Warning: Be Afraid – London Ad Rhetoric (Part II)

(This is a Part II, continued from Wednesday’s post)

  • Part 2.1 – Ads for the Curious, Cool or Smart Person
  • Part 2.2 – Ads for the Depressed, Anti-Social or Bored
  • Part 2.3 –  WARNING: Be Afraid of Everything Ads
Part 2.1 – Ads for the Curious, Edgy, Cool or Smarter than Average

In addition to the frequent use of the rhetorical question, I noted a number of other recurrent themes in London advertising.  Naturally there was the predictable and probably universally applicable “buy this thing and your life will be better and everything will be amazing” style ad – the true bedrock of advertising technique.

I saw a disproportionate amount of travel ads for exotic trips to warm places – not at all surprising in a big city on a cold island. And there were SO many ads for musicals.  So many musicals.  So very many musicals.  More musicals than I knew could exist in one city at one time. More musicals than ever SHOULD exist in one city at one time.

There were also quite a number of advertisements that seemed to target people who push the envelope a little, or rather the people who want to BELIEVE they push the envelope.  These are ads that want to make you feel special or courageous or unique or smart if you buy their products.

Translation:  In fact only a very smart woman can even SEE this ad, it’s invisible to stupid women.  So now that you’ve been shown how special you are, I am sure you will believe that these suits are practically magic. They are better than a good job, a good body, exercise, health, love and sex because these suits will GET you all these things and more.  Expensive clothing is essential, especially when it’s MAGICALLY expensive clothing.  But only a smart woman would realize this.  But you’re a smart woman, aren’t you?

I can’t help but imagine the copywriters using the Emperor’s New Clothes as inspiration.

Translation: You are curious.  You are Special.  Drink our beer.  It is special, just like you.  Be a seeker.  Know the NOT KNOWN.  Drink our Beer.  Beer is the best reward. Curious yet?

Part 2.2 For the Depressed, Anti-Social and Bored

I saw an unusual number of advertisements in London that seem to attempt to commiserate with how bored, lonely, unhappy and/or anti-social everyone in the city must be feeling – sometimes as a joke, sometimes in earnest. (Please note the return of the rhetorical question)





























Synopsis: Thank god for TV, cell phones and the internet, the only things with the power to save us from the boredom of each other and ourselves.

Part 2.3 –  WARNING: Be Afraid of Everything

We are of course familiar with this style of ad in the United States, especially around election season.  There are many varieties of fear-based ads ranging from those that are scary for the fun of it…

"fear is fun" ad

"the end is exciting" ad











…to those that really try to remind you that life is pretty much entirely horrible for a very large percentage of people, and try to help you make decisions so you will not be one of these victims of the horrible horribleness of living, unless you already are one of these victims, which statistically speaking is quite likely.  Watch your Back! and your front! It’s unsafe to be alone and above all STAY AWAY from PEOPLE.  People do bad things to PEOPLE LIKE YOU!

Protect yourself for just 4.99 a month!


Infection. Infected. Every 2 Minutes. Don't be the One!


Aaaaah So much Scary!

And if you open the papers they hand out on the way into the tube, you get more of the same scary:


Synopsis: England is scary, but it’s even scarier everywhere else.  If you LEAVE to follow your “dreams” your life may become a NIGHTMARE. You might get CANCER and STARVE to DEATH all ALONE.



Synopsis: You don’t have to even read this to know it is SCARY.

Synopsis: WARNING: What seems funny could actually be scary and tragic. These kittens are DOOMED.

Synopsis: WARNING: even apples are scary!

(I would like to point out that all of these newspaper clips came from the first few pages of the same paper on the same day.  Scariness after scariness page after page.)

My train from London to Paris was cancelled, my flight from London to Biarritz was also cancelled, and at a certain point it began to feel I would never ever find a way off of the island.  My fears seemed corroborated everywhere I looked:

….Roo have been WARNED… Nurse Mumsy’s animal rights REIGN OF TERROR….THERE’S NO ESCAPE……




Somehow, against all odds, I did finally get a flight out of England – my best option was to fly all the way to Barcelona and drive 5 hours home from there.  The very first advertisement I saw made me breathe a deep sigh of relief.


I'm not afraid anymore!

“I’m Not Afraid Anymore…To Live my Life”

No more fear….

~ by zoetropic on November 5, 2010.

5 Responses to “Warning: Be Afraid – London Ad Rhetoric (Part II)”

  1. You assembled quite an impressive array of ads in a short period! Excellent research! Excellent reporting! Very interesting observations! You get a big fat A+++++. And I got to just sit here and derive all the benefits. Thank you, Pacifica!

  2. Oh so true, hilarious and sad. They’ve got folks scared to death over here, including me. The sky is falling! The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

  3. […] Warning: Be Afraid – London Ad Rhetoric (Part II) […]

  4. […] Warning: Be Afraid – London Ad Rhetoric (Part II) […]

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