“Publicity images also belong to the moment in the sense that they must continually be renewed and made up-to-date. Yet they never speak of the present. Often they refer to the past and always they speak of the future.” So, said John Berger many decades ago as he launched into a broad criticism of advertising. His overall point was that advertising shows us the life we can dream of even as we trudge through a monotonous reality. We engage in meaningless work while dreaming of the glamour, success and well being associated with products in advertisements. Whether you agree or disagree with his opinion, it could be argued that the Awareness Campaign is the opposite of advertisement because it is not seductive. It points to a grim future if we’re not “aware” of the issue in the campaign. Interesting that publicity can be so two-faced, so to speak.
While an advertisement for say, a soft drink shows people living the life, an awareness campaign most often shocks and scares us with gory images of suffering and death. A “Baby on Board” sign on the back of a hearse. Handcuffs and chains, to indicate a lack of press freedom. A skeletal spine hooked together with a seatbelt. “Killed to Dress” is about fur coats. And well, you get the idea. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There can be fun and positive awareness messages. The Outdoor Advertising Association of America launched Recession 101 billboards with optimistic messages: “Bill Gates started Microsoft in a recession.” “Experience and talent are recession proof assets.” Then there’s Switzerland. They wanted to raise awareness about trashcans. They could have shown streets overwhelmed by garbage but instead, they took the fun approach. The flip side. Trashcans around Lucerne attracted attention with mazes and hop scotch games surrounding them.
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