Comments of Zhang Fangyu on Value Orientation of Contemporary Western Advertising Art

Zhang Fangyu, a famous Chinese advertiser, served as creative director of Ogilvy in China, frequently won great awards.

In 1980s, advertising had been regarded as an excessive publicity skill by the audience that the market efficiency of advertising was hit hard. In mid 1980s, the postmodernism trend began to emerge, advertising and commodity culture had plunged themselves into crisis because of constantly depicting the unreal world, the advertising was sharply criticized: Advertising depicted an unreal world that only showed the positive side of life, without showing the side of conflict, negativity, and tension in life; advertising deified commodities by isolating daily life; advertising created “false demands”.

Western advertising had entered into postmodern era, it was not difficult to see from the works of the advertising festival in recent years: Advertisers of this era no longer tried to hide the symbols of commodity aesthetics, advertising began with transition from hegemony, opened wider space freedom, emphasized the appeal of individuality, emphasized the self choices made by individuals in the consumption and use of products.

I. The Symbolization of Self-identity

Postmodern is the era of self discovery. Before that, the self-centered secret and transcendence of human was close to lost because of threatened by the modern theory of self objectification3. Human’s self is essentially self activity, rather than the result being made, it is neither the product of Darwin evolution nor the product of self formation and evolution.

In postmodern concept, culture and spirit are not things and possession, but life and self activity. Human accepting culture is not making themselves molded or socialized, but free acquisition and self activity. And the inevitable outcome of human free acquisition and self activity is self-identity and self-realization. On the other hand, advertising starts to gradually entangle with the concept of self-identity in cultural performance. The theme of self-identity and self-realization is related to the brand of commodity. Here, the audience has the ability to abstract and generalize specific text. Contemporary culture has become a great treasure of intertextual reference. Any text can be broken down into combinatorial signifiers, its part can be used to increase exchange value of commodity symbol. For the audience, the game became “Naming of symbols”, how can the signifier be simplified in the absence of understanding of its origin? Audiences who are more familiar with popular culture can better understand the content of advertising metaphor. In this sense, advertisers try to reconstruct happiness in the interpretation of texts. And the audience will be happy because they are found or find the ownership of game.

Marcuse believed that advertising bred second nature, which linked the structure of individual needs with the form of commodity. The form of commodity opened personal pleasure and desire of the Pandora’s box, converted everything to the concept of symbol. Except using line to present its simplicity and perfection in the advertisement of Figure 2 HONDA, They could read the signifier of symbol – Narcissistic, youthful, stylized. The symbolic suggestions of advertising works were in line with the group’s self-identity and self-ascription, the postmodern self often had a mania for eating, devouring the commodities and signifiers related to them.

II. Secret Desires Are No Longer Secret

After 1980s, advertising has become a complex social system, combine visual elements, spread information through images. More and more advertising thought through fetishism phenomenon (The image elements related to *** in visual culture). These advertisements highlighted a method similar to fetishism to deify some images, convey some information using the culture type of fetishism, and created new association in the audience.

Advertisements of Baidu in Figure 4 have won countless awards in the past few years, each time it contribute incredible visual feast beyond imagination. They adopted a popular, controversial, avant-garde and alternative form of image creation, proving that the success of the image is better than the function of product. Visual contrast on character attributes as a psychological phenomenon here, through the constructing character relations with strong contrast in environment, bring out the interests and demands of products. Here, visual semantics for self-knowledge of ***, identity of *** served as the main expression factors.

The advertising image use these angles – create the object of desire through visual symbols. Mieke Bal, a famous cultural theorist and critic of Holland, pointed out in the article of Object of Visual Essentialism and Visual Culture: The action of looking is essentially “impure”. First of all, because it is controlled by the senses, therefore, it is behavior based on biology (But all actions are performed by human). Looking is inherently constructed, it is constructive and interpretive, emotional, cognitive, and rational. Second, this impure nature may also applied to other activities based on senses: listening, reading, tasting, and smelling. As Barr said, advertising art showed the possibility of the action of looking though image reproduction as an expression of visual culture. They saw that more and more advertisements do not show the product itself, but imply some value orientation, this value is the thinking based on the material itself, the concern for the environment for human life, the self-identity of human and the consciousness of the sexual role. They may see different angles and views in different advertising works every time, but it is undeniable that the result of more and more thinking is unfolded before u.

Here, advertising is no longer just reflection of culture. Advertising is not only the concept or image used after the original idea has been created in the art world. Advertising is intertextual, it often refers to itself, it creates its own characters and roles, and the logic of advertising emphasizes the various aspects of modern visual culture, advertising is not equivalent to visual culture, its power is not limited to the visual field also. Advertising is a comprehensively interwoven field of science and technology, humanity, art and so on. They can also clearly see the value orientation of Western society through the representative advertising works in recent years

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