A Commentary on American Culture

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonI stumbled across this image last week. And no doubt, the uncredited artist who created it intended some sort of commentary on America’s consumer culture. And I agree, although probably not in the way the artist intended.

Yes, we live in a country awash in pitches for everything from Shamrock Shakes to Shamwows to Dollar Shave Club. And for that, I’m extremely thankful.

God Bless the USA. Happy Fourth!

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


They Can’t Be Loving This…

I like art. I don’t pretend to always understand it, but it’s fun to experience something that changes the way you view the world…or even think of it.

And then there’s these guys: British artists Jake and Dinos Chapman who are staging their first show in Hong Kong with their hyper detailed sculptural piece de resistance “The Sum of all Evil.”

Dennis Ryan, Olson, Advertising

I wasn’t familiar with their previous work but apparently “Hell” is a big theme with them. This is only the latest in a series of massive dioramas they have painstakingly created: a vision of violence, war, the holocaust and–eye-catchingly–Ronald McDonald. Find more happy, feel-good imagery at the gallery’s website here.

Dennis Ryan, Olson, Advertising

I’m sure this is a metaphor about mass consumerism; all that death and destruction staged with tiny Nazi, skeleton and corpse models. If you look closely, you can even see the Hamburglar amidst all the crucified Ronalds and mass graves. Everyone needs a hobby, but man, this is nothing so much as a testament to the power of caffeine and keenly-focused rage. Personally, I have a hard time summoning such anger over a Filet-o-Fish, but then, I’m not an artist. I’m in advertising. Which I guess makes me a target of the Chapman brothers.

The irony of course is that these YBA’s–Young British Artists–were discovered seven years ago by none other than Charles Saatchi. Yes, of this Saatchi.  Lovely job there Chuck. Nice work.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Perhaps Skymall Does Portend the End of Days

So I took a day trip for business yesterday which meant I got to spend quality time with the American Airlines SkyMall magazine (“Free copy–take it.  We’ll replace it!”).  For someone in the business of selling, this publication is like a textbook of direct selling techniques and a glimpse into the dead, black heart of raw consumerism: dubious jewelry, a spectacular array of purported male pattern baldness remedies and of course, “Bigfoot, the Garden Yeti” statues, which clock in at two feet tall and twelve pounds of hand painted designer resin, courtesy of the artisans at Toscano design.

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79

Another stalwart of this publication has long been the Gravity Defyer shoe peddlers: those crafty cobblers who secret away springs in the heels of their footwear, all with the promise of making your every stride pain free and filled with energy…

But recently, the Gravity Defyer people updated their look.  No longer do they feature the hapless actuary fella striding purposefully with his arm extended as if to summon an imaginary taxicab.  Instead, both in their logo and worse, on their new athletic shoe, they feature graphics that can only be described as ‘spermatozoa-ick.’

I wish I were making this up.  I’m not.  Check out this enlargement:

Dennis Ryan, Chicago Advertising, Element 79 If I didn’t see it myself, I’d swear someone was making this up just to win a frat boy bar bet.  They not only refer to their little dribbler as a “Slick Seed of Life Logo,” they then explain it’s presence with the reality-defying claim “Because it’s cool!

Really?  Cool?  Really?

How can you respond to that?  How can you pretend that anything about this shoe and worse, the logo splashed on it’s side, represents anything but a total FAIL?  What kind of person wants to be seen in public sporting such an unfortunate stain on their footwear?

I love what I do.  I love positioning products to show off their utility and attractiveness.  But this product disturbs me deeply.  It is the font for a thousand off-color comments.

And next time you fly, it will be in the seat pocket in front of you.



By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


Actually, Consumerism Can Go Too Far

This Represents State-of-the-Art Spitballing

State-of-the-Art Spitballing

Despite such atrocities as cinema advertising, pop ups, and non opt-out ads on purchased DVD’s, I actually believe in the fundamental value advertising brings to a free market society.  At our best, we stoke the might engine of commerce, encouraging job creation and fueling a robust economy.

But things can go too far.  And this little bit of e-commerce should serve as Exhibit A for that argument.

I fear for a world where kids actually purchase store-bought spitballs, no matter how aero-dynamically advanced these may be.  Played correctly, juvenile delinquent antics are a battle of wits and surprise, not an arms race.  As parents, we bear the responsibility for teaching our kids that.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79