long. Christmas covers many days. Plenty of time to do both.

  4. Your annual Christmas rant is as part of Christmas as the Dr Who special, but makes more sense.

    Happy New Year.

    1. But alas doesn't make as much money. I barely noticed Doctor Who was even still going until I was reminded of it again a few weeks ago. I don't think I could ever return after the abysmal Catherine Tate season.

      Happy new year to you too. Clearly much better than Christmas.

  5. The John Lewis advert just highlights the attractions of hibernating and missing Christmas altogether.

    Keep the laughter coming.

    1. Watching the John Lewis advert on youtube is the only time I got sad at having to watch an advert in order to then watch an advert. I'm just annoyed at that hare for waking up that bear. He'll never live out the winter now.

      Glad you enjoyed it.