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Imagery in the Commercial World - A short history of an ever-evolving, exciting and controversial relationship


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Presented in the event
"The Athens Dialogues: Logos – Icon – Logo"
Organized by The Onassis Foundation and the Centre for Hellenic Studies, King’s College London, 30 November 2013

Published in: Marketing, News & Politics

Imagery in the Commercial World - A short history of an ever-evolving, exciting and controversial relationship

  1. 1. Imagery in the Commercial World A short history of an ever-evolving, exciting and controversial relationship Konstantinos Kontinos Presented in the event The Athens Dialogues: Logos – Icon – Logo Organized by The Onassis Foundation and the Centre for Hellenic Studies, King‟s College London 30 November 2013 Contact:
  2. 2. Making sense of messaging in the commercial world is easier said than done We will need some type of compass
  3. 3. But first, the easy bit – human motivation has been unchanged since the beginning of time – its is locked by evolution Status Safety Comfort Commanding respect Freedom Confidence Identity affirmation Sense of balance Amusement Personal fulfilment Sensorial satisfaction Access to resources Curiosity Homeostasis Social recognition Personal progress Arousal optimisation Love & affection Independence Intimacy Power Sense of Control Thrill seeking Empowerement Belonging It is the means that we have at our disposal that change over time. And culture shapes them – and dictates what should take priority
  4. 4. Culture is reflected in what we know as „advertising‟ but it is also driven by it .
  5. 5. Every age has its own distinctive cultural center of gravity Let us have a shot at deciphering it
  6. 6. Adapted from„ The Hero and the Outlaw‟ by Mark & Pearson Order/Stability Manager, organizer, take charge attitude Efficient, productive Confident, responsible, role model Ruler Altruistic, selfless Nurturing, compassionate, empathetic Supportive, generous Creator Caregiver Seek True Love, intimacy, sensuality Passionate, sexy, seductive, erotic Seek pleasure, to indulge, follow emotions Innovative, imaginative, artistic Experimental, willing to take risks Ambitious, desire to turn ideas into reality Wholesome, pure Forgiving, trusting, honest Happy, optimistic, enjoy simple pleasures Innocent Providing Structure in the World Lover Self-knowledge/ Independence Group belonging Clown, trickster Playful, take things lightly, create a little fun/chaos Impulsive, spontaneous, lives in the moment Jester No Man is an Island Sage Yearning for Paradise Thinker, philosopher, reflective Expert, advisor, teacher Confident, in-control, selfcontained, credible Leaving a Thumbprint on the World Not pretentious, straight shooter, people-oriented Reliable, dependable, practical, down to earth Value routines, predictability, the status quo, tradition Regular Guy Explorer Outlaw Rebellious, shocking, outrageous, disruptive Feared, powerful Countercultural, revolutionary, liberated 6 Searcher, seeker, adventurous, res tless, desire excitement Independent, selfdirected, self-sufficient Value freedom Hero Magician Shaman, healer, spiritual, holistic, intuitive Value magical moments and special rituals Catalyst for change, charismatic Change/Mastery Warrior, competitive, aggressive, winner Principled, idealist, challenge “wrongs,” improve the world Proud, brave, courageous, sacrifice for greater good
  7. 7. 1920s to 1930s 1930’s Economic crashDepression First talking films First Transatlantic Flight First sexual revolution Dance Crazes 1920’s Film Industry on the rise Women given right to vote (USA) Alcohol Prohibition starts 7 The post-war world strives to forget through fun and excess. Meanwhile, it is totally open to new things. Jester Explorer
  8. 8. 1920s to 1930s The position of women is a front where change happens fast. The speed of change in terms of values, aesthetics and therefore messaging is astounding 1917 8 1923
  9. 9. 1920s to 1930s Women start to be depicted in scenes of interaction with the opposite sex, and, by the end of the decade as role models. 9 Amelia Earhart, 1929
  10. 10. 1920s to 1930s Leisure and sensual pleasure are pervasive in the advertising of the era 10
  11. 11. 1920s to 1930s The experimenting mentality also favors a quest for the exotic. The stereotype of the era for the orient links it with unleashed instincts and sensuality. Some depiction of the „exotic‟ nevertheless are shockingly racist by today‟s standards Telephony ad, 1924 11
  12. 12. 1920s to 1930s The automobile and technology in general are depicted as a means for freedom and pleasure. 12
  13. 13. 1930s to 1940s 1940’s Start of WW II Military Build Up Totalitarianism on the rise Dust Bowl 1930’s Economic crashDepression Poverty, social unrest and growing global frictions call for a strong leadership Ruler 13 Roosevelt‟s New Deal
  14. 14. 1930s to 1940s Getting a job and being safe became top priority. As bad nutrition became a sign of poverty, ads that promoted means to get a fuller figure started to proliferate. 14
  15. 15. 1930s to 1940s Means for cheap, affordable nutrition became increasingly important. 15
  16. 16. 1930s to 1940s Propositions related to thrift and getting good value out of everything made their mark across the board. 16
  17. 17. 1930s to 1940s The need to be safe from danger and unpredictability took center stage. Law and order and a protected life made their appearance in communication. 17
  18. 18. 1940s to 1950s 1950’s McCarthy Witch hunt Arms Race acceleration Start of Cold War Picking up the PiecesRebuilding of Europe World War II ends 1940’s Global scale war Fighting the war and starting life all over again over demand heroic efforts Hero
  19. 19. 1940s to 1950s War paranoia gave birth to some of the most memorable communication. 19
  20. 20. 1940s to 1950s The position of women was elevated again after the 20‟s. Instead of powerless housewives they now became an important part of the war effort. 20
  21. 21. 1940s to 1950s War iconography and messaging became central to the communication of practically every brand. 21
  22. 22. 1950s to 1960s 1960’s Teenage Culture Sputnik Launch – start of space age Rock & Roll Economic build-up AdvertisingConsumerism boom 1950’s Korean War McCarthy Witch hunt Fear of the other side Family values and moderation. Mr. Average rules the game… Regular Guy
  23. 23. 1950s to 1960s After the war, there was a notable economic growth spurt. Material possessions and getting it made, middle-class style became the obsession of the masses. 23
  24. 24. 1950s to 1960s No serious goals in life made their way into advertisements. Depth was thrown out of the window. Everything was about petty everyday material pleasures, elevated to a ridiculously lofty status. 24
  25. 25. 1950s to 1960s This throwback to family values-driven middle class convention was devastating to the status of women – as if nothing was ever won in the previous decades. The era produced some of the most blatantly sexist ads ever recorded. 25
  26. 26. 1950s to 1960s More of the sexist rant of the era 26
  27. 27. 1950s to 1960s Although, admittedly, amidst this conservative rampage there were signs of the change that was about to come. Still, however the black family here has undergone the ironing board treatment, depicted as a middle class white bunch. 27
  28. 28. 1960s to 1970s The old systems calls for its destruction. Nothing is taken for granted. New spiritual guidance is sought Outlaw 1970’s Second Sexual Revolution Man on the Moon Psychedelia / Drug Culture Rebellion Vietnam Warend of Innocence British Invasion Pop Art 1960’s JFK Shot “I have a dream” Cuban crisis Sage
  29. 29. 1960s to 1970s By the end of the 1950‟s, there was a notable change in the air – driven primarily by rock and roll and the emerging youth culture. However, conservatism temporarily rebounded and persisted in the first 1/3rd of the 60‟s. Here are some 50‟s cultural leftovers, recorded in the early 60‟s. Danish Ad, 1962 29
  30. 30. 1960s to 1970s By 1963-64 however, all this was pretty much over. There were clear signs of a more liberal and less conservative outlook of life. The role of women gradually ceased to be depicted as zombies/robots. 30
  31. 31. 1960s to 1970s 31
  32. 32. 1960s to 1970s 32 Young people and idea of „the future‟, both references to change, took center stage. For a time there was a feeling that everything will look brighter.
  33. 33. 1960s to 1970s Advertising mirrored both the pervasive cultural change of the era and (less often) the shock at the face of it and the conservative backlash that tried to contained (but, by and large, failed for many years). 33
  34. 34. 1960s to 1970s 34 Naturally advertising appropriated the aesthetics, the lingo and the value references of the new era. Even conventional brands jumped the bandwagon.
  35. 35. 1970s to 1980s 1980’s Disco Punk Rock Androgyny Glam Rock Oil Crisis Watergate 1970’s Second Sexual Revolution The revolution loses steam. Only partying attitude and promiscuity survives the transition. Lover 3 Mile Island accident
  36. 36. 1970s to 1980s Gradually, fewer people cared to changed the world. What remained, was the right to party and follow a leisurely lifestyle 36
  37. 37. 1970s to 1980s Collective goals subsided. How you look, how you behave and how cool you were, Were seen as became increasingly important. Pleasure-centered individualism became the norm. 37
  38. 38. 1970s to 1980s In line with the spirit of pleasure-hunting and promiscuity, in-your face, overt sexuality was used to sell practically anything – in ways that we would find appalling today. 38
  39. 39. 1970s to 1980s More of the kind 39
  40. 40. 1980s to 1990s Material success comes back with a vengeance. People gradually become power-hungry. Looks matter more. Need strong reference points 1990’s New Dance Scene End of Cold war Yuppies & Power apogee Perestroika in USSR Dallas & Dynasty Aesthetics 1980’s Fitness craze End of Disco Era New RightConservatism ThatcherReaganomics Ruler
  41. 41. 1980s to 1990s Pop aesthetics and a playful tonality permeates the communication of mainstream brands. 41
  42. 42. 1980s to 1990s Over-the top flamboyance and success-suggesting references are the choice of more up-market brands. 42
  43. 43. 1980s to 1990s Physical power and performance took center stage. Mainstream macho stereotypes stuck around for a while. 43
  44. 44. 1980s to 1990s 44 Getting it made esp. in a business context became a cultural obsession. Marks of success were celebrated in advertising.
  45. 45. 1990s to 2000s Reign of Global Terror 2000’s Millennium Angst Mega Brands Globalization on the rise World Wide Web- Internet Breakup of East European Countries Grunge 1990’s People strive to create a meaningful mode of living in a chaotic world, by picking pieces from seemingly unrelated sources Creator First Gulf War New Dance Scene
  46. 46. 1990s to 2000s Though styles per se became less flamboyant, the aesthetic points of reference became more absolute, verging on the superhuman. It was the era of the super models. 46
  47. 47. 1990s to 2000s Meanwhile, mainstream brands began to challenge convention and come down with products and communicational ideas that explored the limits of categories and expectancies. 47
  48. 48. 1990s to 2000s It was the car industry that displayed the first signs of ecological concerns in communication – concerns that eventually would become mainstream. 48 1993
  49. 49. 1990s to 2000s Brands started to experiment more with the limits of cultural acceptability. Non-mainstream brands came into the limelight. 49
  50. 50. 1990s to 2000s 50 Meanwhile, and especially as the decade closed to an end, big brands pioneered campaigns and initiatives that attempted to redefine aesthetic and value codes.
  51. 51. What happened next? Amita_The_Way_Forward_51
  52. 52. Well.... The thing is that the historian of the future will have a quite hard task when asked to describe the main direction of this era. It is certainly easier to describe 'what happened’ in the 60‟s, or 80‟s‟. It is harder to distinguish a dominant Archetype. This „problem‟ is related to the fact that today we live in the epitome of a Collage Culture
  53. 53. Gradually, we all had to learn to function through this PAST Many Distinct Communities Highly Structured Hierarchical Limited Access 53 PRESENT Global Community Individual Flexibility Decentralized Unlimited Access
  54. 54. There are no true big movements any more (political, social, artistic , musical, etc.). Past things are rehashed, fused, revamped, repackaged and re-sold. Things happen so fastuntil one thing is rooted, it is replaced by something new. There is no time to get really deep into something. The Superficial rules supreme. There is lack of focus – many, usually contradicting things happen at the same time. Different things are expected from uswe have to act upon many different roles – all equally demanding.
  55. 55. People have turned quite blasé- The sources of change are not the pretty much fixed points in geography and culture of the past. Its difficult to surprise anyone these days. They are easily bored and eager to move on to something else . They also trust brands less The ability to shock is somehow lost. Extreme elements of culture are polished and co-opted by the system in a jiffy. Underground culture is seen as yet another means to sell, if you use it right – and brands just do that with unparallel ease. Internet and Globalization made sure that our exposure to new things can have the most unexpected sources.
  56. 56. Last but not least, people are indeed more ready to embrace change – - but not necessarily because they consciously and full-heartedly opt to… People in today‟s globalised societies, are characterised by what has been described as the Fear of Missing Out (FoMo) – the anxiety that they run a continuous danger to be left somehow behind, and if they do they are in serious trouble..
  57. 57. Revisiting & repackaging the past
  58. 58. Oddity, shock tactics & extreme irony
  59. 59. Globalised points of reference And new sensitivities that brands have to cater to
  60. 60. No place considered off-limits for brand messaging
  61. 61. Attention deficit pushes for powerful visuals and minimal text
  62. 62. Technology enablers creating new visual languages
  63. 63. The future?
  64. 64. • Commercial messaging will struggle to remain relevant against a fluid, multi-fragmented audience. • Messaging will be richer and more meaning –packed. Cross-references to popular culture will be even more common – but in many cases they will be cryptic as they will target very specific segments of those who can „get it‟. personalisation and thus invasiveness, and the need for privacy. • There will be a escalating tag of war between No clear-cut winner will emerge any time soon.
  65. 65. •Advertising will look less than what we know as advertising. Blatant, in-your-face selling will still stick around, but it with lower frequency - and effect. • Its controversial role will not cease, but advertising will struggle to accommodate new types of sensitivities and fluid idea of „correctness‟ • Through increased transparency, practitioners of nasty tactics will have a harder time coping • Advertising will champion change for the better more often and more successfully
  66. 66. Thank you!