30.05.2017

Pop culture as mirror and window – Part 1

Advertising today needs to provide both utility and entertainment, all in a highly relevant and timely manner.

At BBR, we’re a bit obsessed with staying at the crest of pop culture. Our ability to navigate popular movements, behaviours, beliefs and trends is paramount to what we do. We call them “currents” and we use them to the advantage of the brands we represent. Today, we’re looking a bit more deeply into what role pop culture plays when it comes to understanding mass consciousness and its continuing evolution.

Pop culture has always offered a very interesting glimpse into the collective imagination of our society; a look into our dreams, aspirations and fears. In fact, I subscribe to the belief that mass consciousness should be studied as though it were a single psyche, not a collection of individual psyches.

For decades, preceding and coinciding with the rise of Apple, our culture has been reverberating with the ambient fear of the very machines we’ve been creating. Major film franchises like Star Wars, Blade Runner, The Terminator and The Matrix, and more recent films such as Ex Machina and the Spike Jonze masterpiece Her, all magnify our fear of technology becoming our seducers, masters and oppressors.

Director Ridley Scott, who directed a few of the aforementioned iconic films, was also the mastermind behind the famous “1984” spot for Apple, which similarly leveraged our fear of the machine and became a major pop culture artifact unto itself. Note: Scott has given the reins to the long-awaited Blade Runner 2049 sequel to the amazing Denis Villeneuve, another master of the zeitgeist. See trailer here if you’re a major fanboy/girl:

For several consecutive years prior to Barack Obama running for office, American audiences obsessively tuned into the wildly popular series 24 and watched a strong, confident Dennis Haysbert portraying the first black president of the U.S. Around the same time, the series West Wing presaged the Obama vs. McCain campaign during seasons 6 and 7, where Jimmy Smits played a young congressman of colour running against a respected moderate Republican played by Alan Alda.

And today, the popular show Designated Survivor, in which the U.S. Congress has been all but obliterated, shows how an unlikely Independent (played once again by Kiefer Sutherland, who seems to choose roles that are bull’s eye when it comes to the zeitgeist) steps up as the new president. That’s wish fulfillment of the highest order!

Advertising today needs to provide both utility and entertainment, all in a highly relevant and timely manner. Paying close attention to pop culture’s trending topics, even those explored on basic cable, is a great way to anticipate changes, drivers and deal-breakers in our mass consciousness. Of course pop culture isn’t limited to movies and television. In next week’s post, we’ll explore entertainment art forms, such as video games, that give us new insight into how the human psyche is so rapidly evolving. As marketers, staying on the pulse of these changes in culture will allow our brands to remain truly au courant.

By Wahn Yoon and Marie-Eve Best