We Live In Warhol’s World

February 25, 2020

The Guardian has an excellent review by Kathryn Hughes of the new Andy Warhol biography: A Life As Art by Blake Gopnik.

Warhol exploded the art scene and art business; his pieces (in painting, advertising, design, movies) and style are everywhere and he made himself as popular and expensively collectable as Picasso.  Gopnik’s book takes a thousand pages to explain why he is so important.

“Far from being a ready-made, assembled from the detritus of the scholarly-industrial complex, Warhol: A Life As Art is the product of years studying 100,000 or so original documents housed in Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum. The artist was a lifelong hoarder, and Gopnik’s research is intricately based on a florid haul of engagement diaries, business letters, love notes, theatre tickets and tax returns.”

There are numerous examples given of Warhol’s quirks:

“It is a testimony to Blake Gopnik’s skill that he is able to acknowledge how silly these provocations sound while simultaneously insisting on their enduring art historical significance. Dressing up as a box of Brillo may count as a stunt, but Gopnik, a veteran critic and contributor to the New York Times, sees it as the logical extension of Marcel Duchamp’s gesture 50 years earlier when he exhibited a porcelain pissoir as art. Responding to someone’s standard greeting with a detailed report on your bowel movements may be childish but it also pointedly disrupts the genteel discourse of a rapidly capitalising art market. The fact that today we are inclined to roll our eyes at such anecdotes is evidence not of Warhol’s nullity, but of his continuing ubiquity.”

He concludes:

“Whether we like it or not, we are still living in his world.”

Changing Our World

February 25, 2020

I have noticed recently that a vast swathe of TV ads use mixed-race families, which helps normalise them in the eyes of the average TV viewer.  There are also a good number of gay and lesbian couples in ads these days.  It becomes hard to remember when that wasn’t so.  Here is a great ad by Guinness from 1995.

1995 is not a long time ago, but Guinness were forced to cancel the ad just before its showing due to the number of complaints and the vicious media backlash they received.

Big Brother IS Watching #2

February 25, 2020

Do you remember Foursquare? I guess it is still around but I haven’t heard of it for quite a while. It was an app that directed you to stores and restaurants close to where you were physically located based on the GPS data supplied by your mobile phone. I was reminded of it when I read this article from Creative Review called Creativity and Programmatic Advertizing.  The article might be a bit inside-the-beltway for those not in the advertising and marketing business, but it includes some extraordinary insights into the kind of information databanks that corporation compile about you and me.

First of all, the definition of “programmatic advertizing”:

“Programmatic advertising offers the chance to connect with the right consumer at the right place and time … Programmatic allows you to run segmented work that will appeal to all of your audiences – it then optimises the creative to the version that best suits a media channel’s audience.”

There is nothing new about the first sentence.  If you are placing ads on the TV show “Sesame Street” you are no doubt aiming at a different audience than if you place the same ad on “The Batchelor,” for example.  Even the second sentence is unoriginal: the ad you place on “The Batchelor” will (or should be) different than the ad you used on “Sesame Street“.

The difference today is the matter of scale.  Old campaigns may have had half-a-dozen different sets of copy and images for various market segments.  Today, technology has exploded that almost infinitely.

“Unilever’s Axe brand in Brazil … recently used programmatic adverts to serve online viewers with up to 100,000 variations of its Romeo Reboot ad.”

The particular variation you get to see is not random, of course. It is designed to appeal specifically to characteristics about you that the advertiser already knows from your purchase history, demographics, browsing profiles, and a million other data points that you don’t even recognize you are giving away.

I have no doubt that within a few years almost every ad will say something like “Hello Jak, here’s a piece of cookware that we know you’ve been thinking about.”  We already get this from Amazon.

I don’t need or want that kind of omniscience from corporations. And it sure makes me think more fondly of those quaint old Foursquare days.

Image: Sky Meld

February 25, 2020

Grandview 25th February 1920

February 25, 2020


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