Thank you, Tim Nudd at AdWeek, for posting the 30 Freakiest Ads of 2011. Some of them were quite disturbing (I think the anti-child abuse PSA from Ireland hit me hardest (literally). And some are freaky in the way they just push the boundaries of what is taboo. But many are prime examples of the popularization of tropes of the uncanny in a way that is so orthodox, it’s a little mind boggling. In my review of this annual top thirty list, it seems to me that the ads that take the symbolism from their slogans or product names the most literally are the ones who generate the strangest of all ads.
Note how Freudian these ads are in their symbolism. The number one pick is literally a series of dream scenarios offered up for viewer interpretation. The truth is, ALL ads are dream scenarios to begin with, so Nudd’s selectio of this one — while being the most “freakiest” — is also at the same time the most honest.
I am always interested in advertisements for chewing gum (the first chapter of The Popular Uncanny focuses on the history of gum advertising in fact), because they must go out of their way to grab our attention and “sell us” on buying something akin to food — that is, something we chew but never swallow, in a simulacra of consumption.
Another uncanny ad that struck me from the “freakiest” list is the giant ear that moves of its own accord, in ESPN’s Sports for Your Ears advertisement. An obvious example of animism, with an ambulatory body part taking on all the characteristics of a sports fan, but it’s more like a wacky dream than an advertisement. I find it telling that in the opening of the ad, the ear is shopping, and when it is at work it is a psychologist (subtly recalling (if not directly referencing) the faux radio host Frasier from TV: “I’m listening”).
Some in the list are hilarious. Some are disturbing. Some are not safe for work. Most employ the uncanny to sell a product. See them all at AdWeek.
Leave a post if you want to tell us which ones you’d put in your top two.