Marshall McLuhan called advertising corporate art. While he’s not wrong, I think his early views of advertising were based in an era where the ad remained a promotion of a product. Products in most ads these days are at least second to brand narrative.1 Enter the Fearless Girl, an abhorrent piece of corporate propaganda which has taken the concept of advertising to an entirely new level of cynicism.

Cara Sheffler did a great job pointing out why the work is an insult to feminism, not a promotion of it. Things being equal between the sexes and all, it’s also pretty bad at a societal level.

What the statue represents is submission to the idea the fight against power exists only within the confines the powerful approve of. This idea originated in a board room and was approved in one. ‘Fearless Girl’ has a presumed acceptance of capitalism; that we may stand up to the market so long as we remain in sight of it.

With ‘Fearless Girl’ now set to remain in the Financial District, we’re witnessing what the next generation of billboards will look like: corporate art in the public space, promoting a subtle dialogue of complicity not to any inspired place of imagination, but rather financial allegiance.2

      Footnotes
  • This isn’t surprising, especially as millennials start coming in to money. The way Urban Outfitters went from selling t-shirts to an entire lifestyle, advertising will continue that tradition of the projected idea behind a brand—and how that will improve your life—put the work of a social media influencer in front of it, and reap the benefits.
  • I believe McLuhan is wrong when he calls advertising an art, even a corporate art, at this level. Allegiance to an idea is never the goal of a piece of art; generally that is the opposite of what artists work for. Constructing a narrative in order to control the outcome is not art, even if a few pieces of that process along the way are aesthetically appealing.

March 28, 2017 at 10:05 am

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