Times have changed. People are saying advertising will no longer be cynical, lewd, silly, bloody and in poor taste post Sept. 11. Decades ago, Americans were serenaded with innocent jingles about toothpaste and toilet paper in between horrific newscasts of carnage in Vietnam. The disconnect between reality and marketing was so extreme it created widespread consumer cynicism, which was cleverly exploited by smart agencies such as Doyle Dane Bernbach. The creative revolution in advertising during the '60s was all about advertising that mocked advertising, for example, the famous ad that proudly proclaimed the Volkswagen Beetle was a lemon. This cynicism has been the lingua franca of marketing until, apparently, now. The over-the-top dot-com spot Lollapalooza which climaxed in one of the most bizarre Super Bowl broadcasts in recent memory in January 2000, was just about the last laugh. A parting shot was delivered by Cliff Freeman & Partners' brand of theater of cruelty, that is, their campaign for Mike's Hard Lemonade, in which blue-collar workers who are brutally dismembered and maimed on the job still can't pass up a round of alcoholic fruit pop. From lemons to lemonade, modern advertisers have ground the discipline down to a bitter pulp.
And now the "new relevance." What will that be like? Heartfelt family testimonials about surviving the recession on golden fried KFC bargain buckets? We can be sure of one thing: The USA propaganda czar Charlotte Beers will greenlight ads that are not very funny.
The new reverence
A sign of things to come: monastery ads. A group of 13 nuns in a cloistered community at Indianapolis' Carmelite Monastery has put out a surprisingly good ad campaign created by Hoosier ad shop Young & Laramore following the Sept. 11 attacks. The good sisters are pushing PrayTheNews.com, a site in which users can send in prayer requests for the nuns. "What we do is pray about world events," says Sister Joanne DeWald. "We read the newspaper and watch the news and we remember these things at prayer time." That's it? No dunning for donations? According to Sister Joanne, donations are accepted but the site does not solicit. It does, however, try to recruit new nuns. For those who might be interested (hey, there are lots of layoffs in the ad business), a candidate must go through physical, psychological and medical tests and live in the monastery for two to four years before she takes final vows, which means an oath of poverty, chastity and obedience. For the guys, check out the Cistercian monks at www.trappist.net.
The old irreverence
Rock 'n' roll, meanwhile, will never die-but some bad boys are becoming decidedly more earnest. Take for example, the case of Hoboken, N.J.-based Outlaw Biker magazine. Casey Exton, founder and publisher, introduces the latest issue with a passionate page-long account of witnessing the World Trade Center attacks from right across the river, while also discussing the need for action. ("WE'VE GOT TO GET THOSE BASTARDS!") And he pledges all profits from the issue will go to the children of World Trade Center victims. His note comes several pages before shots of women wrestling in a wading pool full of coleslaw. The cover and (topless) centerfold model is his 21-year old daughter Nicole in her Outlaw debut. "She's proud of herself," says Exton, who swears that neither he nor his daughter had any qualms about the photos. Besides, he says, "half the book is topless." Perhaps the good sisters might be persuaded to take out an ad.
Contributing: Jon Fine
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