THE ADVERTSING… :: AND THE GARDEN GNOME

drome Lần cập nhật cuối: 8 Tháng Tám, 2022

Among the bunch of books on advertising that I have read over the latest seven or eight years (actually, since I have started to take an interest in this topic), including books ranging from the biography of the successful art director to that of the repentant copywriter, from the essay written by the cold and aloof sociologist to that of the apocalyptic philosopher, from the schematizations of the semiologist of the moment to the wide ranging analyses of the mass media or visual culture expert, there is an image that every now and then has always been popping into my head… is that of the garden gnome!

Gian Paolo Cesarani, in his book I persuasori disarmati (i.e., The Disarmed Persuasors), published in 1975 crossing swords with the well-known The Hidden Persuasor by Vance Packard (actually, written about 20 years before), openly supports the advertising, writing that it is not that awful perversion that pushes us to buy all the things we don’t want or need, even against our will. In order to do that, he resorts to just one example: while driving across the Po Valley we would notice that, in every middle-class detached house, silver pine and willow trees form a barrier all around the yard perimeter and, if we keep our eyes peeled, we would see some small colourful spots (red, blue, yellow, green) … they are the garden gnomes! Tall, short, made of stoneware clay or plastic, with or without Snow-white, resembling elves or the Disney dwarves.

Which genius of advertising managed to persuade a relevant portion of the Italian middle class to plant in their own garden those trees instead of the more productive fruit trees and, most of all, to pull the car over to the side of the trunk road and buy from a street vendor seven small, awful garden statues?

Well, everyone knows the answer: no one! Many trends in the modern consumer world generate by themselves, parallel to the constant barrage of images that make us desire what we previously didn’t need. Now, however, though I can understand that the silver pine and the willow tree “give an elegant edge”, on the other hand I keep wondering: WHY THE GNOMES? Why do people buy them without having been threatened with death and without being victims of skilful mind manipulation techniques? Whatever the answer, I am firmly persuaded that the world deserves the Apocalypse!

Silvano Manganaro

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