Putting the Japanese in the picture

No 153: POLAROID

We all know that Polaroids are employed in a variety of extremely informal occasions, but can Polaroid Corp be acknowledging, even condoning the use of its products for improper photographs? This is the teaser in their new ad, which has a Jap- anese setting and a rather arty look.

It starts with a sweeping overhead of a spaghetti junction - speeded up - and a cut to a view of a fish pool with lots of orange carp looking much the same. Then back to the junction and (another familiar shot) we sweep to the side of a high-rise block - very Eighties, very mirrored - zooming in to a window where a young man and a stern-looking bespectacled woman seem to be arguing. Once inside the office it's obvious she's telling him off, maybe even sacking him.

The boy walks off through a large open-plan office, through a group of office ladies, gets his Polaroid camera from his work-space and takes it into the gents. There's an indicative flash, then he stuffs a photograph into an envelope, walks back through the pool - with the secretaries watching curiously - and puts the envelope into a staff pigeon-hole.

Then we go into a lot of narrative cross-cutting: the boy at the seen- it-before Japanese underground station, paralleled with the office postman sorting the mail at the pigeon-holes; followed by some wistful looks out of the train window, and the postman distributing mail; another familiar shot of massed Japanese commuters on their way to work; then the train leaves the city as the Lady Boss gets her mail - but we don't get to see what's in the Polaroid. Finally, there's our boy on the train, with a naughty grin.

Photo-essays on the robotic aspects of Japanese mass working-life were popular in artistic circles in the Eighties. Japan itself was fashionable then, but went out when the long Japanese recession started - these things are linked. But it's still a nice foil for the Polaroid "live for the moment" statement when you're targeting younger users.

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