Stop making sense, start making sales

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Out with catchy ad slogans, says Eleanor Bailey, and in with meaningless but cool-sounding drivel

THE BASS-OWNED chain of "vibey" bars called Bar Coast has just brought out a new magazine that doesn't mean anything at all. And a lot of thought went into it.

For Rollercoaster is one of a number of products and shops that have abandoned a point in favour of meaningless cool in the hope of communicating to us, the "whatever" generation, on a more subliminal level. Ted Baker's shop windows talked recently about meaningless drivel in big letters and Comme Des Garcons has abandoned images altogether in favour of describing its new inorganic perfume, Odeur 53 as "an empty room". Rollercoaster throws together pictures of Spanish fish markets with a picture of a haystack with the line, "I think it's just nature's way of saying take it easy and keep it natural".

Tamsin Saunders, Director of Pink Fish Communications (and that doesn't mean anything either), who wrote Rollercoaster explains, "I was putting anything in, things that sounded good, things that would make people laugh. Taking those great lines from the beauty pages that mean nothing out on context and playing with them."

Thus there is a picture of an old man, whose complexion it would be kind to describe as completely pickled, with the words "apply liberally to face and neck area". It's not silly at all. It makes great post-modern semiotic sense. The medium is the message. Advertising, and indeed life, that relies on saying something useful to sell is very old fashioned.

Meanwhile Odeur 53 is "cytokinetic silences, photocopied vapours, and desperation of forms to come". "We chose words and phrases for Odeur 53, because it is an abstract fragrance," explained a spokesperson with a distinct air of whatever. "There are no images with the press release and the idea is not to impose anything on the wearer - scent or image wise." I'm still trying work out how to wear a perfume without having a scent imposed on me. But it's certainly minimal.

Robert Campbell of Rainey Kelley Campbell Roalfe, which recently produced the Virgin Cola world cup ads, including such slogans as "Lend Us Fifty Francs! - Virgin Cola, Unofficial Sponsor of the World Cup", explains that when it comes to something as ephemeral as style and cool, it makes perfect sense that it should make no sense. "Trying to pin down some sensible announcement as to why a bar is cool is doomed to failure. As soon as you say Britain is a cool place it becomes instantly naff. That's why (unless you're Tony Blair) you wouldn't say `my bar is the coolest one in the street now'. It's a question of saying something apparently meaningless that feels right."

But what makes one set of meaningless drivel cool and another just a set of meaningless drivel is, of course, the misty quality of cool in the person drivelling. If I wrote a list to evoke, say, the experience that is reading Real Life, taken from random words culled on the detritus around my computer, we get : "High density, alcohol-free, ace removals, light to moderate flow". It might be accurate but, alas, it wouldn't be cool at all. Or as Rollercoaster puts it, "It's easier than you think when you think about it, but if you don't, it's very hard. So don't think about it." Whatever.

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