Monday, 31 March 2008

In colours everywhere

The latest Sony Bravia TV commercial, where tons of Play-Doh roll across the cityscape in various forms, has got to be one of the ad industry's great modern triumphs. It's beautiful and colourful (both attributes that they want associated with their product), and it is by far the most covertly, superliminally sexual advertisement I've ever seen.

Now, let's define terms. We all know that sex sells, and it's used in commercial advertising all the time. Typically this is noticed when it's overt, or in your face. I'm thinking of your run-of-the-mill deodorant advert or the usual scantily clad personages selling you perfume or a razor with seven kajillion blades. What's less noticeable is advertising that is subliminal, in that it's designed to not be noticed by the conscious mind. I'm a great fan of the genre and like to spend my free time looking for distorted faces in retouched ice cubes or four letter words in models' hair. Good times. But what I mean by superliminal is best defined (like many things) by this quote from The Simpsons:
Lisa: But you've got recruiting ads on TV - why do you need subliminal messages?
Lt. Smash: It's a three-pronged attack. Subliminal, liminal, and superliminal.
Lisa: Superliminal?
Lt. Smash: I'll show you. {yells out the window to Lenny and Carl} Hey you, join the navy!
Carl: Ahh, yeah alright.
Lenny: I'm in!

Right, that's superliminal. You can be superliminal and overtly sexual, like putting gratuitous breasts on an ad for mushrooms (The copyranter blog is worth a look if you're interested in the subject, though not entirely SFW).

But the Bravia ad takes the cake for showing a series of images, all of which are superliminally associable with sex, but without resorting to phallic symbols or revealed flesh (hence, covert). To recap the ad (here's a YouTube link if you haven't seen it):

1. The music begins: "She Comes in Colours" by the Rolling Stones, a song not well known today, but controversial when it was released as the lyrics clearly reference female orgasm.
2. The claymation (or would it be Dohmation?) starts with some rabbits. And you know what they do.
2. They multiply. Oh yes they do. Tons and tons of bunnies.
3. They transform into... balls.
4. The balls turn into a great liquid wave. (You see where I'm going with this?)
5. The waves crash into a salty seascape, becoming icebergs.
6. Cut, briefly, to the dodgy looking guy in the photo above, wearing a T-shirt that reads "Happy Ending Massage Parlor" (you know what that means) and a shit-eating grin.
7. From the icebergs left behind, a whale appears. What kind of whale? A huge, pink, Sperm Whale. (Check the drawing on the Wikipedia page if you think I'm making this up.)
8. The whale resurfaces, growing into a giant rabbit.
9. Just to make sure we have the right association in mind, we see a small infant watching the spectacle.

And the great circle of life is complete. Thanks, Sony!

I call out the "Happy Ending" guy because he's just so over the top. It's got to be a kind of knowing wink by the producers of the ad, a way of saying "I can't believe what they let us get away with on this one."

And the funny thing is, after all that, I don't really want to buy a Bravia. But I tell you what, I've really got this hankering for Play-Doh...

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