At the excellent spoof Ideas Brothers agency blog, comes the the secret brief behind the Wispa ad campaign (via Tom). I’ve never liked the Wispa campaign – it seems a little too well-staged to be entirely grassroots to me (or is that going down the New Coke conspiracy theory route?). Then again I don’t like Wispa either – nearly all of Cadbury’s chocolate is basically horrible – it tastes like cocoa-flavoured margarine to me, rather than anything like proper chocolate. Anyway, bolstered by the “success” of the “bring back Wispa” campaign, the creatives have gone one better and asked the public to just give them stuff to make ads with. Ideas Brothers put this and the target demographic firmly back in their place:
What do we aim to do with this campaign?
Ejaculate our brand into the open mouths of the flashmobbing post-adolescent cunts who think there is something fun about their own nostalgia for a chocolate bar.
It goes on…
What’s the selling idea?
You will give us your time and money because you’re a cunt.
We want to tell these credulous fuckwits to donate everything we need to make a major TV commercial, saving us half a million pounds in production costs.
(I wonder if the target demographic will be able to take a joke or not?)
Within the savage humour, there is still a very good point, scratching at the surface of an apparent contradiction: The internet allows us to live in the future, yet so many people use it to live in the past. Whether it’s the proliferation of the Hoff or Mr T on YouTube virals, or the lovingly-restored DVD boxsets of Mysterious Cities of Gold for sale, or authentic Rainbow-branded Zippy sex toys in online stores*, the eighties are big business, and the Internet helps it thrive.
* I may have made this last one up, by the way.
Is it just that technology making us dumb and infantile? That’s far too determinist an argument for my liking, and in any case there’s plenty of evidence that its enmeshing with popular culture is making us smarter in some ways, although they may be different from what we traditionally measure, this is no different from the effects other revolutions in technology & media have produced.
Is it just the inevitable culmination of postmodernity – resorting to everlasting pastiche as we’ve run out of ideas? The stagnating movie industry would suggest so, with its endless remakes and reboots, but online you can still get new ideas and amazingly fresh stuff. On B3ta, the nostalgia and endless creativity even manage to coexist in a sort of weird harmony – this week’s newsletter for example combines the bizarreness of urban knitting graffiti with heartfelt tributes to Oliver Postgate.
Here’s my stab at an explanation, as an eighties kid (born 1981 so I just about make the grade), with a more people-focused look than one of determinism. Thanks to Maggie, the eighties were a time of radical redrawing of British society; old class solidarities and identities thrown out and the UK’s nascent consumer culture replaced it. People growing up in the 1980s no longer had the identities their parents had, so in retrospect the only thing they can cling to is the media they consumed – all those episodes of Knightrider and TMHT serve as a common beacon.
At the same time, suddenly children of the eighties are getting “old”. Most are either in or approaching their thirties, and are being left behind by an ever-younger crowd elsewhere, culturally. Look at the music scene – it’s now filled with much younger acts – and increasingly they’re drawing on influences from the later 80s and early 1990s such as rave, acid house and Britpop. Eighties kids were among the first to go online, but the generation that followed them, the “digital natives” that had MySpace accounts before they first had sex, are now the ones making waves. Clinging onto what common culture they have is just a stand the children of the eighties feel they must make, to keep a space that was originally theirs.
As I say, just a coffee-fuelled stab at not so much a theory and more a hypothesis. I might be wrong. But it’s less misanthropic (if also less funny) than saying it’s just because we’re all a bunch of cunts.