Friday, April 20, 2012

Contrasting Uses of Shakespeare in Advertising

"The Six Ages of Man." Google +. Advertisement.

"Guess What You Have in Common with Shakespeare." The Christopher Group. Advertisement.

The use of Shakespeare in Advertising is an enormous subset of Shakespeare and Film. At Bardfilm, I can do little more than provide some notable examples.

The first is from Google+. It annotates Jaques' "Seven Ages of Man" speech with images of a Google+ user, and it's actually quite moving. We start with an infant—appropriately named "William"—and we mix images of him and his father for each of the ages:


Careful viewers will note that there are only Six Ages of Man in this version of the speech. The Seventh Age, in the text, presents this image:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything. (II.vii.163-66)
Since "sans everything" can be extended to "sans internet access"—and since that isn't the image Google+ wants to provide at the end of its advertisement—it is excised.

All in all, the ad is very good. It's highly polished, it's moving, it's thoughtful, and it's beautifully narrated.

The following advertisement has the inestimable benefit of being memorable—but not in the same way as the Google+ ad:

Partial Transcript:

Guess what you have in common with Shakespeare. Taxes! Sir William Shakespeare could work his way around a sonnet, but he never got his taxes right. Be lender nor borrower be—just don't be late on your taxes . . . . So if you'd rather catch the plague than do your own taxes, it's time to call the Christopher Group.
It's really quite memorable—but perhaps not for the right reasons. William Shakespeare is given a posthumous knighthood, making him "Sir William," which is not disrespectful. And there's some evidence that Shakespeare moved locations in order to avoid paying taxes, which, from a certain point of view, fits under the category of not getting his taxes right. And Shakespeare did know what he was doing with sonnets.

But I'm nonplussed (please note the accounting-related pun) by the misquotation. The quasi-allusion to money matters has a bizarre, esoteric feel to it. And the image we're given right after that sentence is, I think, meant to represent those who dislike doing their taxes—but it unfortunately has the ambiguity of seeming to represent the Christopher Group itself!

The Christopher Group? Or the Christopher Group's clients?

I thought putting these two ads side by side would be revealing—as revealing as discussing Hotspur as a foil to Hal.

Links: The Christopher Group's Home Page. Google +.

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2016 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

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