Tag Archives | Advertising

Marshall McLuhan: The Media Thinker Whose Quotes Explain ‘Mad Men’

Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan

Time for a refresher on Marshall McLuhan. Esquire suggests that the Canadian media theorist can explain Mad Men (and don’t forget the excellent film McLuhan’s Wake):

“During the Second War, the U.S.O. sent special issues of the principal American magazines to the Armed Forces, with the ads omitted. The men insisted on having the ads back again. Naturally. The ads are by far the best part of any magazine or newspaper. More pains and thought, more wit and art go into the making of an ad than into any prose feature of press or magazine. Ads are news. What is wrong with them is that they are always good news.”

I sometimes wonder when I’m watching Mad Men, if and when the various characters read the passage above, from Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media, which came out in 1964. Of all the great sixties cultural icons that are missing from Mad Men—and some of the absences can be glaring—I’ve always found the lack of any mention of media writer and thinker McLuhan the most inexplicable.

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Freedom of Choice Degree Zero

Screenshot of Taco Bell’s “Routine Republic”

Screenshot of Taco Bell’s “Routine Republic”

A. S. Hamrah writes at the Baffler:

Soon there will only be two kinds of ads on broadcast TV: commercials for things that make you sick and commercials for things that cure the illnesses caused by the things that make you sick. That’s why fast-food ads are stocked with images of youth living it up, while Big Pharma ads feature old people enjoying themselves despite their afflictions. These two types of ads follow each other with an inexorable logic, alternating the vibrant primary colors of childhood with the washed-out pastels of old age. TV tries to create life in time slots. Drama and comedy are interrupted on schedule for servings of Chicken McNuggets and pills. On broadcast TV, those are the Ages of Man.

This restless flickering between life and death makes sense for a time in which the broadcast networks’ mission of offering entertainment for the whole family generates diminishing returns.

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Anti-Littering Campaign Uses DNA From Trash to Shame People

Big Brother is vacationing in Hong Kong, apparently. The South China Morning Post reports on an ad campaign in the former British colony that used the DNA of the litterbugs to create posters with their composite faces:

A campaign that used DNA analysis to give a face to anonymous Hong Kong litterbugs, then posted representations of the faces on billboards across the city, has been a big hit on social media.

One of the posters showing the accused litterbug and his litter.

One of the posters showing the accused litterbug and his litter.


The Face of Litter campaign was launched on Global Earth Day last month for the Hong Kong Cleanup Initiative, organised by online magazine Ecozine and the Nature Conservancy. It was aimed at raising awareness of the extent of littering in the city by pinpointing those responsible and encouraging people to change their behaviour…

Marketing communications agency Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong came up with the idea for the billboard campaign and enlisted US-based  Parabon Nanolabs.

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Here’s What Happens When You Open a Gun Store in the Middle of NYC

Guns on sale in New York? Unthinkable, right?

nyc guns store

The gun store on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.


Check out this PSA from Grey Advertising, via Adweek:

States United to Prevent Gun Violence and its agency, Grey New York, have teamed up for some truly hard-hitting PSAs, including 2013’s famous “Ed” spot, which won a Silver Lion in Film at Cannes. Now, they’ve moved on to a new tactic—a social experiment set in the real world.

They did what they’re calling “the unthinkable”—opened a real-looking gun store on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and invited first-time gun buyers to check it out, with hidden cameras rolling.

To create drama, they put disturbing tags on each weapon, indicating which models were used in particular mass shootings, unintentional shootings, homicides and suicides. Needless to say, the fresh-faced buyers end up looking rather pallid by the end, and aren’t quite as excited to head home with a firearm.

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Scientology’s ‘Age of Answers’ Superbowl Ad

Since when did religions advertise during the American Football entertainment extravaganza known as the Superbowl? The “Church” of Scientology again placed a commercial spot in this year’s telecast, but I’m not sure it actually counts as a religion, so perhaps the answer is still “never.” Here’s the ad:

“We live in an age of searching.
To find solutions.
To find ourselves.
To find the Truth.
Now imagine an age in which the predictability of science
and the wisdom of religion combine.
Welcome to the Age of Answers!”

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Does Subliminal Advertising Actually Work?

Subliminal advertising messages wouldn’t be banned if they didn’t work – would they? BBC News Magazine investigated with a test of its own.


These were the key findings:

  • The test group watched a clip which included subliminal flashes of the word Lipton
  • The control group watched a clip without any flashes
  • The participants were then asked whether they wanted to drink Lipton iced tea or mineral water
  • Test group (all participants): 46% chose Lipton, 54% water
  • Control group (all participants) 37% Lipton, 63% water
  • Results refined to exclude those who would definitely have chosen Lipton, or who would definitely not have chosen it
  • Test group (refined) 53% Lipton, 47% water
  • Control group (refined) 61% Lipton, 39% water
  • Experts agreed the differences were not statistically significant

[read the full story at BBC News Magazine]

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The Wool Over Our Eyes


No one likes having the wool pulled over their eyes. Now imagine wealthy CEOs hiring millions of knitters to blanket your entire city with a massive wool sweater, soaked in gasoline. That’s what dark money is. It’s rich interests that already have millions to burn, but would rather spend that money on polluting our election process and muffling the public’s voice. And they are going through ever-greater hoops to hide the source of the money in this election cycle, precisely because people seeing the truth is bad for their cause.

What our founding fathers and mothers set forth in America was an experiment in democracy, one that seemed daring at first independent of a monarch, but soon needed to enfranchise the rest of its citizens. To those that came before us, who sought to build a better life for their children, the right to participate in our democratic process was paramount to what it meant to be free.… Read the rest

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Actually, You ARE the Customer, Not the Product


Ramez Naam writes at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies:

Don’t believe the hype. You’re the customer, whether you pay directly or by seeing ads. Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: “On the internet, if you’re not paying for something, then you’re not the customer. You’re the product.”

This meme, and its various permutations, are meant to to convey that if you’re not shelling out direct cash for a service, that you should expect to be used by that service. Perhaps. But there are many many things wrong with it. In fact, it’s wrong in almost every way.

You are the customer. You can do things no “product” can do.

Think about the things you can do that a “product” can’t do:

  1. You can stop using the service.  You can deny the company that provides it the revenue you represent. What product ever abandoned its parent company?
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Pop-up Ad Creator Apologizes for the Internet’s Original Sin

Hendrik Goltzius' "The Fall of Man" (1616) (Wikimedia Commons)

Hendrik Goltzius’ “The Fall of Man” (1616) (Wikimedia Commons)

A piece about how advertising became the default business model on the web and how it doesn’t have to be that way.

via The Atlantic (please follow the link to read the entire piece):

The fiasco I want to talk about is the World Wide Web, specifically, the advertising-supported, “free as in beer” constellation of social networks, services, and content that represents so much of the present day web industry. I’ve been thinking of this world, one I’ve worked in for over 20 years, as a fiasco since reading a lecture by Maciej Cegłowski, delivered at the Beyond Tellerrand web design conference.  Cegłowski is an important and influential programmer and an enviably talented writer. His talk is a patient explanation of how we’ve ended up with surveillance as the default, if not sole, internet business model.

The talk is hilarious and insightful, and poignant precisely for the reasons Carlson’s story is.

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