Last week I went to a talk at UCLA sponsored by Campus Events, a student group that screens movies, brings bands to campus, etc. August Bullock, "attorney at law" (as clearly indicated on the cover of his book), spoke on
The Secret Sales Pitch
. I expected something along the lines of perceptual priming, message framing and cultural values, that puppies and sweaters really don't go together as LandsEnd would have me believe, or that the couch on last season's American Idol was a Coke logo. I got something very different. This was more along the lines of a "Who can find the penis first?" slide show. According to Bullock, advertisers illicit "secret emotions" from us when they try to get us to spend money. He says there's reason to be wary.
His first example was a cigarette ad featuring a well-dressed man and woman embracing. Bullocks said he wasn't able to find the secret image in this one at first. No worries, he posted it on his wall for several weeks. After enlarging it, zooming in, changing the contrast, etc., he was able to show us that clearly
the man's hand wasn't just resting on the woman's back, but rather when the woman's back had been airbrushed, her spine had been manipulated such that the man's hand was holding a penis. This ad, he claimed, wasn't meant to simply make us think that this fancy gent and lady who are about to get lucky owe their sauveness to Benson & Hedges, but rather to illicit nervousness in straight men. Everyone knows people smoke more when they're nervous. Of course
One of my favorites appeared to be a tumbler of whisky on ice next to a martini glass. To Bullock's discerning (dare I say "projecting"?) eye, however, this was a martini glass frowning down on the tumbler in which an ice cube was actually a despairing face. On top of this unpleasant face was another ice cube that was really a young boy huddled with a blanket AND A PUPPY! This ad, he said, was targeted toward people who drink because they harbor anger from childhood when their sibling got more attention than they did.
The last notable I'll share was a Cosmo spread that featured a woman shaving a man's face. The tips on the page read, "Shave your man" and "Don't get beard burn" supposedly appealed to young women's hatred of men as well as their latent homosexuality as it encouraged them to 'castrate your man' and 'don't get involved with a man, have a relationship with a woman instead,' respectively. Bullock pointed out further evidence (did we even need it?) in that the male model's defined pecs were clearly breasts and that if one looked carefully
(i.e. squinted, turned your head just so), one could tell that he, of whom a good 3 inches of his abdomen was showing, was obviously pregnant. Wow. . . I'm sure that whenever this guy looks at the clouds he thinks the Cosmos is a total perv.