Scott Harper’s documentary about how the advertising industry has changed since the “Don Draper” days is glitzy, but people reading this have probably already absorbed most of the information presented in You’re Soaking In It. However, a refresher might not hurt, and this film is certainly palatable as far as they go.
Bill Bernbach is considered a god in advertising (he was responsible for the famous Volkswagen ‘Lemon’ ad). In the 50s, he revolutionized the field by making people think about the stories behind the products. Nowadays, content in ads has generally shrunk. If we see a story about a product, it’s probably from a celebrity or someone we follow on YouTube. It’s thought that if a broadcaster discusses a product, such as something from Starbucks, it must be a genuine “like” for that product–otherwise they would be called out by their loyal fans.
These are some of the insights to be had from this documentary, but overall, the information was not surprising. I know that cookies enable websites to track my every move, and I’ve already been subject to targeted ads for any number of things that I am supposed to like. Wall Street is no longer the cutting-edge of business – it’s Silicon Valley. It’s the 25 and 26 year olds that are pulled out of university that migrate there and make a killing in creating more intrusive data collection methods.
The wave of the future is direct, targeted advertising. Data collection methods can be blocked by AdBlock software, and I enjoyed the segment in which Gabriel Cubbage, director of AdBlock, helped people download his program. However, the documentary should have referred back to him more often when the newer, more invasive data collection methods were discussed.
An ongoing segment in the documentary where a teacher is shown teaching young children about the pervasive nature of advertising is heartening, as it shows the next generation will be equipped with the means for critical thinking and discerning between what is an ad and what is entertainment (or ad-entertainment if one wants to be sneaky, as the kids will tell you). This film would fit well into such a curriculum. Its teachings are basic, but Advertising 101 never hurt anyone.
Accessibility Note: I enjoyed this film using the Captiview device at TIFF Lightbox. Unlike the others I have seen with Captiview at Hot Docs, the machine was needed and useful for this English-language documentary.
Fri, May 5, 6:30 PM Scotiabank Theatre 3