Dada Ads: Nihilism and Nonsense
A remarkable new school of advertising has surfaced in the past 10 years.
In my files are national TV commercials for 52 different products that all use the following two messages:
Message No. 1: Why you should buy this wonderful product.
Message No. 2: You're a damn fool if you do. Because it could make you sick and possibly kill you.
Dada Ads blow all the accepted rules of advertising out of the water. This is reminiscent of what The American Heritage Dictionary defines as:
Dada: a European artistic and literary movement (1916-1923) that flouted conventional aesthetic and cultural values by producing works marked by nonsense, travesty and incongruity.
"Dada" is French for hobbyhorse as well as one of baby's first utterances.
Founded in Zurich during World War I and famous in the 1920s, Dada was a wacky rebellion by a group of artists, writers and intellectuals against everything—war, the Establishment, the old rules of art, science and behavior.
My great Andover teacher and friend Patrick Morgan recounted what happened in Paris when a gathering was announced to hear a reading of the new Dada Manifesto. The intelligentsia of the art and literary world were abuzz with anticipation as they assembled in a seedy little meeting hall. On the platform was a desk with a single object on it—a giant alarm clock.
At the appointed hour, one of the Dada founders arrived—very likely the Romanian poet and performance artist Tristan Tzara, (1896-1963), who wrote the original manifesto. He was carrying a giant roll of toilet paper. He flipped a button on the alarm clock, which began ringing loudly. Whereupon he started unrolling the bumwad and reading his manifesto. Of course, with the noisy alarm, nobody could hear a word of what he was reading.