According to a recent story in the Observer, Philip Morris, of Marlboro fame, has been redesigning the interiors of British pubs into subliminal, three-dimensional advertisements. That’s right:
“Picture the scene: You walk into a chic bar where the clientele is young and the drinks reassuringly expensive; you note the stylish combinations of red and white furniture, the impressive attention to detail that goes into everything from the cushions to the ashtrays. Suddenly, inexplicably, you urgently want to smoke a Marlboro cigarette.”
Indeed, Philip Morris has “experimented with subliminal ways of communicating its brand, through themed bar areas which could be put up at major social events, and did not feature the Marlboro logo or its packaging. These ‘installations’, as they were called, created lounge areas by placing comfortable red sofas in front of video screens showing scenes redolent of Wild West ‘Marlboro country’ to convey the essence of the cigarette brand while circumnavigating sponsorship bans.”
This is because “cigarette advertising is going underground, it’s becoming more covert.” It’s taking the form of “Marlboro motels,” or chill-out rooms themed in red and white, built to remind you of cigarettes.
Are we inside a building – or an advertisement?
[Image: “Harlequin Sitting on a Red Couch” by Pablo Picasso (1905); quick test: are you reaching for a cigarette…?].
As interior design – architecture itself – becomes fair game in the quest for ever-more-guerilla marketing, let’s just hope we don’t get our signals crossed: instead of smoking Marlboros you start uncontrollably drinking glass after glass of Coke… Or instead of buying a new Burberry suit you suddenly, inexplicably, achingly, urgently, want a new pair of Depends adult diapers… Instead of buying Trojan condoms you buy Tofurky…
Advanced capitalism dissolves in a fog of the wrong purchases.