I didn't rekindle my long-defunct personal blog with any particular agenda - just to see what I might blog about nowadays: to find out what interests me.
Apparently what interests me most is complaining about the billboards I see opposite the bit of the train station platform I stand on every morning at about 7:30 a.m. Who knew?
I just want to start this one off by conceding that, yeah, okay, this Nivea ad isn't the worst advert ever by any stretch of the imagination. And although billboards aren't quite clickable links yet (especially if they lack QR codes like this one), it does at least have a "call to action", which I gather is pretty big biz in the ad world right now.
Reminding one about a product or announcing a new line isn't enough; the in thing is to get your audience to do something.
As "your audience", there's nothing I resent more than the idea that I should be motivated to contribute to your ad campaign. I don't care how much you purport to value my opinion; I just want a memorable ad that I don't hate.
Unfortunately, Nivea's "100 Years of Nivea", "everything's great here in the future", "look at these insane women laughing" campaign is not that ad.
It presents a controversial (and somewhat depressing for a billboard) opinion about "closeness" (which is, I gather, an almost unbelievably tenuous connection to a product that makes your skin softer) - the sort of opinion proffered only by mad grannies who've alienated their extended families over years of intermittent neglect and neediness, and Douglas Coupland, who is universally ignored and/or derided by anyone over the age of 18 and beyond the year of 1999; who wrote a book called JPod and kept a straight face; who habitually writes lists for any websites that'll publish them about why everything will be even worse than it already is now by the time next year comes around.
Have your say. Defend us against this evil sentiment that directly contrasts with our brand values (for some obscure reason). Help us - the ad seems to say - reconcile a lifelong battle against the existential angst of the modern human condition with our range of anti-aging skincare products, because we sure as hell can't do it: it's impossible.
But it's not is it?
Afraid of growing old and dying alone? Use Nivea: it's like Facebook, but for your face.
There. I did it.
See how happy Svetlana and Maria are? They are positively manic. A little soft skin allows them to be so "close" to the world around them, in spite of the alienating influence of "the way we live" (whatever that means) that they sport what can only be unfortunately referred to as shit-eating grins whenever they walk down the street - even though, based on the evidence of this picture, they don't even know each other, or anyone else around them, and are just sauntering down the same street at the same moment, close to... death? orgasm? a nervous breakdown?
Svetlana and Maria are the poor infected extras in the backdrop to a stop-and-stare panel in a particularly grim Grant Morrison comic; some dystopian societal casualties frozen in a false and hollow ecstasy from which they long to escape. If they could talk, they would whimper "kill me".
In fact, they could be dead already; they could be the grinning corpses left by The Joker's victims in the darker Batman storylines.
Or, or, or... (I'm enjoying this) Edvard Munch's Screams having been reanimated and informed of the hilarious irony that they'd been appropriated for the branding of a godawful chain of failing student pubs.
Also, they're not even close: there's nothing about their skin going on here, or the skin cream; this is a Facebook advert. A Facebook advert calling on Nivea fans to defend Facebook from the sort of people who think Facebook is rubbish and cold and soul-sucking and false. Or, rather, to get people already on Facebook to like Nivea's page on Facebook so they can send them more adverts that will, presumably, contain at least some content that isn't entirely based around soliciting an undesired opinion on a topic far too complex to be dealt with on Nivea's Facebook wall - something like Rhianna in various states of undress (which, to be fair, you don't need to sign up to Nivea's Facebook page to have the exclusive rights to).
As I said, this isn't the worst advert ever, but I maintain that it's bad, because it's a transparent lure into a trap baited with nothing more than the promise of more ads. There's not even any bribery. The only discernible promise is that you can "have your say".
No doubt Nivea have some idea what they're doing online as well as off, (check our their weird and meticulously managed Wikipedia page), but this seems shallow to me, and a bit wide of the mark.
"Some say we're just not close anymore".
Nope - you're way off: "all watched over by skin creams of loving grace" just doesn't ring true.
Yours, wrong as always,
What seems to be George Pringle asking Douglas Coupland some questions not about moisturising (tenuous, I know, but it does reveal Doug would be a fan of the font in the above advert):