Friday, July 18, 2008


Subtext = hidden meaning. Things left unsaid.

Are human beings suspicious by nature? I'm clueless. Nonetheless, every time I watch the television commercial for one of the two leading brands of women's high-end cosmetics, a warning bell starts sounding in my head as the final words are uttered by the actor. They are: "Take care" and "Because you're worth it" respectively. So, innocuous and innocent-sounding on the surface. In fact, the former makes you wonder if the marketer is not overly concerned and caring about the consumer, cloyingly so. The latter seems to be a ploy in the best of the contemporary tradition of boosting the consumer's self-worth or self-esteem. So far, so good. Take a moment or two to calmly contemplate both the messages though and you'll begin to wonder if there's not another layer of meaning being conveyed. When the actor tells the viewer in almost a conspiratorial whisper to take care, is she implying (not saying it in so many words) "because you're about to be fleeced considering the high price we are going to ask you to pay for our product"? Likewise, when the actor reassures the viewer that she is worth it in the other commericial, is she leaving unsaid the unpleasant "our price tag will convince you how high we estimate your worth" part? Maybe it's the cynic in me but I have a strong suspicion both are hidden warnings. Like the "Conditions apply" insert elsewhere (in most offer ads) = "Caveat emptor. [Let the buyer beware.] Please read the small print." After all, fair is fair. And, everything fair in love and marketing warfare. And, so forth. P.S.: This is also the case when a long warning is hurriedly read at the fag end of an ad for a financial ad to warn you that here money and market fluctuations are involved. So, better watch your butt, buddy.