Back issues

Crit: Advertising and Porn

Gordon Comstock

Did somebody order a sausage pizza?

When people ask me what I do these days, I just tell them straight out: I make porn. Really it’s not that different to advertising I say, you still spend all day in a brightly lit room with someone you can barely stand, searching for variations on a creative act considered, up-to-now, unpalatable or just plain disgusting. I get the same embarrassed look I used to, but I am spared the lecture on the ills of capitalism, inevitably delivered by people who work for the bbc, whose jobs are funded by large-scale theft.

And it’s true – not that I make porn, that’s a socio­pathic lie – but advertising is porn’s disreputable cousin. They are both almost, but not quite, art. They are both driven by a desire for the curious that means they get weirder and weirder the longer they go on. And they both demanded much less of their practitioners for a much higher return in the 80s.

But those heady days are past. Neither porn studios nor ad agencies can afford to be compla­cent. Their domi­nance has been undermined by the diffusion of diy techno­logy. In advertising we call this phenomenon ‘user-created content’, in porn they just call it ‘amateur porn’. This is especially important for two industries so funda­mentally concerned with truth. In this age when a professional studio can fake any­thing, people implicitly trust the amateur. Anyone with a webcam and access to genitals can make a rudimen­tary porno – and to make an ad, you don’t even need genitals. Both industries have responded to the threat to their supremacy with assimilation. In porn they call this gonzo, in advertising, we don’t have a word for it yet, so for the sake of devilment, I’m going to call it gonzo.

The gonzo plot is the same every time. Pornstar stalks beach, approaches ‘real’ girl, confuses her with double entendres, girl agrees to anal sex. It’s just as fake as studio porn, but the frame is real – this is the gonzo innovation.

Gonzo advertising works in exactly the same way. ‘Real’ Londoners suddenly break into a dance routine, or are astonished when an arriving train releases a mass of helium balloons. The citizens of Miami are covered in thick white foam, and are, in perhaps a nod to bukkake films, apparently delighted. A huge beach ball is delivered onto a crowd in Dallas who mindlessly bat it around for five tedious, tedious minutes. This, I’m afraid, is only the beginning.
Gonzo’s rise is assured, not because it’s good, but because its ideal consumer isn’t the consumer, it’s the brand manager. Showing the public loving an advert, within the advert, is the equivalent of the porn queen’s ooh-ya-do-it-to-me schtick. They might convince themselves they can tell when it’s fake, but when even reasonable people regularly fall for a lie, brand managers frankly don’t stand a chance. It seems like the only way to resist this trend is to deliber­ately associate it with an unpleasant type of porn.

Gordon Comstock is an advert­ising copywriter based in London. He also writes the Not Voodoo blog at notvoodoo.blogspot.com

6 Comments

A clever way of reminding us once again that "aww, isn't that cute/funny/edgy" isn't the same thing as persuasion. Question is, is anyone listening?
dvawter
2009-08-17 16:57:04


The greater question is - do either of these approaches ultimately lead to people spending money? You can view a full length gonzo of either variety for nothing now, whether you want to or not. Consumers use and dispose like a Kleenex tissue with no persuasion dealt and no money spent. If I've decided to buy its not because of the free porno.

Give it ten years and the fountains in the lobby of BBDO will trickle to a halt in the face of digital PR companies.
Jaqoda
2010-01-06 00:01:47


re: advertising - I don't even have a TV ..for a couple of reasons;

The waste of time I would incur, watching patronising adverts. Avoid them like the plague! Plus the high cost of the licence fee. Frankly I have better things to do. I rent dvds and watch what I want when I want to. The corporates are so up themselves with their arrogance. It's astounding. No wonder advertising has taken a nose dive into the surreal. Re; porn however ..Gianna Michaels could sell me anything!
Paul
2011-12-09 17:56:02


It's not only who your job is funded by, but also who gets funded with it.

Porn and advertising are more disreputable than the BBC because both have been known to make the interest of all sort of shady characters and dubious activities, the first drug dealers andmobsters, the second arrogant corporations and phony products and services.

In other wods: it's not the fact of advertising, is the fact of accepting to promote certain companies and products. It's being their instrument without a blink that is unforgivable. All in A&M have become more and more accomplices to an infinite list of crimes. In comparison BBC's sins, with its outstanding public service considered the best in the world and all, seem rather harmless.



I really really wish that I could pay an annual fee make you lot just go away to pester with bs another planet.





Gabriel
2011-12-21 03:26:00


@ Gabriel

The analogy between porn and advertising is a good one. What I find strange is that the other instruments of these very same corporations - the accountants, the insurers, the head hunters etc.. - don't seem to thought of with the same level of distain as the advertisers..
Brian James
2013-02-23 16:59:20


That was a very entertaining read. I don't understand why advertisers get such a bad rep though (and the same goes for porn directors). It's a just a job, and at least they have the opportunity to be creative. The Gonzo is totally overused though, so agree with you there.
Sean Lade
2014-08-17 12:14:04


Tell us what you think

What happens with my feedback?

We no longer require you to register and have a password in order to comment, simply fill in the form below. All comments are moderated so you may experience a short delay before your comment appears. CR encourages comments to be short and to the point. As a general rule, they should not run longer than the original post. Comments should show a courteous regard for the presence of other voices in the discussion. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments that do not adhere to this standard.

Share This — Social Bookmarking