Monday, November 15, 2010
Allusion in Design: Volkswagon BlueMotion Ads
ad agency: DDB germany, berlin, december 2008
When comic book artist Brian Fies visited my Design 001 class two weeks ago, he talked of the use of allusion and how he often places subtle references to old comic books in his own work. It is a way to create a loyal lifetime fan for if they understand it, they feel clever because they've figured out something, and this creates a bond between reader and author. And, if the reader doesn't pick up on the allusion, no harm done.
The VW advertisement above heavily relies on allusion for the audience to pick up on. The ad mainly alludes to Dali's The Persistance of Memory (pictured below) which is extremely well known and is easily detected upon first glance. Other inspiration appears to come from his other work, The Hand (1930). At least this much of the allusion can be figured out quickly. But what about the rest? The caption "absurdly low consumption" can confuse viewers. However, after some thought, the implied connection becomes clearer. I'll admit that it frustrated me initially because I am a huge admirer of Dali, yet I could not figure out the connection right away.
Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory (1931)
Salvador Dali, The Hand (1930)
VW is capitalizing on the surreal quality of the painting and comparing its surreal quality to the absurdity of how little gas one will have to consume if they bought the VW BlueMotion. Though surreal and absurd are not necessarily synonyms, the connection still works.
Using a more complex image rather than a minimalist ad (like the WWF one discussed in a previous post) can be tricky. Consumers may see it as clutter and will disregard it. However, because the basic allusion to the painting is so clear, our attention is easily captured. And because Dali's painting is so well known, people feel as if they are close to understanding the ad. If they don't understand it, perhaps it's peaked their interest enough for them to look up BlueMotion to find clues to the connection. If they don't understand it, perhaps they'll stare at it longer to understand. More attention on ads is always good for the companies! Lastly, just like Brian Fies said, if they do understand the connection, VW has gained an appreciative fan and perhaps a probable customer. Another clever treat for viewers, who aren't loyal Shell users is the dry shell below the gas level indicator. These small allusive details can really increase the effectiveness of an ad's design.
Image #2 from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Persistence_of_Memory
Image #3 from: http://www.flickriver.com/photos/mark6mauno/2125882689/