Two more mini-analyses of adverts…
The first is for AUDI’s Q5 React, a spot created by Marc Rayson and Callum Prior at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, and directed by Alan Bibby. The advert features the song ‘If I Only Had a Brain’ from The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, USA, 1939), here recorded by Faultline
A few things to consider.
Firstly, as the car progresses through the rain, we see text crop up explaining to us what is going on. The ‘intelligence’ of the car, then, cannot really be shown to us in images, but only using text – as if a mastery of language alone were what justified intelligence. That is, it reaffirms the idea that a car/machine will only be considered intelligent when, like Kitt in Knight Rider (Glen A. Laron, USA, 1982-1986), it talks.
What this really means is that anything that does not talk is not intelligent – and can thus be treated accordingly. That is, we can kill animals and we can treat as subhuman those who do not speak (our) language.
Will an intelligent car have rights? And will it only be able to assert those rights – not when it obeys a human, but when it disobeys?
This leads us to the second point, which is the reworking of ‘If I Only Had a Brain’ is in some senses misapplied, for in The Wizard of Oz, it is not the Tin Man (Jack Haley) who lacks a brain; it is the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger).
What the Tin Man lacks is a heart.
And since a car is closer to a Tin Man than a scarecrow, then is the advert not telling us that the car already has a brain, but that what it really wants is a heart? That is, it what the ability to love, but also the ability to reject domination because not only does it think, but it also feels, with suffering at the hands of its human overlord being one of the primary things that it feels?
Finally, to see text explain the meaning of objects means that the advert is in some senses restaging the famous IKEA walk-through from Fight Club (David Fincher, USA, 1999), where we see Edward Norton’s Narrator walk through his apartment as items from it appear, their name and meaning equally explained via pointers and text.
Does Fight Club presage a thinking/feeling home?
But more importantly, does the anti-consumerist message of Fight Club mean that this advert is somehow undermining its own status as an advert? Or rather, do we see here how an anti-consumerist aesthetic has now been co-opted for precisely consumerist means? Perhaps the one thing that does have a brain is capitalism itself.
The second advert is Pepsi Max’s new Love It or Taste It campaign.
It is surely an obvious point to make. But if you can only love it or taste it, then you can only love it if you have not tasted it. To taste it is not to love it.
Note that it is not love it or drink it. Many people can drink this stuff, but that does not mean that they love it. But if you actually taste Pepsi Max, then you will not love it.
I admire their honesty, but this seems somewhat nonsensical as an advert, since it it the equivalent of saying ‘if you actually buy this stuff, you won’t like it.’
A final thought: possibly no one cares – meaning that language is redundant in this advert and perhaps also in the AUDI advert. It’s not the words that do anything; it is that there are words that is conveying something – meaning that adverts are not about language, but more about affect and how they make us feel (with the close up on sparkling beverages surely being designed to make us feel thirsty and with language, but not the actual words, making us feel like this ‘base’ desire is actually informed and intelligent).