it’s the season of the sofa ad!
Over the Christmas period, and probably right into the nub of January, you can’t turn your telly on without seeing images of happy couples flopping into luxurious leatherette sofas. There’s usually a child too, a blonde-haired scamp who, because the sofa his parents have recently bought is so robust and of such amazing quality and value, is able to leap all over it adorably, often wearing pirate dressing up clothes. Sometimes there’s a dog too, whose presence enhances the notion of the complete, well-rounded family – along with the subtle suggestion that the sofa can take ANYTHING couples, children and dogs can throw at it, almost literally.
These families never suffer the pain of divorce, mental illness and bereavement – they’re too happy flopping down on their sofa to be bothered by existential crises! They’re exultant, clean, well-fed and visibly love each other very, very much. You can tell how much they love each other by the gusto with which they sit on their sofas, or, in a coded reference to sex (a human activity ideal for sofas) the coyness with which they rub each other’s calves, barefoot, while lounging on modular seating.
If you buy one of the advertised sofas, you too will be immune to life’s disasters and while you’re sitting on that very sofa you can be sure you’ll only ever feel happy and content. This is advertising FACT. The people featured in the commercials enjoy sound, sexually respectful marriages and they have very special relationships with their in-laws too, who are sometimes depicted as athletic-looking grey-haired people who clearly still enjoy life, especially on sofas.
The commercials are designed to not only flog you some seating, they want you to believe in a sofa-based lifestyle where happiness is measured in the size of your storage pouffe. With sofas like these available, who needs religion / drink / Facebook?
And then there are the slimming ads. When we’re all feeling crushed by self-revulsion at the amount of alcohol / chocolate / lard we’ve managed to consume in the space of 36 hours, we see images of people (mostly women) just like us – women of differing ages, ethnic background and degree of obesity – all struggling to fit into a pair of jeans. Or skipping about joyfully on enormous graphics extolling the virtues of bran bars while performing a jaunty calorie-focussed rap. With this kind of festive ad, the consequences of greed are our uniting force. We’re treated to a before / after look at the miracle of a weight-loss plan, see how the lives of the Ideal Consumers in the ads have benefited immeasurably by buying into a lifestyle change and even though we’re convinced these lucky people will all live longer happier lives, we sink back into our sale-price sofas and reach for the Quality Street…
Over the Christmas break, I found myself asking why oh why oh why are the large majority of perfume commercials WHISPERED? Actually, let’s clarify that, why are the majority of perfume ads for women’s fragrances whispered? Are the advertisers assuming that astute gift-givers only pay attention when the product name is murmured? Do women only nag their partners to by perfume if they’ve heard the brand name whispered? Do men only pay attention to commercials if the brand name’s whispered? And how many times have you WHISPERED a brand name to a loved one? Picture the scene: a couple are preparing a shopping list. Probably in their recently-bought end-of-year sale kitchen.
Him: …so we need eggs, milk, bread, peanut butter…
Her: And we need some (whispering) Marmite…
Him: I’m sorry?
Her: I said, we need some (whispering) Marmite.
Him: Why are you whispering?
Her: Because I want the product to seem classy, aspirational and imbibed with a sense of innate sexiness in the hope that you’ll attend more to what I’m saying and retain the brand information I’m attempting to convey.
Him: Right… OK, what else do we need?
Her: Don’t forget the (whispering) Kleenex.
Him: Yeah OK. You’ve made your point.