Friday, 15 May 2009

Salient Advertising and the Album Cover

The Manic Street Preachers have given us case study in gullibility with the release of their new album and its controversial cover. As Bandler and Grinder say "The meaning of communication is the way it is received" and when I look at that cover I associate it with a young female victim of violent crime, which disturbs me because I then start to wonder about the context of how it might have happened. I then switch to wondering if using such an image is an appropriate image to represent an entertainment product.

There are several possible explanations for what is going off here.Is what the Manic Street Preachers do about entertainment or art? If you believe its entertainment then no doubt the use of an image that risks being construed as violent is pretty naive. I don't think the Manic Street Preachers are naive. If you believe what they do is art then perhaps the reason for using the artwork on the cover of the Journal For Plague Lovers album is justified from a post-modern standpoint. i.e. all opinions are equally valid, there is no absolute right or wrong, art is about raising controversial and difficult issues and provoking us to think about them. The supermarket managers who have covered up the image for sale clearly believe selling albums is not about art.

Interesting that the group don't claim 'their art' as the reason for using the image. They profess innocence. "We just thought it was a beautiful painting...It is her brushwork...if you're familiar with her work, there's a lot of ochres and browns and reds and browns...We just saw a much more modern version of Lucian Freud-esque brushstrokes"

Either the Manics are gullible or they think that we are. The use of Salience is a familiar device to anyone in the business of communication. Remember the Benneton adverts and the dying Aids victim?


Salience is used to 'cut through' the background noise in our social world, and the Manics or their advisors were clearly aware that using a controversial image would attract attention (I'm blogging about it for goodness sake!). Perhaps the truth of their point of view is given in their supposed denial when they say "perhaps people are looking for us to be more provocative than we are being" Frequently the truth of meaning is the direct opposite of what is said. In other words they sub-consciously reveal that they are being provocative. Listen for it next time you hear someone say things like "You are just being awkard", or "You are clearly devious"...what are they really saying? This is classic Projection which is a "a defense mechanism where a person's personal attributes, unacceptable or unwanted thoughts, and/or emotions are ascribed onto another person or people.(Wikipedia 2009)

In a triumphant 'I'm gullible or I hope you are' statement James Dean Bradfield claims "It is bizarre that supermarkets actually think that that's going to impinge on anyone's psyche."

Well the retailers are sensitive because they know that's exactly what they do for a day job! We are all in the business of changing minds and social influence.Big business does it for a living. Marketers call it Positioning - The Battle for Your Mind. If there was no chance that the album cover would 'impinge on someone's psyche' why the hell do we have album covers in the first place? Why aren't they all sold in plain covers? Why invest the money in the artwork? Why have meetings to decide what the album artwork should be? Album covers are powerful and unduring pieces of communication. Don't believe me? OK. Don't think about Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album tell me what happened!

If it doesn't matter and it doesn't have any effect Mr Bradfield why are you bothered about the supermarkets covering it up?

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