Monday, December 29, 2008

Orwellian Glasses and Spiritual Jeans in Midtown NYC

Advertising: the art of pitching to a generic audience in a way that makes them feel unique, and uniquely suited to purchase a particular product. Excellent example: CRUNCH, the New York gym, whose marketing pitch is that people need a place to work out that's flexible and doesn't expect them to turn into jocks. However, BAD marketing, based loosely on the afore-cited principle but applying it in all the wrong ways, isn't just unconvincing... it's actually a little scary.

Case in point: my.Vu

These ads popped up all over the 34th Street subway station one day, and I've had to endure them ever since. Each one has a stock-photo-esque portrait of a young model-esque adult wearing the product being advertised... a tiny pair of pseudo-sleek goggles with a video screen on the inside of the lens, so you can watch TV from a centimeter away. Each of these models has a practiced look of enjoyment, generally slightly flirtatious (especially when they're looking at you over the tops of the lenses). Each one also has some sort of "preference" listed at the bottom, like "retro punk," or "cooking shows." Each model's genre seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with their personality in the photo, and this is where the trouble starts.

Two problems here. One: the models and their poses are brutally generic, as if they were all taken from a modeling agency's B-Roll and outfitted by the mannquins at the Gap. Two: the posters, which would otherwise be blessedly forgettable, seem to be selling their product based on "individuality" implied by the genre preferences. Even to someone who's willing to give credit to the most crass advertising, this is offensive, a veritable insult to my gullibility. This is generic advertising gone mad.

In fact, it's ultimately rather Orwellian. We're given characters who are attractive, but in the most generic way possible... a standardization of an ideal, made placidly predictable in a series of fashion portraits... and in order to assuage our fears that we all might become the same person, we're provided with token "preferences" that we can check off on our personality forms, assuring us that we're individuals, I promise, I swear it. Of course, the fact that these models are depicted encased in personal video screens, a la 1984 meets Videodrome... that doesn't do anything to help the cause.

Bad advertising.

But once I saw this, and discerned the source of my distaste, I ran across yet another sign of our dystopian corporate future. This, outside a Lincoln Center adorned with a pulsating Christmas phantasmagoria, was a large poster for "True Religion brand Jeans." This is truly a statement about what's really important during the Christmas season.

As a young, avant-garde progressive nihilist hipster, I must celebrate. Now that we've gotten through our enlightenment skepticism phase, pioneered by such skeptics as Leo Tolstoy and Karl Marx, we can move on to find some postmodern replacement for a genuinely spiritual deity... and who better to provide such an idol of complacency than Fashion Avenue? We know people like Richard Dawkins won't let us look to anything metaphysical for solace, what with all the breathing down our necks about "science," so we may as well look to the physical, social, commercial world for transcendance ("brandscendance?")

We are living in strange times, my friends. Pretty soon I'll need a prescription for my TV and a confessional for my fashion guilt.

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