May 26, 2005
I read a Matt Taibbi piece a while ago about the disturbing use of mannequins in advertising. Here in Sydney just recently we saw the re-emergence of a similar campaign that had seemed so wrong-headed the first time it came out it seemed impossible that the commercials could have been successful and, yet, here they were again. The campaign first ran a few months ago to publicise the opening of a local multi-level suburban mall, and involved television and poster ads featuring a young woman shopping while accompanied by a talking ventriloquist dummy. (Or possible a puppet without strings, it's not entirely clear.) She'd look at products and the dummy would say obsequious things like "Of course you need a pair of diamond stilettos", or (as she peruses a menu) "What looks good, apart from you?", or - my personal, skin-crawling favourite - "If it makes you feel good, it's a bargain." Even if we discount the longstanding horror-movie tradition of animated puppets, what normal person could not find these ads anything but irredeemably creepy? My local bus stop sported the most grotesque example, in which the dummy watches our heroine while she sleeps (Caption: "Your hair looks beautiful on the new sheets"). This is supposed to encourage people to shop? As opposed to, say, awake screaming in the night, running with sweat and clutching at the covers?
What disturbs me is that the ads must have worked with their target demographic because they were brought back, at least as bus shelter posters. Perhaps there's
some everything about the advertising industry that I don't understand. I'd hate to think this was the average woman's idea of a perfect man, a fawning marionette that follows them about and validates their purchases.
At any rate, the posters have gone again now, the bus shelters now feature the teaser campaign for Hollywood's most recent exploration of the theme of beautiful people with guns, and the world seems a sunnier place.