Being in a somewhat captive audience on the subway itâs hard not to soak in the visual stimuli provided by advertising on the train. In between the blur of Budweiser and city services ads every so often an ad or a campaign stands out. A more recent series that has burned an image in the back of my brain is an entry from Dentyne to promote their gum. The ads play with the concept that internet technology and culture have wedged themselves in-between actual human contact. The ads use naturalistic photography juxtaposed with plain text representations of common internet phrases and communique. The implicit meaning is that these locutions are insufficient compared to their real-life counterparts and that one should reject the distance created by technology. The warmth of actual intimacy — while chewing gum — is apparently preferable to the sterile distance of online communication. I like the ads. Whenever I board the train and see one I find myself staring for lengthy periods of time but I also feel that I have a completely opposite reaction than the ads direct meaning.
One of the greatest tools several thousands dollars of debt and a film degree have given me is the ability to perform and obsession with imagery analysis. I like the idea that pictures carry a visual vocabulary of meaning. The Dentyne ads to me carry an emotional weight in that their imagery communicates feelings like love, friendship, communion, humanity. They are beautifully shot and really have a sort of aesthetics of the real kind of feel to them. For a while, the reason behind my fascination eluded me, I liked the images but felt off-put by the message. To me the internet is not a de-facto distancing technology, but quite the opposite. It can be used to extend and facilitate real human interaction. It is useful in its supplemental function as a way to find people who might otherwise slip through the cracks and its ability to communicate information like performances, parties, gatherings en masse. When used properly in fact the internet can be the means to an end for real-life human intimacy. It finally hit me when I saw the above image âFriend Request Acceptedâ? and I realized what it was about the ad campaign that stood out.
For me, far from criticizing or commenting on the distance between what these words mean and the representative picture of the women hugging I think the emotional connection I associate with the image and the meaning of the words is one and the same. In a way âFriend Request Acceptedâ? is a sort of virtual hug between two people. Whatâs bizarre for me is the way in which I realized I had associated emotional significance to such phrases in the same way I attributed the same feeling to imagery. In a way the sterile, unassuming phrases we are accustomed to seeing online become a snap-shot of an emotion that is both visceral and in a way hyperreal.
After all, how often are we conscious of the moments we become friends? I can name many people I would consider close friends but I canât name the specific point at which that became the case for each relationship. I can think of instances, moments when that connection manifested and I became aware of the reality of our friendship. But, as with many people my day to day interactions are not so much a catalog of those moments of clarity but instead a deluge of taking life for granted. That is what really hits me about this campaign. The isolated clips provide a window into an untapped level of awareness. Whether they be generic computer phrases or beautiful photographs.
Are you kidding? That is pretty much exactly how I interpreted these ads when I first saw them!! Except I never interpreted it as a snarky campaign at all…. I felt it was more or less doing what you’re saying it did for you… making clear to us the interchangability in depth between the two forms of affirmation.
Hey I miss you!
That is interesting that you had a similar reaction to the ads. I wonder if that’s a ancillary effect or intended. If you look at this New York Times article and at Dentyne’s website they both seem to take the meaning explicit that one needs to turn off the computer and start experiencing life.
innnnnnnnnteresting. i guess i am a grasshopper after all
I felt EXACTLY the same way. That’s why I loved those ads so much.
I do agree about the internet facilitating such a great social platform, but at the same time it also creates this terrible breeding ground for emotionless miscommunication when people try to substitute it for face to face communication in instances where physical interaction or body language is absolutely crucial.
I mean there’s only so much that smileys and emotes can do. If you went /hug when I said I needed a hug,
it doesn’t satisfy my desire to be held by someone… I can only appreciate the thought.
There was a point in my life where those emotes were about as real as I could get because I had never had someone care about me. But I had this person online who supposedly had feelings for me and would emote what he would do as if we were together and I accepted it until I learned that it was absolutely unhealthy to go on believing in things like that.