Saturday, November 26, 2011

Commercial Art: Getup! for Marriage Equality

The television commercial is a distinct art form in and of itself. We may remember cheesy taglines like “Where’s the beef?” and “My name is Rula Lenska”, but we often overlook the artfulness of ads such as Crystal Pepsi’s “Right Now” campaign from 1992, Apple’s once-aired-only “Big Brother” ad from 1984, and Madonna’s simple but powerful “Rock the Vote” in the early 1990s for MTV.

In the age of YouTube and the Internet, few people are turning into TV than ever before and the commercial must be catchier, edgier and more attention-getting to be truly effective. This usually means gimmicks such as the Old Spice Guy and celebrity endorsements. Sometimes there is no flair or imagination in the ads, and we are treated to endlessly series of smack-talking teenagers playing with handheld technology, college co-eds disrobing in “ironic” (although truly misogynist in nature, just ask Bitch magazine) and Twitter feeds.

Into the category of the artful commercial is Getup’s ad seeking marriage equality in Australia. It chronicles the courtship of a young gay couple from the point of view of one of the men. We see them meet cute in the commercial, go away on holiday together, meet one another’s families, fight, endure family illness and personal crises, and finally end in a marriage proposal in front of family and friends. The expression that no words are needed, and that only a picture will do, is used freely here. There is no dialogue but we know what is going on at all times.

Perhaps the greatest effect of this amazing ad, created by the ad campaign Getup Australia, is to convey the message of commitment and love to personalize the experience, giving it context away from its political aspect. It literally puts you in the shoes of one of the couples and asks: haven’t you ever been in love? Didn’t you look into your boyfriend’s / girlfriend’s / spouse’s / husband’s / wife’s eyes like that? Haven’t you ever seen the gaze returned? Already hailed as the single most beautiful ad promoting marriage equality by no less than the Advocate magazine, it speaks so much without even saying a word. It speaks to the power of the ad that its eloquence and understated elegance say so much more than a thousand words ever can.

They say that art created in service to politics is in and of itself largely a failure. I used to believe in this adage too, and still maintain that propaganda is ideology and not art in and of itself. After seeing this ad, I have never been so happy to have been proven wrong. Watch, and see for yourself.

Getup: it's time.