Brand designers: the new movie villains?
Branded is a new film set in a ‘dystopian future’ that looks to be a pants combination of The Matrix and Inception. It turns on the idea that brands and branding are all part of a mind control exercise to enslave humans and bend them to the will of central casting CGI monsters…
Even setting aside the obvious satire of corporations as rapacious monsters blah blah blah, I don’t think there is much to the idea that we branding agents are the puppets of mind slugs. Although, I am sitting in a pool of ectoplasm as I type this, with slithering umbilical cords snaking from the back of my head.
What is interesting (ish) is that someone thought it worth spending money on the film, presuming an audience. This is the ‘no logo’ spirit hitting mass culture. Perhaps indicative of the significance society is starting to see in the influence of brands on our lives. But it’s also clearly a terrible film with Max von Sydow in his worst role since his turn as Ming the Merciless.
If you want to watch a flawed, but better, film on the broad topic I would suggest How to Get Ahead in Advertising. While it turns into a rant against Thatcherism, it has a couple of fantastic scenes: an opening monologue about the way brands use manipulation to sell (below and well worth two minutes of your time) and a section about the protagonists creative block that will have anyone who has suffered one squirming with horrible recognition.
I guess the point is that advertising and branding are typically portrayed as nefarious because they are broadly seen to be about being manipulative or dishonest. And when one gets right down to it, it’s hard to argue that we’re not in the business of influencing perceptions, isn’t it? The best antidote is perhaps summed up by agency McCann Erickson: ‘truth well told.’ I don’t think they meant this as Orwellian double speak. As Bruce Robinson, the director of How to Get Ahead… noted, ‘I’m not some mad beard in a loft who repudiates the notion of money, or even advertising. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I grow potatoes, do you want a pack?” It’s the interlocking behind it that I find distressing.’