Let me guess: It's a Social Lubricant...

In the latest issue of The New Yorker, John Heileman documents the efforts of multinationals to create "pan-European ads" - thirty-second product pitches, which like the world's great myths, will have equal resonance everywhere, with minimum overdubbing requirements. Unfortunately for the media rationalists, countries like England and Spain (not to mention France) continue to exhibit their own unique values, interests, and quirks of language, so the task is a difficult one.

To find the universal attributes that can sell a product effectively to all of Europe in one great swoop, agencies are turning more and more to brand audits, wherein the brand's personality, functions, differentiators, and "source of authority" are boiled "down to two or three words."

Not surprisingly, this process ends up making many disparate products sound quite similar: the Polaroid camera, we learn, is actually a "social lubricant." And a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red? A "social facilitator." McDonald's throws a slightly different spin on its definition of itself; it's a "trusted friend." Which explains, perhaps, why you hardly ever see drunken photographers snapping pictures with their Polaroids while swigging fifths of Johnnie Walker at the Golden Arches - when you're hanging out with a trusted friend, who needs all those artificial social lubricants?

-- G. Beato

current   |  archives   |  about   |   |  elsewhere