April 28, 2005

Standing out by blending in

(Annals of post-modern advertising, part 3.) Nissan North America bought another two-page spread in the front of the May 2 New Yorker, as they did in the April 25 issue. This time the featured model is the Infiniti FX rather than the Infiniti M, and there are no incoherent sentences in the ad copy. Well, there are no syntactically incoherent sentences, anyhow.

The background is black, as before, with a picture of the featured vehicle on the right-hand page. At first I thought that the left-hand page was solid black, but then I realized that there are some large letters in a slightly lighter shade, roughly like this:

if you are not
generic and
ordinary and
you stand out
no matter how
similar your

(If you have trouble reading it, try highlighting the text.)

Perhaps Saul Gorn's Compendium of Rarely Used Cliches and Self-Annihilating Sentences should be expanded to include a section on "Self-Refuting Advertisements".

It's easy to trace the associative process that produced this ad. The TV advertising for the Infiniti FX includes the catchphrase "The only thing it won't do is blend in", and the slogan on the FX website is

You've never seen anything like it.
Then you see nothing else.

(Or maybe "nothing at all"...)

So the theme is "standing out"; but people who buy luxury cars want to be fashionable as well as admirable; so they need a countervailing theme of fitting in, though of course not by being in any way ordinary or generic or homogenized. Perhaps someone at TBWA\Chiat\Day decided to embody the contradiction typographically. Then again, maybe they were just flailing around with associated concepts, and thought that black letters almost blending in on a black page would be a cool way to make a point about the Infiniti FX not blending in on the street.

Either way, it's not making me want to buy an Infiniti. Not that I'm in their target demographic anyhow.

Posted by Mark Liberman at April 28, 2005 09:41 AM