Clever, annoying old George Melly - not so old then - was the first to describe how capitalism appropriated the style of youthful revolution to sell things. Revolt into Style (1970) showed how strong feelings and loopy ideologies ended up as the Mao cushion-cover with a lot of big gestures along the way.
Melly, not surprisingly, did it from a 20th-century art-history perspective. The brilliant thirtysomething American polemicist Thomas Frank tackles the same issues through a forensic semantic analysis in his The Conquest of Cool (1997). Looking at what advertising copy and scripts actually said from the early 1960s to the early 1970s he comes to a different conclusion from Melly. Melly saw youthful idealism being bought off and exploited over time, battles won and lost, breakthroughs that ended up as smart consumption. But Frank says Madison Avenue practically invented "rebellious" cool in the first place, because they saw its potential to sell new goods and services to new people. No real threat, no real battle, all opportunity.
Hip consumerism, BoBo-ism - now absolutely mainstream - is all about interesting brands with a nice bit of attitude. Which usually means sending for the coolhunters, because organisations, brands and products aren't always born with quite enough youthful personality to cut it.
Coolhunters, ex-journalists, magazine stylists and designers from the sharp end of medialand work by trawling their own milieu of inventive, opinion-forming, early-adopting folk to identify habits, enthusiasms, language, music and new people who can give the right resonances to brands that don't have enough of their own.
New, very small cars are a case in point. There's been a lot of invention in this category. (The new BMW Mini, a massive runaway success, isn't actually in this group now - too powerful, smart and expensive.) There was the Ford Ka, clearly targeted at young women, and the Toyota Yaris. The Yaris has been very successful but, from what I see, mainly with downsizing mature people.
This year's new little Toyota, the Aygo, is clearly aimed at the urban, young, first-car, first-home market. People who are on the right ladder, whom you could imagine working out in the good-degree lower reaches of a new TV channel or even an OK London advertising agency - 21st-century, post-dotcom casualised, cooled-out yuppies.
Even before the advertising, there's the name issue - the Aygo? You get it immediately when they say it's pronounced I-go. So it's a bit I-poddy then. (An iPod outlet is included as original equipment to make it clear what they mean from the start.) From then on in, the new Aygo commercial is dedicated to establishing this little thing's credentials without overdoing it. It's got a very Levi's twisty jeans look and sound, a dose of the instant surreal and a lot of boys-and-girls-togetherness. They've got four up, two of each - to show they can - and a variety of safely bizarre things in slow motion to show a sense of youthful fun. And there's the "woo-woo" music (Paul Oakenfold's "Feed Your Mind", just the choral stuff for a middle-class raver).
There's masses of symbolism, naked shop window dummies, clouds of feathers in slo-mo, big bridges crossed, trousers hanging high up on telegraph wires, odd reflections. There's even some vague out-of-focus upper-body nudity (one girl, one boy - modern values). And there are lots of circles; the iPod itself, life through a tumble dryer, a funfair ride, and the Aygo key fob.
There's even neo-Sixties long hair and a girl with a very wiggly out-of-it head. It could really be one of those holiday collages you see in the better kind of shared flat where everyone's going to get a nice little house in Shepherd's Bush any minute. "Do something memorable" is the strapline.
If the car can actually cut it - (and my car-loving friends seem to think it will) and the rest of the package you need for this kind of global sell - the clever sponsorship and viral marketing and so forth - fits the mood, then they'll have helped to shape a new group of totally pod people.Reuse content