I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone who has ever read this blog before that I find advertising always confusing and frequently grotesquely offensive.
But I’m seeing more and more ads at the moment, due to thoroughly enjoying watching Australia lose the cricket to South Africa: I normally mute or ignore ads where I can, but it’s never seemed worth it for a one-advertisement break between overs.
So I’ve been watching the smug prat in the Mitsubishi 4WD splattering inoffensive people going about their everyday business with water, mud, and dust, and then grinning about it.
And I’ve been watching the Johnny Walker ads, which always astonish me, because it seems as though their tagline is “It’s amazing what you’ll find yourself doing when you’re ratted.” (My favourite was the one they did a few years ago with Christopher Walken—I think it was Walken, anyway—where the subtext was, essentially, “I always need to get totally off my nut before I can bring myself to step on stage.”)
But the ones that are really driving me nuts at the moment are the Solo ads.
I know that Solo ads are dependent on a particular form of machismo: a selling position that relies on recognisable codes of homosociality and male physical strength, also seen in flavoured-milk and beer ads.
Fine: well and good. I have no problem with that, though it won’t make me buy low-fizz, lemon-flavoured soft drink.
But this new two-part one with the man making the $1000 bet with his mates? I can’t figure this one out. I simply can’t comprehend how it seems ideal to construct an ad around Andrew Symonds—who, let’s face it, is not the most advertising-friendly figure in Australian cricket at the moment—viciously body-checking a complete stranger and then smirking at him.
Add the fact that the complete stranger is cross-dressing, and you add a new, highly unpleasant subtext to the ad.
It seems to me at best thoroughly mean spirited and at worst open to accusations of something far more invidious and dangerous. It strikes me as doubly odd, since Solo ads used to be banal, rather than out-and-out awful.
Perhaps it’s the consequence of adding a cricketer to the mix? We can call it the Max Walker blood-diamond syndrome.