Saturday, February 12, 2011

watch out for geldof

Saw this in a jeweller's window the other day.

Even by the satanic standards of celebrity-endorsed advertising, and even within the confines of just a few words, it's amazing how many different kinds of wrong this poster can be.

'I don't want to live like you. I don't want to talk like you. I'm going to be like me'.
Sir Bob Geldof - Musician, Activist, Businessman

The slogan makes it clear that we're trading on Geldof's Band Aid reputation here.

His outspokenness with authority was always a fine quality, even before Band Aid had him gobbing off at Thatcher. On a chat show he shared a sofa with Vidal Sassoon who said that everyone owed it to themselves to stay in shape so he does a few lengths of his pool every day. Geldof rounded on him and pointed out that most people have knackering jobs and family responsibilities that sap their energy, as well as a notable lack of money to buy their own pool. That's good stuff, but he crowned it by then asking Sassoon if he didn't consider himself grossly overpaid for a barber.

Anyway, what we're meant to think here is that the part of Geldof that was fearless in dealing with the powerful because he knew he had the moral high ground has somehow led him to wear a particular brand of watch. Whereas it's actually just the pay cheque, a lump of money for a man who is already a millionaire several dozen times over.

But more than this, if you buy the brand of watch that he's prepared to be on a poster for then you too will be as righteous and morally valiant as Geldof is perceived to be. (Let's just ignore his tax evading non-dom status.)

Next up we have that quote that's supposed to chime with this rugged valiance of the spirit that 'follow your convictions' has set up. It's taken from Lookin' After Number 1, the first of the Boomtown Rats' stupendous opening salvo of six singles.

It is written with glaring knowing irony from the perspective of someone toweringly arrogant and selfish.

Don't give me love thy neighbour
Don't give me charity
Don't give me peace and love or the good lord above
You only get in my way with your stupid ideas

I am an island
Entire of myself
And when I get old, older than today
I'll never need anybody's help in any way

I'm gonna take your money
Count your loss when I'm gone
I'm alright Jack,
Lookin' after number one

I don't wanna be like you
I don't wanna live like you
I don't wanna talk like you
I'm gonna be like me

This is obviously written as something that only an idiot would think rather than, as the advert believes, something to identify with.

Even that name under the quote, Sir Bob Geldof, isn't right. Geldof got gonged with a KBE, Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. As he's a citizen of a country where the Queen is not head of state it's just an honorary knighthood. He is not a 'sir'.

All of this deconstruction component by component focuses on the advertiser and the advertisement. We then have the additional principle of the whole thing. Doing something good that makes you prominent and thereby leads to an incidental increase in your album sales is one thing. Taking the doing of good deeds and using them as a marketing tool to enrich yourself by getting people to buy a luxury item is a leap beyond.

As one of Geldof's punk contemporaries said,

I believe in this, and it's been tested by research,
He who fucks nuns will later join the church

Misrepresented as having integrity, misquoted as a lyricist, mistitled as a British knight, all in one swift shot. Advertising; the area where consumerism packs more of its wrongness per square inch than any other.


dwight towers said...

Just when you think Geldof has bottomed out, he finds a new low. Hats off to the man, I suppose. Good post,btw.
Next advert will doubtless have him saying "give us your fucking money"

Witchsmeller Pursuivant said...

Good post. I particularly liked if you buy the brand of watch that he's prepared to be on a poster for then you too will be as righteous and morally valiant as Geldof is perceived to be which reminded me of John Berger in Ways of Seeing.

He had this to say of advertising (he refers to "publicity" - I have taken the liberty of updating his text) , rather presciently in 1972:

Advertising exerts an enormous influence and is a political phenomenon of great importance. But its offer is as narrow as its references are wide. It recognizes nothing except the power to acquire. All other human faculties or needs are made subsidiary to this power. All hopes are gathered together, made homogeneous, simplified, so that they become the intense yet vague, magical yet repeatable promise offered in every purchase. No other kind of hope or satisfaction or pleasure can any longer be envisaged within the culture of capitalism.

Advertising is the life of this culture - in so far as without advertising capitalism could not survive - and at the same time advertising is its dream.

Capitalism survives by forcing the majority, whom it exploits, to define their own interests as narrowly as possible. This was once achieved by extensive deprivation. Today in the developed countries it is being achieved by imposing a false standard of what is and what is not desirable.

And Bob's always been a wrong 'un.

Anonymous said...

This is very well done - especially the linking it to that early lyric of his.