Society’s downfall? Nah, it’s just advertising.
May 28, 2008
Pondering the 2008 Gold Clio award winners, I am struck by a print campaign for MTV from Y&R, Buenos Ares. Each simple spread features two black and white photographs -a distinguished historical figure on one side and a celebrity from our time on the other. A line of copy informs who the famous old-timer is (Alexander Graham Bell for example) and what he has accomplished, inventing the telephone. No mention whatever is made of the celebrity on the right. In this execution it’s the Latino Pop Star Ricky Martin.
And this, presumably, is the genius of the campaign. Mr. Martin is so well known because Music Television has made him this way. He needs no introduction; his face is recognizable to all. Other celebs receiving this ultimate compliment are Britney Spears and the creepy goth-rocker, Manson. To their left are brilliant people but they are dull and require words to explain them.
I get it. It’s not “what you know” (inventing the telephone) but “who you know” (MTV). Image trumps substance. It’s funny because it’s true.
I realize MTV is the exact opposite of the History Channel. MTV is a cable channel utterly devoted to pop culture. Even musical talent plays second fiddle to big boobs and fancy haircuts. That is MTV’s reality. What gave me pause is how unabashed MTV is in claiming responsibility for this completely accurate assessment. MTV is proud to have so totally dumbed down our culture.
Y&R’s campaign is provocative. It’s a brilliant concept dramatizing MTV’s purposefully un-brilliant one. Of this I can provide no argument. And that’s what troubles me. Because just below the shiny surface are frightening implications: that “we” are all so vapid as to cheer inanity over accomplishment. To hell with earned fame, these ads say. Jump in the hot tub. Let’s get wet!
Yeah, I know; it’s only a joke. Unfortunately, it’s funny because it’s true.