Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Horrible, ugly, and with poor lighting

Life isn't all beer and skittles and canned prunes and boxed chocolate products. Thankfully, there are people in this world who remain committed to inspiring fear, paranoia, suspicion, mutual mistrust, and loathing in us. These people are largely in government, or are friends with people in government ('we are working closely with the government to ensure that...' is usually how they put it.) And if private companies can use advertising to sell their products and cheer us all up in the process, then governments and their friends can use advertising just as effectively to darken our day, and remind us that there is a grey cloud behind every silver lining.

Work! It's a dangerous minefield of amputations and acid baths and near-death accidents. That is the clear message that I take away from one campaign they're currently running on the trams and in the movie theatres. Not content with merely saying 'be careful', the people who designed this particular ad campaign picked the most dour-faced actors, put them in the grimmest scenes, and shrouded them in the gloomiest atmosphere. Gritty realism aint the half of it: these ads are lurid, Gothic, and virtually swimming with foetid vapours and noxious gases. Quite possibly, someone should turn on the lights. The actors, meanwhile, have the most horrid things happen to them. One young man presents us with his handless arm (where'd that go?). Another girl gets her fingers chopped off (ouch!). Another woman presents her acid-drenched face to us (eeeeh!) The collective message we get from these ads is: something horrible happened to these people, and now their life is horrible! You wouldn't want to have a horrible life like an armless person, would you? TOO BAD!

Cigarettes! They cause you to have really quite ugly internal organs! Cigarette packets now come swathed in bizarre pictures of the exposed insides of the sick, sick nicotine addicts who still keep up with the habit. They don't show you what a non-smokers lung looks like - every bit as bloody, palpitating, slimy, with polyps waving to and fro in the alien internal gases that our body produces every day. Message: smoking is ugly and makes people who smoke it ugly too! Stay away from these ugly people! Ugh!

These are the most prominent examples at the moment, but there's more. However, I cannot quite buy the message of any of these ad campaigns. They'd have you believe that we are surrounded every day by horrible dangers, that life is just one big Soviet Gulag. Why, I could be typing away at work, and all of a sudden, my arm could be amputated, a huge vat of acid could fall on my head, and a nearby smoker could look at me, causing my internal organs to gush out of my body. 'Why, if only I'd been more careful and avoided evil people who smoke!' I will cry as I fall to the ground and die.

I'm still waiting for it to happen. It sounds kinda fun, actually.


Anonymous said...

It sounds like all the encouragement I'd need to become (even more of a) reclusive misanthrope. Who knows what happens when you go out and actually interact with people. Oh yeah, acid baths, involuntary amputations, and corroding innards.

Actually, apropos smoking and its manifold "benefits" I had an interesting discussion with a German PhD (the person, not the bound edition) last night about the benefits to public health of there being a high proportion of smokers in a society. The Frau Doktor's idea was that smokers die younger and faster than their allegedly healthier non-smoking brethren, thus actually saving the public purse considerable funds which would otherwise have been squandered on keeping legions of vegetative nonagenarians breathing and micturating in twilight bliss.

Dale Slamma said...

Have you seen the one about getting raped when you get drunk? Horrendously disturbing on approximately 29846784026700138570813 levels.

TimT said...

David - ha! Whereas the argument I've heard more frequently in Australia is that smokers put an 'undue burden' on the public health system. (Dan had a recent encounter with this argument.)

Slamma - can't say that I have. Sounds hideous though. There's also a current wave of STD ads, and there are the car safety/drink driving ads, and of course the infamous Howard Government 'fridge magnet' campaign. Maybe that's a state government ad?

What bemuses me is that all these ads seem to be available everywhere you look. On the trams? Naturally. Now just imagine you're a parent hopping on the tram with your child, who naturally looks up and sees one of those ads, and then turns to you and asks...

Maria said...

I was talking to a smoker recently and she was telling me she was thinking of quitting because of the cost of a pack a day, not cause of her health. "I'm as fit as a horse" she said. "But I don't drink much and I don't do all those other drugs. I've been to parties and people are getting high or are off their face on alcohol. And then they have a headache safetr. It makes no sense1 I mean, really, how can people do these things to their own body. It's disgusting!"

Yes indeed.

(I'm a teetotaller basically but I had a sip of Mr Coffee's beer last night. He said it was a bit different from most other beers and it certainly wasn't what I was expecting, it's my first taste of beer though. Maybe because I got quite a bit of froth. He said it tasted like caramel. it wasn't terrible but I think I prefer caramel milkshakes!

I wonder exactly what CARAMEL BEER does to your innards???)

TimT said...

Well the high cost of cigs is in large part because of the taxes on them - and that's largely to make people quit. Your friend sounds sensible though.

I like beer myself, and dread what will happen if/when cigarettes are finally outlawed. People will start stuffing around with beer packaging/prices/etc, then.

Anonymous said...

You're right again, Tim - in your comment on Dan's post you subtly pointed out that almost everyone who's alive puts a drain on the public health system. The more I think about it, the more the Frau Doktor's position makes sense. Everyone knows that smoking shortens your life (and yeah, yeah, almost everyone's got a story - apocryphal or not - about some aged relative who smoked until they were 99 and weren't ever sick for even a day. Until they dropped dead.), but surely - and here I don't have my statistical safety blanket with me - the shorter, and more hopeless, medical cases of smokers would mean that there's a greater throughput of units (read: sick people who die fast) than if the hospitals are clogged with there merely slightly sick and ailing!

As for taxing something legal that people can do of their own free will, to fund all manner of 'services' for people who are engaged in more legally shady activity ... well ... it's time that people start growing their own 'baccy! The Rustic Girls (those fine, bucolic babes) tell us how:

Mitzi G Burger said...

Howdy All, I consulted the talented Rustic Girls and found 'Don't Smoke' listed as their number one tip for increased longevity:

I challenge any potential parent or would-be parent to broad-mindedness about smoking when their own progeny or sprogs-yet-merely-twinkles-in-the-eye get the idea of smoking being cool, and get done by the Deputy for lighting up behind the dunnies at recess and setting their mate's mohawk on fire.

Just as Ian Kiernan (Clean Up Australia) called packaged water the 'products of yesterday', I somehow feel that smoking could come to be remembered as an odd social fad that has remained immortalised by the cingarette rolling muchachas in the opera 'Carmen' but not really regarded with any seriousness.

Many legal, free will activities are taxed, and we have all laid back and let the coffer-fillers decide that confectionary, restaurant food, ice cream, pretzels and pastries are luxury items worthy of the GST rather than basic staples in any good citizen's diet.

I think the ad campaigns are aimed at the teen female demographic - the most susceptible to addiction - and, silly and heavy-handed as they are, I hope they work.

TimT said...

But I doubt they will work. It's not just the proliferation of ugliness (excused by 'but it's for your own good') that is objectionable, it's the fact that as shocking/grittily-realistic/frightening ad campaigns become more and more predomiminant, they will become less and less effective.

Maria said...

Damn those alive people!

Actually saying that if you're in poor health you put a drain on the public health system isn't in fact true. It's like saying if you don't work you necessarily put a drain on welfare.

It's people who seek lots of support who are a burden. If you're a smoker who gets really sick but is happy to die in agony in the privacy of your own home, then you're probably less of a drain on the health system than one of those preachy fit-as-a-horse types who insists on having check-ups constantly and rings up the hospital if they get a splinter in their finger or a paper cut.

Maria said...

Trouble with the ciggie ad campaigns is that the more there are then the less shock value they have, that's just how it works. Just like qwe get immune to violence or nudity in movies.

I don't know how well it works. Really, for me I don't smoke but I think they need to think of something else.

Maybe instead of doing ads where they show cancer, they should show single mums with low incomes with a ratty screeching baby dangling out of one hand and a ciggie dangling out of another and her being dumped by boyfriend number 468, or hobos smoking, you know, or dweebie loser guy who can't get a date or a job taking a smoke, people you don't generally aspire to be. Maybe someone smoking in a bar and all their friends disappearing to the non-smoking section. The opposite of all the 'movie star smoking' images and 'you have to do it to be in the crowd' that got people all hooked in the first place.

TimT said...

I agree with most of that, though I don't know if there's such a thing as 'excessive' nudity... surely people are either nude or not nude?

Though if you wanted to get a real feeling of excessive nudity, perhaps you could film a whole crowd of naked people standing on one another, perhaps in the shape of a gigantic nude person? A nude Voltron!

Maria said...

'excessive nudity' = fat tall person being nude as opposed to skinny dwarf.

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