Do you ever feel sometimes that it’s hard to tell the difference in, say, a magazine, between the editorial and the advertising? Lately I have been noticing this trend more and more often, and now the whole idea of the thing is mixing into other areas of art, further worrying those of us who believe art and commerce are two different things.
I remember when I was younger I thought it was clever to run an ad that looked like a newspaper article; what a great subversion! Trick the reader into consumption. Somehow that’s less portentous than the opposite, which is all over the place: pander to the allure of shiny things. Not that no magazines should do this, but surely it’s more appropriate in certain types of publications than in others.
I was meeting with an ad rep from one of Seattle’s lifestyle mags and as soon as I began to hear about “special advertising sections,” a.k.a. bought editorial space, I completely lost interest. It’s funny because the rep described the look of the section as a slightly modified article. Normally, one would think that this is an exaggeration, but in this case she was absolutely right – to the fault of the articles, not the special section.
Why do I expect a certain aesthetic logic? Well for one thing, a lot of publications take pride in the fact that their editorial and advertising departments are completely separate; no back-scratching to dilute the power of either side. I wonder often if this is just the publication deluding itself, avoiding responsibility. But there’s also the larger trend in overall design, morphing into this image-heavy, de-emphasized text, ADD-friendly universe, so that even with staunch separation of departments, the look is pretty consistent.
But clearly this is a common theme in more places than print. Blame MTV, or commercials, but everytime I see a TV (not often, as I haven’t had one in a few years), my eyes actually start to hurt from the quick shots and bizarre camera movements. Just as one’s eye is no longer expected to spend a few minutes on a page, it is no longer expected to take in a good 2 minute shot either. It seems sometimes unwatchable to me, but then again I have been out of the loop for a while now.
And then there’s music. Music and advertising go way back. In fact, the more I read about it, the more impossible it becomes to see mainstream music (all genres aside) as anything more than business schemes. Of course I don’t really believe that, being a product of all the good parts of that system (as well as the bad, I suppose). Nevertheless, it may be true. And if it is, then it may also be true for these other art forms, and the recent frustrations I have are just how that weird dichotomy registers with my own experience. I don’t know enough about the other ones to say.