Friday, November 04, 2005

Taking the commercial out of commercial art.

The ‘What is art? What is not?’ debate can get pretty heated. For the sake of argument let us take the common perception – that art is anything that creates an emotional reaction in the observer, and that it is popular, well, at least liked by more than one person.

Visibility is the first precursor to popularity.

The visibility of art, of course, is hinged on many factors – distribution, notoriety (of the piece, the subject and the artist themselves), frequency, PR and whatnot.

However, there generally has to be some consensus on behalf of a majority whether the piece is exemplary, to some set of objective criteria, vs being merely self-indulgent. So. The value, and ultimately the influence of art, is not really a subjective experience when factored into a mass audience.

But enough whitter. Here is one of my favourite Nike ads of all time Nike Tag

Continuing along the theme from yesterday - the logo only comes at the very end. But it is so distinctively Nike that it wouldn’t matter if every other advertiser tried to emulate it. There is a Nike feel that can be pulled through every element of this ad. This ad will always be known as ‘That Nike Ad’.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Commercials as Art

Continuing on the theme from yesterday’s post, let us discuss advertisements used as art. I have tried to track down a few ads that try their best to look as little like ads as possible. The idea here is to 1. Create a viral effect and 2. Strengthen the cult of the brand by providing people with something they actually want to see, as opposed to force-feeding them something they have no interest in.

Diesel are great at this. They have some of my favourite ads. About a year ago they did a campaign called Diesel Dreams, this is Diesel Dreams - falling one of my favourites. If anyone can track down the Diesel Dreams - War, let me know, it is great as well.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Elevator muzak will destroy us all

Mediocrity is a scary thing.

It can really sneak up on you. First you start tuning out to the easy listening on the radio, the muzak in the mall, the ads on tv and the next thing you know you have been so busy working mindlessly away at living, consuming, and not causing too much trouble that reality is passing you by.

When you take a look at our media landscape, you sure see a lot of it. Elevator music, corporate art, and a majority of the terrible ads out there try to appeal to everyone at once, while trying not to offend anyone, and the result is this watered down, politically correct kak that no one likes.

Why? Because individual flavour takes work and sacrifice and groupthink is a safe road.

If you stick enough people in a room, they eventually will conform to the dominant view – even if it is glaringly wrong. In the 1951 Soloman Asch conformity experiments, it was found that a majority of people will agree that Exhibit A is as long as B or C, if a large group of people state that is their opinion first.

The sun always shines in advertising land, everyone is always smiling, and overall, the effect is entirely unbelievable. What needs to be celebrated are the messages that work. The ones that bring a bit of reality, thoughtfulness, or edge along with them.

I’ll post a few of my favourites in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


It is miserable outside and I am depressed. The weather has a huge effect on people’s moods, especially mine, and it sucks. Especially when you live in Vancouver – the rainiest place on the planet. I heard it was 27 degrees in Halifax today. Either way, instead of whittering on about my woes, I thought I would put the topic to good use.

Depression is common, for certain, everyone gets the blues now and again, especially if you live in Vancouver, the rainiest place on the planet, and the weather influences your mood like it does mine. But for others, it can be a clinical condition.

For this reason there has been quite a push to bring awareness of the reality and symptoms of depression to the forefront. This is taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- Fourth Edition. If you have five of the nine in the same two weeks – you should talk to a doctor.

There is an ad out of New Zealand that brings depression into mainstream conversation for stoic male society.

There are a few ads on the radio right now in Vancouver. They are okay.
They go along the lines of ‘I hate myself, I am thinking about all of the awful things about myself, I…; and someone asks ‘how are you doing today?’ and they say, ‘oh, just fine.’

Clinical depression is awful. It takes a whole new cognitive rewiring to get back on track, but it can be done. It is a state of mind.

Myself, I always remember that life is short, it’s not really anything to be taken too seriously, and we, especially we in North America with cozy offices and food, without the immediate threat of war or torture, with all of our limbs and senses and capabilities – really should be busy enjoying paradise as opposed to dwelling in our own misery. But hey, that’s just me.

This might cheer you up or this and if not maybe this (apparently he was winning until the crowd started chanting his name).

“Dance like no one is watching. Sing like no one is listening. Love like you've never been hurt and live like it's heaven on earth.” Allegedly by Mark Twain.

Monday, October 31, 2005

So It’s Halloween

Originally Halloween was Irish pagan holiday called Samhain, and celebrated by the Celts. All Hallows Eve has since been co-opted to death, but yet, like most commercially twisted holidays still manages to maintain some of its pagan/religious roots. Myself, I had the craziest cult dreams last night and slept through my alarm as they chanted ong-kee and worshipped idols of fire, eyes flickeringly fixated ahead.

The Celts believed that it was quite common for people to exist on after death, but in a different plane of existence. Perhaps as faeries or ghosts. As Samhain was their new year, it was also believed to be the best time to communicate with the faeries and dead. The outcome was a great deal of mischief as the faeries tried to trick humans into being trapped in their world forever, and as humans ran amok playing practical jokes and getting the chaos out of their system before winter. This tradition continues with our modern celebrations.

It is interesting how pervasive a belief system can be. The modernization and commercialization of Halloween keeps our deepest-rooted pagan beliefs alive, and opens the door to an acceptance of spirituality, and the eternity of the soul. The sexiness of the concept keeps it alive, and while the true pagans continue to celebrate in the shadows, the seed of their beliefs are spread, albeit subtly, through mass production and consumerism.