Seen a few days back, a hoarding bearing an advertisement for a brand of casual menswear, with the headline ‘I’m the 4th model they looked at. The other 3 were too pretty’ and a picture of a young man of the usual bland, westernized above-average good looks, slightly unshaven, in said casual menswear.
What a remarkable concoction. Should I remark on the casual misogyny implied in the dismissal of prettiness, the dissonance between this nominal swimming-against-the-tide of fashionable standards of appearance, while offering up an alternative standard, in the form of a model barely different from any other menswear he-mannequin?
Most fascinating, though, is the new (to me) development in the ongoing monologue of advertising. Ads used to be about products – in some mythical era no one alive has seen – and then they became about prestige, power, pleasure. Lately, they’re usually about sex. Here is an ad where the virtues of the brand are being promoted by pointing out the care with which the advertisers have chosen a model who reflects the aspirations of the chosen target group. Here is an ad where the process of advertising itself has become the subject matter of advertising.
Now that advertising has become self-aware perhaps the time will come when it forms a completely self-contained ecosystem of its own, and we can get on with our lives ignoring it altogether.
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