Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Subliminal phallic stuff

I've always imagined that a lot of publicity is deliberately subliminal, in the sense that the reactions of viewers depend upon perceptions that are not necessarily explicit. Subterranean, like moles in your garden.

For the last few months, a major French bank named Société Générale [a member of the elite club of sponsors of the recent Rugby World Cup] has been airing weird and complicated TV ads that—to my mind—simply don't add up. To me, at first sight, it would appear that the bank's ad agency is incompetent, lunatic, indeed stupid. But I might be wrong. Maybe the bank has in fact succeeded in reaching viewers and potential customers through these strange ads. There might well be method in their madness. I'm obliged to give the Société Générale the benefice of the doubt. So, let me tell you what it's all about...

First, this bank has been using intensively an unexpected theme song: Winchester Cathedral by the New Vaudeville Band. I used to imagine it was a Beatles thing. If I understand correctly, you'll find the original presentation in the second half of the following video clip:

Why would a French bank decide to use such a theme song in their publicity? I'm incapable of answering this question. I warned you, at the beginning of this blog article, that I'm out of my depth. Not exactly drowning, but swimming with difficulty in the publicity pool.

Well, Winchester Cathedral might have been enough. But the bank decided to introduce another weird creature: a human thumb that walks around as if it were a human being. Before going any further, I must inform my non-French readers that there's a trivial expression, coup de pouce [literally, a jolt from a thumb], which designates—in Beatles parlance—"a little help from my friends". A coup de pouce might be described as last-minute heaven-sent assistance of a practical kind. For example, if you happened to be painting your garden furniture and it looked like a storm was brewing, your neighbor might provide you with a coup de pouce by stepping in and helping you to finish the paintwork before the rain arrived. In English, I think the equivalent expression is "a helping hand". That's to say, the French have reduced our hand to a thumb, while retaining the sense of the metaphor.

OK. We now know what a coup de pouce is all about. But the publicity experts of the Société Générale wanted to go one step further and actually visualize a human thumb lending a hand in all kinds of situations. The general publicity idea is that, whenever you see the footed thumb moving in to help somebody, you can and should imagine the Société Générale bank acting similarly.

Basically—a priori, as philosophers like to put it—there's nothing wrong with this reasoning. But the publicity experts of the Société Générale bank have apparently insisted upon the presence of a real-life visual human thumb in the middle of their ads. And the problem is that this graphical thumb looks exactly, for all intents and purposes, like a delightful animated prick.

In this latest image, the giant thumb/prick is even ejaculating its beneficial liquidity (in a banking sense) upon a virginal plant. To be truthful, I admire this crazy stuff. I feel reassured [for want of a better word] by the presence of the great pink prick with agile feet [balls?], sponsored by the Société Générale bank, dashing around like a horny Boy Scout, dispensing its urine and/or sperms to anybody who feels like getting stuffed. To be even more truthful, I must admit that I turn off this nasty bank shit as soon as it pollutes my TV screen.

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