Seis pares de colunas pintadas de um tom rosado, já desbotado, mostram o que era o mirante. Mais dois pares apontam a distância onde ficavam as escadas de embarque e desembarque de pessoas que usavam…
To rightly discuss the statement written above, it’s worth taking the time to define each component to better argue its case. Indeed, advertising is in its core the bridge aiming to better bind an offer to a need. Whether the need is subconsciously waiting to be triggered in one’s mind, whether it fuels a conscious desire; advertising is designed to exist as a medium to connect the observer to a brand, a message, an idea, a product, a solution.
Therefore, the connectedness which gears any successful campaigns fundamentally requires planning. And planning itself calls for knowledge funded on insights sprinkled with intuition. Indeed, the nature of the Who -audiences- guides the message’s diffusion through the How — Cross-media- (or the integration of multiple media platforms).
So, amid the widespread digital world, non-digital (analogue?) and cutting edge technologies such as VR, AR and etc., the power of diffusion is reaching ungraspable and unforeseen summits. The choice lies in knowing where -the activities- of your audience in order to increase the number of impressions which roughly estimates the impact.
Using this theory as the blueprint to gauge the powerfulness of an experience requiring both actants and non-human actants, we’ll discuss after properly defining each of these terms, their roles within a network, allegorically appearing as a Mesh network. Also to be thoroughly defined afterwards.
How we know and relate to the world around us. The latter has been well studied to not say overly described. Some may argue we still lack in theories acknowledging the newest dimensions and wholeness of cross-media news work, with the recent addition of the Internet of Things and its subsidiaries.
Core of the subject, the triple O approach separates the thought process from the being. It argues against Kantian’s prerequisite, mostly referred to as his Copernican revolution which avows that the world around us cannot be separated from the Mind which brings objects into the life of “phenomenon” (to be opposed to “noumenon”). In a nutshell, the first gears towards objects which are only to be apprehended by our senses, when the latter claims object to exist in themselves, free of human biases.
OOO or flat ontology asserts that objects function independently from human subjectivity, and interacts with one another in their own hidden ways.
The first distinction between these different actants has been established in the early 1980s by Michel Callon, Bruno Latour and John Law with the birth of the Actor-Network Theory, or ‘Sociologie de la traduction’ previously discussed in the introduction. Indeed, it lays the concept of network as an on-going forming-shifting-reforming entity composed by actants, divided into human or non-human of the sort. Even though the term actants derives from the actantial model developed in 1966 by semiotician Algirdas Julien Greimas.
Hence human actants are defined as … humans. In regard to what will be argued in the second half of the essay, if applied to the network ‘of advertising’, human actants represent every person part of the supply chain in motion from the conceptualization to the production/diffusion of a campaign.
From the client to the creative director, passing by the producer, or the actors of the commercial, it also englobes the less obvious, as the runner on the production site at the BBC One for the ad to be played…. an endless loop.
Defining a non-human actant (NHA) gets a tiny teeny bit trickier. Though it could simply be that objects must also be regarded as actors in any socio-technological assemblage: objects refer to any non-individual entities.
In Object-Oriented Ontology, a New Theory of Everything, Harman gives quite an extensive overview of non-human actants-objects-, better -he says- to be referred to as things as Heidegger first suggested it.
Indeed, Heidegger explains in his writing (translated version: Martin Heidegger: Poetry, Language, Thought by Albert Hofstadter) that the use of the word object is biased by Western metaphysics, as Kant implied it to be singularly reduced to a representation that runs its course in the self-consciousness of the human ego (Shaver, G. J. (1973) ‘Review of Martin Heidegger: Poetry, Language, Thought’, boundary 2. Duke University Press, 1(3), pp. 742–749).
Ultimately, with the rise of the OOO concept in recent years, a few authors found in it an opportunity to avow their own interpretations:
Tim Morton, a British born professor at Rice University, made known to the world through his ecological thoughts or a lesson on Being Ecological. He aims at placing Nature to where it rightly belongs by subtracting our projected perspective on the latter as a medium to our own existence. Being Ecological also refers to the ‘Mesh’ as he calls it, a new way of thinking of interconnectedness.
Interestingly, his previous publications had similar footprints with the ones found in object-oriented ontology which he later joined to become one of the most renowned spokesperson. One notable contribution he mad consists in the description of “hyperobjects” as “entities of such vast temporal and spatial dimensions that they defeat traditional ideas about what a thing is in the first place.” (Cole, A. (2013) ‘The Call of ThingsA Critique of Object-Oriented Ontologies’, the Minnesota review. Duke University Press, 2013(80), pp. 106–118).
Many fields have already beneficiated from the use of the Actor-Network theory initially destined for Science and Technology Studies (STS). Same goes for the Object-Oriented Ontology which serves to refine the supposedly genuine apprehension of art, music, environmental studies, game design, etcetera… Therefore, we will now discover how such semiotics can frame the modern field of Advertising.
First things first, by simply decomposing the title above into actants, the overall count already equals to five with two brands, a wall, an agency and a city. The sum is very likely to escalate to ineffable summits if one were to thoroughly poke independently each actant to a deeper end.
As a result, we’ll limit ourselves to a selected lucky-few actants (both human and non-human) to explain how their gathering triggers an impactful message.
The creation of the dating wall led to the inter-connection of six companies, namely: Match Media Group, Wieden & Kennedy, Video Production, Outdoor Media Alliance, PhDMedia WW and the free-lance artist, Andrew Rae.
For the sake of the argument, if we go further down the rabbit hole by emphasizing on the number of human actants employed by Wieden and Kennedy (W+K) with a quick LinkedIn online stalking (favourite activity of all time, for honesty’s sake this time): with 349 employees working at the New York agency (out of 1,763 employees worldwide or 1,006 only in the United States), the Delta Dating wall has been the result of the dedicated hard work of twenty-seven employees.
Out of those twenty-seven, I’ve selected Karl Lieberman who has been employed by W+K for the past 12 years. His job as an Executive Creative Director (ECD) implies he worked closely with the client (e.g. Delta Airlines) to create the final idea. Also means he led the creative team by setting a clear goal and managed the team’s progress. In regard to the work in question here, he’s responsible for both the creation and the final say in the campaign. Without his intercession, the project would have been entirely different creatively speaking, which allows us to think he’s one the many actants which helped to bring it to life.
That’s why I’ve chosen as a second actant, Victoria Joyce, the Senior Director in charge of Integrated Marketing for Match Media Group (Tinder). Indeed, without her approval to launch a partnership with Delta, the wall would not have had the same copywriting nor the same reach.
These last two actants were the two obvious choices regarding the content of the campaign. Therefore, as the last actant, I hereby nominate Nicolas Simoes. Who? A blogger/Instagram influencer (or “Model, Photographer, Explorer” based on his Instagram profile, I stand corrected) who posted a selfie of himself standing in front of the Brooklyn-based wall. With 6, 300 likes and 297k followers, he, at his scale and ‘own network’ of followers, helped to take the dating wall viral and first and foremost, trendy — the M-word of social campaigns.
The success of this ad is due to an irreducible number of factors, or actants. The question we should ask ourselves to find clues on where to look is: why does this ad work during the summer of 2017 in Brooklyn, New York?
Indeed, this wall could not dream of a more en vogue location, attracting tourists from around the globe and local trendsetters as soon as the lights deem down for beer-garden-with-rosé-o’clock, creating an in-person event activation.
A second non-human actant which implicitly or immaterially resulted in creating an impactful content is the algorithm underpinning Tinder’s matching system. Though Tinder never released any formal communiqué about its algorithm, they spoke publicly to deny rumours and gave away a few elements gearing to an easier understanding of the whole app mechanism.
In that way (coming back to the campaign), the most picture showing your worldliness the more attractive you get, which elevates your score. Therefore, your profile is shown to individuals matching your score per se, individuals who travel (for real or fake who knows at this point). And the research found that 62% of men and 74% of women want a partner who shares their travel interests (Delta: Dating Wall | Wieden+Kennedy).
Though crowd out there. But the clothes make up for it evidently.
To conclude, all of the actants named above interacted with each other in a seamless way which enabled a talented, simple and effective campaign. The smallest change among the different timelines, regardless of the nature of the actant involved, could have had the biggest repercussion (the ripple effect). Proving in itself that things are not component of other things: their crossing at a mutual point in time is one of the various combinations resulting in different outcomes. Much like the lottery running our DNA genetics, it cannot be predicted in advance, only witnessed by ignorant deciders at the time being.
“Thinking is to humans as swimming is to cats, they can do it but they’d rather not to.” D.Kahneman
Quick mental shortcuts are indeed preferred to deeper thinking. An innate ability of ours: to sheer away our human-minds from the reminiscence. Reminiscence of anything which relates to what our actions imply from an uphill perspective. Phil Barden in Decoded describes our human brains as computed of two systems: the first deals with 11 million bits of information per second, and relies on intuition (called auto-pilot) and a second one, which deals with much smaller quantities (pilot). Most of the time, for the thousands of micro-decisions we take upon each day, we use the 1st system with minimum cognitive effort; hence the auto-pilot gears most of our behaviours….One might ask, how much is decided through rational decision making?
My point being that for human actants, we might feel in control of all the decision we embarked ourselves into when in reality the tiniest change as proven above can massively influence the successful accomplishment of our task.
But one of the main contribution brought by the flat ontology is the notion of interconnectedness in which human actants have no superiority over any other actants. Meaning greater hazard may occur via non-human actants for which the predictability is even weaker.
Therefore, the tight union of both human and non-human actants is needed to stabilize each of their roles. Interlinked actants have greater chances of survival as they complete each other’s defects.
To better link it back to advertising, a campaign is the result of a long veil of back-and-forth between ideas, possibilities, people, timing and planning. The ultimate goal is to clarify the larger set of dynamic operating above, in-between, and below human and non- human actants to facilitate everyone’s journey with an ideal blueprint to guide us through it.
What renders a greater impact on any communication-based work is its understanding of the tightness and width of the audience’s network. Audience here is defined as the activities, the humans and the things in play within the network.
Thus, the nature of who or what-whether human or non-human actants — shapes the media formation and diffusion, which underlines the necessity to acknowledge both their strengths and weaknesses for greater purposes.
To conclude on a small cinematographic reference: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button directed by David Fincher (2008), the scene preceding Daisy’s accident sums up the sadistic conditional questioning of Life. The scene narrates which minor incidents led to the accident before rewinding the sequence by asking ‘What if?’ in which deleting each of the same incidents allows a happy ending for-ever-and-after.
Bryant, L. R. (2011) ‘The Democracy of Objects’, New Metaphysics. Open Humanities Press. doi:10.3998/ohp.9750134.0001.001.
Cole, A. (2013) ‘The Call of ThingsA Critique of Object-Oriented Ontologies’, the minnesota review. Duke University Press, 2013(80), pp. 106–118. doi: 10.1215/00265667–2018414.
Harman, G. (2018) ‘Object-Oriented Ontology: A New Theory of Everything’, in, p. p.15.
Shaver, G. J. (1973) ‘Review of Martin Heidegger: Poetry, Language, Thought’, boundary 2. Duke University Press, 1(3), pp. 742–749. doi: 10.2307/302317.
stream.com/en/player/timothy-morton-ooo — object-oriented-ontology-7 (Accessed: 3 May 2020).
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