Advertising. Like the weather and syphilis, everyone talks about it yet no-one does anything. Was it Shakespeare who once said “Our gain is your loss/that’s the price you pay/I heard it in the House of Commons/everything’s for sale”? No. It was the Pet Shop Boys. But if you consider that they’ve had more top ten hits than Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Cervantes combined, they must be on to something.
According to Charlie Brooker’s excellent television series Screenwipe, modern advertising and marketing campaigns are analysed down to the most intricate detail. Ads have to work internationally, so no item is below scrutiny – the models can’t wear sneakers, as that connotes “gangster” in Russia, they can’t wear denim as that means they’re gay in Indonesia. Confectionery advertising involves the frighteningly obsessive idea of “the load” – that is, the specific way the model places the product in their mouth.
As an advertising insider on Screenwipe explains: “Different gum companies have different ways they like their gum “loaded”. They publish booklets for directors to study so the load is uniform across their ads. On any shoot there’ll be one poor sod from the client whose sole job is to ensure the load goes off according to company guidelines.”
So if people are putting so much thought into marketing, advertising and product design, why would Whiskas choose to sell their product with a kitten that wants to punch you in the face?
Oh yes, this kitten could’ve been a contender. He’s like Jake LaMotta – if Jake LaMotta had spent less time throwing fights against Billy Fox in order to curry favour with the Mafia, and more time chasing string and napping. An imperfect analogy, yes, but an analogy all the same.