Saturday, December 13, 2003

What's in a Name?

Within this humorous article on business names by Dave Barry, I found some interesting thoughts about today's culture. I especially like his theories on the logic of business advertising ("Never reveal what you are advertising" for example.) Despite the basic joke of the article, Barry offers some real insights into How Things Work, I think.

For many years now, I have used the mute button on my TV remote control to avoid the blaring sound of TV commercials. I do this partly because I object to the sudden change in volume and pacing that usually accompanies the ad. It also saves me from getting some obnoxious jingle stuck in my head. I have the impression that many others of you do the same thing.

But somebody in the advertising world must have noticed this, because in the past few years, I found that if I watched the ads without sound, I often could not determine the product or the company presumably featured in the ad. In some case, they don't even display the company logo at all during the entire ad. Instead, all of the content of the ad comes from the voice-over, while the visual component appears to tell a short and often mysterious story. They call these "zapless" ads, in the sense that people like me become so curious about the meaning of the ad that we feel compelled to leave the sound on just to solve the mystery.

Of course, most ads also make a concerted effort at metonymy, pairing their product with some greatly desired state like wealth or beauty.

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