postSaturday, 09 June 2007

Spiderman 3 and Advertising

Rob Scott trys to explain why Spiderman 3 made people drink lots of coke... or is it why coke made people watch Spiderman 3? I don't know it's something like that...
If you thought the only thing Spiderman 3 taught you was that an alien symbiote would turn you Emo you were wrong. The film offers the perfect metaphor for how advertising works.

Ground Zero:

It’s obvious what advertising is meant to do: there are a large amount of products in the world and many of them are similar, thus, advertising is brought in to differentiate various products.

Now consider Spiderman 3, in this little setup you have Spiderman, the alien costume and Eddy Brock (Venom). At the beginning of the movie Spiderman is the only one with any real power and this has been pre-established (Spiderman 1, radioactive spider bite, you know the drill). In real life this is paralleled by cultural signs, which are basically anything that means anything in society, for example if you see a mansion you think wealth, if you see George Clooney you think stylish rich guy (see this for further explanation of signs).


Then Spiderman merges with the alien costume. Just as an advert will take a product like Coke or Nike and put it together with a celebrity, a lifestyle, or imagery that is meaningful in society. In the movie Spiderman gains additional power from this in reality the celebrity gains additional income.

Once this merger takes place there is a process of transference. The alien costume obtains the same powers that Spiderman has. The product in the ad obtains the same qualities as whatever it is being advertised with. Thus when you see George Clooney in an ad for coffee you start to associate that particular coffee with George Clooney.

But wait Spiderman also changed during this process right? Yes the alien costume amplified his powers and made him more aggressive. In the same way that as whatever is being used to sell a product also changes the celebrity. If you hate coffee and think it should be illegal, since you view it as a harmful drug, your opinion of Clooney will change. You will like him less and maybe not pay to see Oceans 18.

A New Host:

Eventually Spiderman gets rid of the costume and then it comes into the possession of Eddy Brock. The costume in turn gives Eddy Spiderman’s powers. This is the final stage of advertising, now that we associate a product with certain qualities; we purchase the product in hope that it will transfer these onto us. So to sum up: We think David Beckham kicks ass (who the hell knows why). We see Beckham advertising Adidas. We buy Adidas in hopes to be more like Beckham.

Remember Beckham is a complex sign what he means will vary from person to person. One person may like him because he is sexy another will because he is talented. So they are both buying Adidas for different reasons: one to be sexy and one to be talented. This is why celebrities (or at least certain celebrities) are often used in advertising, because they contain so many different meaning to different people that they have a further reach then basic lifestyle imagery.

In conclusion, I just got off the phone with Sam Rami who says that Spiderman 4 will be a metaphor for Marxism and cramming too many villains into one film.

Note: The preceding argument was based on one by Judith Williamson in Decoding Advertising.

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