Advert Agro


Anyone who uses the London Underground will probably understand why I sometimes ride up escalators with my eyes closed. The darkness is like a soothing balm for eyes overexposed to the glare of advertisments. Adverts on the underground are like moss in a forest: they cover everything. Even if I am to stubbornly look down at my feet for a whole journey, the edges of my vision are still fringed with colours, shapes, lights and moving images trying to sell me stuff. I can’t look at a word without reading it. I can’t go underground without being hounded by the market. I dread they day that the flashing lights become audio.

One could say that the more adverts I see, the more immune to them I become. But that is not really a comfort.

It is not only the density of adverts which I find overwhelming, it is also the contents – has anyone seen the scientology adverts? There’s one as you come out of the southbound northern line platform at London Bridge. Fucking scary shit, in my opinion.

I sometimes like adverts. Adverts that make this happen are nice. As are the posters celebrating the London Underground turning 150 years old (above).

I am however not a fan of the latest efforts by The English National Ballet. They have got Vivienne Westwood on board for their poster campaign, but sadly not to great effect.

The images are fine, if a bit boring; they look like, or indeed are, fashion shoots (albeit the kind that look like bad TV adverts), but it is the overall effect bothers me. I don’t have a problem with appropriated aesthetics, and if the ENB is looking to shake up their public image, then this could be deemed a successful campaign. But really, what is their point? To show that dancers can do model death-poses too?

What are these little sound bites on the posters? Are they actual quotes? Or are the quotation marks just a graphic? Are they just trying to let us know that dancers are pretty freaks? Are they trying to beat the imax experience for guaranteed weirdness? “Like humans but… NOT!”

I think there is also something heterosexual about these images. Are they trying to take the camp out of ballet?

I technically appreciate this campaign (in terms of advertising it is better than a West End-style theatre campaign) however I am not convinced. Not only because it is not to my taste, but also because in trying to get attention, by jumping into a different pond, the ENB has only landed in a very crowded one. It’s a bit like when car adverts pretend to be movies, or American Apparel adverts pretends to be porn, or mobile networks pretend to be social enterprise networks. Surely Westwood knows better places to land than the world of neon-lit fashion set in fading grandeur. I saw that years ago in next top model.