“That has to be the dumbest ad I’ve ever seen,” exclaimed my wife. Our regular viewing of “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu was (once again) interrupted by an ad whose inanity was surpassed only by its ugliness. As a researcher with one foot still in the advertising world I signed us up for an ad-supported account, but I was beginning to question my judgement. Just as we had become immersed in the drama’s rich visuals and provocative themes, we were torn from our contemplation by ads that were garish and glib to the point of condescension. At the end of each commercial break we braced ourselves for a repetition of the cycle, cautiously slipping into Atwood’s captivating world, knowing we would soon be wrenched away.
The devolution of ads from captivating to consternating
In the early 20th century ads aspired to beauty; it’s no wonder that many now frame and hang them as decorative pieces. Copy was often limited, with a greater emphasis placed on the aesthetic qualities of each work. Brilliant colors met scenes both fantastical and domestic to invoke a sense of adventure or the hearth’s warmth. Ads like these arrest the viewers’ gaze, drawing them into a world of fulfillment that is just within reach (if only you would buy the right product). Their goal is to enrich and inspire, not hammer an impression into the audience.