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When icons fall

Feb 20 2013 07:28 Adriaan Bester
Oscar Pistorius

Oscar Pistorius (File, AP)

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WHEN the creative souls delivered the “I’m the bullet in the chamber” line to a thrilled creative director for a sport shoe brand, they did not start off with a psychoanalysis of the model they worked with.

Their job was not to determine the likelihood of an actual bullet being shot. They had a deadline – and a clever slogan to deliver, one that had to enhance the bottom line.

At most, they tapped into the universal pool of creativity that floats above all of us, the one that only some have the secret code to.

If you think for a moment it is not guarded by unique access layers, recall the cheesy, hurtful one-liners that surfaced as early as Thursday mid-morning last week, and how laymen tried to offer wit.

The slap our creative team got on the shoulders at the drinks party with clients afterwards was delivered with admiration.

It was a comforting pat that said "you’ve done well, you found a way to express, in the least possible words, the truism that reflects a majority of society’s wishes for the model you got to work with".

Now let’s see how far we can push it.

As our homegrown hero's star fades, I am left pondering the power of brands – and how far they have to be pushed to let us sit up and take notice of what they are trying to sell.

What depths do they search for to make them stand out from others, I wonder, and how do they shock us on the very level we are trying to hide from society's good eye?

Can we bear our dark side? And can we live with the guilt? I wonder if it is the job of brands to reveal this layer, or if they are just tapping into our mood in the best way they know how, ultimately leaving us to describe in a few words what our society looks like on the inside.

In the day of the news breaking, my optimistic self was hoping it was all just a very well organised anti-abuse publicity campaign. Maybe this was fuelled by my expectations of the responsible branding.

I was boyishly hoping it would end with Derek Watts popping on our screens to announce to a trapped audience: "This was a carefully crafted message to remind us of how abuse can happen on every level of society” and then sign off, leaving us all with our happy lives.

By the time South Africa’s leading state prosecutors came on the scene, I had long realised the cameras were rolling for a reality TV show that has no script.

It fuelled our braai conversations; it angered our belief in heroes; it questioned our opinions on the way ordinary life seems to exist alongside our fantasy of it.

We seem to choose our heroes to fit the boxes that have been pre-designed for them: to sell a beer, shoes, prime time movies or a lifestyle we aspire to. When they step out of the grid, we act hurt and surprised.

And when our heroes’ egos speed past, we roll out a few jokes to make us feel better about our failed choices.

This is the interplay between mighty men and the rise and rise of brands - and their search for omnipresence. If the one feeds off the other, who becomes the actual fodder?

 - Fin24

Like many others, Adriaan has moved from disbelief to sadness to anger on Twitter as @aiBester this week as he questioned his own expectations from modern day heroes. Views expressed are his own.

 

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