Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

17 July 2007

The Medium is (Integral to) the Message

I hit NYC for the first time last weekend. Once I got over the elaborate spiderweb that passes for a subway (definitely a far cry from beloved BART), I fell all over myself.

New York is the living, breathing witness to America's industrialized history, stuffed to overflowing with contradictory messages and too many dreams. And like a splatter in the concrete, every once in awhile you find beauty again.

I'm accosted by ads I've reviewed, come to vivid life. It's like they were lying in wait and have leaped out to confront me, pulsing with energy and so much force. The press releases that tried to contain them simply never had a chance.

Since the awakening, so to speak, I've developed an almost superstitious aversion to PDFs. Generally speaking I don't mind them, but in the strange universe of ad critique I find them deceptive for two reasons:
  1. Marshall McLuhan said the medium is the message. Can you divorce the medium from the message? No. In PDF form, the ad lacks the impact and gravity its creators had in mind.
  2. Press releases, which also come in PDFs, are like cheat-sheets. PR execs and agencies love to wax creative about ad particulars on a release. The problem is, your consumer doesn't get one. He or she has no chance of knowing why you picked that color, or why the giant talking tooth made a great inside joke. Fuck poetic license in a PR; it's supposed to be in your AD! (Have I mentioned I also hate reading them?)
I'd like to gauge the quality of an advertisement in almost the same way an art critic appraises some ancient or contemporary oeuvre.

It needs to be in front of me, larger than life, involved in my world. If it's a billboard, I want to be standing under it with my neck craned as far as it will go, trying to decide if it "pops."

If it's a print ad, I want to encounter it in a magazine or discover it hanging above me one drowsy day on the train. If it's a :30 spot, I want to find it appropriately adorning some TV show while I sit fooling with a Rubik's cube on the couch.

A version of an ad in a
PDF, versus the one you come across on the street, is like the difference between a 20-foot Picasso and a JPEG, or the Louvre's Mona Lisa and a postcard.

You can never learn how your advertising moves a person - provided it does at all - until you can experience it in the intended format, whether it's hundreds of feet above you on a billboard, or posing as a coquettish interactive Flash corner on the digital edition of BusinessWeek.

There's simply no comparison.

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