The Promise Of Product

Fat-tireI laugh everytime I see this drink coaster. It advertises Fat Tire beer in a way that parodies all beverage ads that suggest that if you choose the right drink, you will soon find yourself surrounded by hot women dressed to kill. 

We all know that holding this beer bottle does nothing for this guy’s attractiveness. Yet while we laugh about that, we also realize that we all have made numerous purchases in hopes that the product would make us more socially attractive. And some of these purchases were probably hopelessly naive.

Future Glamour: Did George Lucas Read Vogue?

While doing research in back issues of Vogue, I found this familiar-looking ad from 1974, three years before the debut of Star Wars. Of course, unlike Star Wars, which supposedly took place "long, long ago," Quathra is "a luxury fabric from the [oh so glamorous] 21st century." In the actual 21st century, Qathra (no u) is a coffee house in Brooklyn--an institution, not to mention a locale, not envisioned by 20th-century futurists. (The textile company appears to have canceled its trademark in 1982.)

Quathra luxury fabric from 21st century 8:74 ad

The Futuristic Glamour Of Centralized Control...And Radios That Won't Become Obsolete

Brunswick Radio of the Future Is Here Today

"It's easy to imagine better cars and homes and aircraft of the future--but it's hard to imagine a finer radio than the new Brunswick for 1931!"

In the fall of 1930, Brunswick Radio ran a striking series of ads for its new Futura radio. (Click each image to see a larger version.) The ads explicitly promised customers easy tuning and a radio that wouldn't soon be obsolete either stylistically or technically. But what they were really selling was the future, portrayed in brightly colored, highly stylized illustrations, against which the supposedly up-to-date radio cabinet looks, at least to 21st-century eyes, rather stodgy and old-fashioned.

Brunswick Radio For Lasting Enjoyment In this Changing World

At the same time that they built excitement about great things to come, the ads promised a sense of stability: "lasting enjoyment in this changing world" and a chance to experience the orderliness and predictability of a future of "simplified and centralized control." In the early 20th century, many Americans longed for what the historian John M. Jordan in his book Machine-Age Ideology: Social Engineering and American Liberalism, 1911-1939 called "kinetic change made stable." Social and political theorists offered their own glamorous visions of how that paradoxical state could be achieved. And so did advertisers pushing consumer products.

Brunswick Radio Under the Control of One Hand Highways of the Future

In the Brunswick ads, this ideal of technocratic control becomes a metaphor for a new-fangled radio dial.

"When a hundred thousand automobiles speed along the elevated highways of the City of the Future, engineers predict that the whole traffic system will operate as a single unit--under the control of one man's hand. The future of mechanism, they say, lies inevitably along the path of simplified and centralized control....

Experience the ease of centralized control by asking your Brunswick dealer to let you try the Uni-Selector."

British Airways Makes Aviator Glamour Work

These days when airlines try to sell their services with glamour, they usually wind up looking ridiculous, because the real-world experience bears no resemblance to the advertised ease. We hate to fly, and it shows.

But a new ad for British Airways pulls it off--not by promising passengers a glamorous experience but by evoking the enduringly glamorous archetype of the aviator.

Glamour May Look Effortless, But Maintenance Is Required

Always glamorous real estate sign
On a recent visit to New York, I snapped this photo with my dumb phone. (The low-res quality actually makes it look a little more glamorous than it did in real life.) It's a perfect example of why declaring something "glamorous" doesn't make it so. If you can't even manage to keep up your sign, why should we expect the building to be any better?

Here's another example, a screen shot of the website for the then-newly remodeled Peninsula Hotel in Shanghai. I was looking at the website while planning a trip to look for glamour in Shanghai. This carelessness convinced me not to look for it at the Peninsula.

Peninsula Hotel Shanghai website Glamour misspelled

Corona Beer Ups The Glamour Quotient With "Find Your Beach" Commercials

I don't drink beer, but I occasionally buy it for parties. And when I do, I usually buy Corona, because I like their ads. Corona has long used a images of a tranquil beach to create a distinct brand identity--one that effectively combines gentle humor with the glamour of escape. In the latest campaign, which debuted last fall, Corona ups the glamour quotient further, offering pure projection without even the gentlest silliness to undercut it.

The "Find Your Beach" ads visualize what Corona's ads have always implied (since most beer drinking doesn't take place at the beach): "that the beach is where you make it,” as Marshall Ross, the chief creative officer for Corona's ad agency, Cramer-Krasselt, put it. “We want to give literal, visual permission for people to take the Corona mindset with them. Even to the ski slopes or the big city.” The composition of the images remains similar. The Corona drinkers are shown only from the back or in profile, encouraging identification and projection, and they themselves are gazing at expansive vistas. Grace, mystery, and escape--all the elements of glamour are there.

If you like the song, you can download it on Corona's Facebook page. And here, courtesy of Corona's Argentine branch, is a little more video escape (via AdRants).

Carolee's Style Icons: Does Michelle Obama Know They're Equating Her With Evita To Sell Jewelry?

Carolee style icons Michelle Obama Jackie Kennedy Eva Peron Wallis Simpson Walking through Bloomingdale's, I was struck by this sign in the jewelry department. The Carolee jewelry company is pitching its line of pearls with photos of four pearl-wearing style icons: two American first ladies, Jackie Kennedy and Michelle Obama, both Democrats, and two foreign consorts, Eva Peron and Wallis Simpson, who, to put it politely, leaned fascist. (What, no Imelda Marcos? Too famous for shoes I guess.)

Now I realize that jewelry marketers should not be confused with historians, but if I were Michelle Obama I'd be offended. And if I were managing the Obama brand I'd certainly protest. If the White House can ask a noncontroversial windbreaker-maker to remove a billboard featuring a press photo of President Obama in its jacket, surely the first lady's staff can ask Carolee not to link Mrs. O with Evita.

It is, of course, possible that this is a sanctioned use of the first lady's image. To find out, since there's no press contact listed on Carolee's site, I posted a query to @Caroleejewelry on Twitter. (If someone were paying me to write, I'd call the company and the White House.) No response.

Choosing Representatives For Cosmetics

Taylor-swift-covergirl A small battle takes place each day at the dental office where I get my teeth cleaned. One dentist likes rock music, and if he gets there first, the radio is set to a oldies rock station for the day. If the other dentist gets there first, she sets the radio to a country-western station. 

Last week, hearing the music, I assumed that she had gotten there first, but it turned out that on that day she had rebelled against the system. The radio had been on the rock station for several days, and deciding she could not take hearing Cher one more day in a row, she had changed the channel.

Because music often serves as a cultural marker, I assume that cosmetics companies think carefully before choosing singers as representatives. CoverGirl has chosen country singer Taylor Swift (seen above) as one of their current faces, and it would be fascinating to know the demographic considerations that were discussed when they were considering her.

LadyGagaVivaGlam Viva Glam has chosen Lady Gaga as a current representative. In this advertising photo for them she looks far less made-up than she usually does in public appearances. Nonetheless, it reveals a different approach to makeup—reflecting the more over-the-top notion of glamour that Lady Gaga favors. She already serves, for example, as do Cher and Madonna, as a favorite singer for drag queens to impersonate.

Carrie Underwood, another country singer, has a contract with Olay cosmetics, and she seems an apt choice to appeal to a demographic of slightly more mature women than would Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga. It must be fascinating to hear the frank pros and cons that are brought up when cosmetic companies are discussing decisions about product representation. Appealing to their target customers is no doubt big business in terms of sales.