In the past few days I’ve been looking at advertisements for holidays. This is not because I’m intending to buy one but because I see adverts as a kind of barometer for the culture they serve. It seems that in the dreary post-Christmas period, we’re apparently meant to dispel the inevitable blues by turning our attention to travel.
In the early days of advertising, the aim was simply to make potential customers aware of the products and what they were for. Then along came Edward Bernays, nicknamed “the father of public relations”, (though I could think of a few other names for him) and the nephew Sigmund Freud. He capitalised on Freud’s theories to manipulate the masses, who he described as irrational and subject to herd instinct. One of his best known campaigns, appearing in 1929 was to promote smoking among women. Previously seen as desirable only to men, he re-branded cigarettes as feminist “Torches of Freedom.”
Although, thankfully, advertising standards have improved since the days of Edward Bernays, we are still left with the echos of his methods. In the holiday market we are often sold “experiences” rather than holidays. These experiences are supposedly more than a rest and a change of scene – they enrich our lives, provide memories and in some cases can make us happier, even better people. After finding some adverts for a well-known airline, I decided to make a video sketch. The adverts I used have a strange nostalgic feel, as though we are being invited to discover a place that has been lost in time. They also made me think about colonialist ideas of exploration and anthropology. In addition I wanted to hint at the connection between advertising, capitalism and environmental consequences.
Video available at:
If you’re interested in the history of advertising it’s worth watching Adam Curtis’s “The Century of the Self”.