Baseline: Advertising in Review: Eschew obfuscation!

Speaking of successful communications philosophies, Fats Domino's advice to the young Mick Jagger was don't sing the lyrics too clear.Most advertisers, however, beg to differ, and march to the beat of that grand old tune, Eschew Obfuscation!for god's sake, tell them...

Speaking of successful communications philosophies, Fats Domino’s advice to the young Mick Jagger was don’t sing the lyrics too clear.

Most advertisers, however, beg to differ, and march to the beat of that grand old tune, Eschew Obfuscation!

for god’s sake, tell them about the money-back guarantee, and the free triple air miles, and the improved moisture barrier or we’re dead meat!!!

So, just for kicks, why not suggest to your most linear-thinking, literal-meaning-minded, left-brained, argue-over-the adjectives client that he or she spend a hazy, lazy summer afternoon with a Vogue magazine?

To a True Believer in the Righteous Authority of the Unique Selling Proposition, Vogue and its ads are one, big satanic, Zombie Jamboree.

I’m not sure whether nothing in Vogue that matters even bother with a usp, or whether everything in Vogue is a gigantic, collective usp.

Most advertising, seeking the widest possible franchise, reaches out to entice and engage the widest possible audience.

The Advertising of Inclusion!

But, Vogue and its key advertisers can only be said to deliberately mystify, and, yes, obfuscate their messages!

The Advertising of Exclusion!

Listen, what advertiser in their right mind hires one of the most famous faces on earth to publicize their product, and then fails to mention their name in the copy? Or anywhere in the ad?

(Not Revlon, mind you. They can’t tear up their uptight packaged goods roots sufficiently not to tell us in mousetype that the girl in the Revlon Age Defying Makeup ad is Melanie Griffith. But a double page ad for Revlon Revolutionary Lipcolor mentions that ‘Cindy’ (of course, Cindy Crawford!) is wearing it, but only her first name appears, and even then it’s typeset in microscopic seven-point, down-in-the-corner!)

But a real Vogue advertiser like Jil Sander runs a double truck shot of Linda Evangelista’s face wreathed in some murky who-knows-what-pitch-black-goop, without a peep of acknowledgement.

Just show Her, and they will come!

And the Lancome ads that scatter Isabella Rossellini’s face throughout the book never so much as whisper that It’s Her.

You either go to this church, or you don’t!

And the names, the names! You thought Haagen-Dazs was a tongue-bender? Imagine yourself a successful Indiana paving contractor’s wife, going into a chic boutique and asking to see the Gianni Versaces, please.

Ask Hakim where he keeps the Versace Occhiali frames! Yeah, right!

And how about calling the concierge and having him make you a hair appointment at New York’s Frederic Fekkai Beauty Centre? I dare you!

There are passwords to the temple, and you must learn them on your own!

In August, an eight-page, expensive-paper insert ran. Three entire pages were pictures of (1) cabs, (2) a traffic jam, and (3) traffic lights. Five pages were of people wearing clothes. The entire copy content said dkny nyc. (But it said it twice, just in case!)

This is advertising that never apologizes, never explains. This is the kind of advertising that made Calvin Klein the sexiest, most dangerous brand alive, without any words at all.

It’s said that what we are witnessing in the 20th century is the Aristocratization of the Middle class.

And if the notion of Aristocracy reeks of obscene wealth, narcissism, elitism, arrogance, envy, sloth, studied perversions, and, don’t forget, great lashings of sex, then Vogue is The New Aristocrat’s Handbook.

Entry is difficult. You must know the Signs. Recognize the Saints. Klein! Schiffer! Leibovitz! Meisel!

Curiosity killed the cat, but it captivated the consumer! The way is barred, and yet they’re beating down the doors to get in!

Barry Base is president and creative director of Barry Base & Partners, Toronto.