Plastic or Progressive

11 Jun

While walking past a display center for promoting Hong Kong based Citibank credit cards, I was struck by the familiar image of the late Andy Warhol.  I stopped to take a more detailed look at the banner ad, it struck me as a bit ironic that the iconic artist was being used to promote the very plastic culture he had become famous for at times commenting on through his artwork.  In fact Warhol himself is quoted as saying, “I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They’re beautiful. Everybody’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.” (source: http://thinkexist.com/quotation/i_love_los_angeles-i_love_hollywood-they-re/221261.html)

How ironic that his used on a plastic ad banner to promote plastic cards that allow people to buy all kinds of plastic things, many of which they can not normally afford.

As you can see in the image, a large set of text reads, “Live To Inspire”, set in front of the image.   The correlating context ties this text and Warhol’s image to an associate with the Citibank credit card (a platinum level card no less).

This sets forth the idea that from semiotic associations with the text one is expected to believe that spending power equates to the ability to be inspirational.  The added associations with Warhol’s image allow a viewer to further connect signified notions of artistic, progressive, controversial, and fame.

The smaller text further down the banner informs the intended target that the card in question is the Citibank I.T. Platinum Card, which carries some added benefits and rewards all dependent upon the frequency and type of use that a cardholder undertakes.  However, all of these details, which are in fact far more important to the actual day to day use of the card, are given far less emphasis than the headline text and the iconic image.  In truth, the concepts associated with these two elements have little, if any, bearing on the functionality and usage of the card itself.

What this ultimately reveals is that not only will a large corporation, like Citibank, carry a sense of brand identity, but that even individual products and services within the larger whole, can carry a specific and separate brand identity that attempts to be distinctive.

Of course Warhol had also said, “I’m afraid that if you look at a thing long enough, it loses all of its meaning.” (source: http://thinkexist.com/quotation/i-m_afraid_that_if_you_look_at_a_thing_long/221139.html). Which is interesting, because that was exactly how I began to feel after looking at the ad for more than a few moments.

(for more on Plastic Culture in Asia, refer to Lent, John A., Asian Popular Culture [1996])

[450 words]

Paul Fox

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