Friday, August 15, 2014

Van Gogh Severed Ear Portrait Ads, Ranked.

Vinnie painted approximately 40 self-portraits before shooting himself at 37. (or before being shot, claim others). But he only created two with his bandaged ear. The popular opinion is that he cut off part of his lobe with a razor blade after a fight with Paul Gauguin. Another theory is that Gauguin lopped it off with his sword, either accidentally or on purpose.

No matter. Van Gogh was an artist. Advertising art directors are not artists. They are art thieves, stealing popular artwork to help sell products/services. They steal "The Scream". They steal "David". They steal the "Venus de Milo". And, oh boy, do they steal the "Mona Lisa".

But poor, tortured, partially-earless van Gogh continues to be the most abused artist by ad hacks. I've collected a sampling of ads from the last 15 years that badly riffed off these two portraits. This ranking wasn't easy; they all suck. But some suck harder. Listed from worst to least worst, top to bottom.


10. Daikin air conditioners, India, 2003.

The two obvious ways to use the portraits is to play off Van Gogh's missing ear, or to reattach the ear. Copy: "Complete Silence". See, the art director has put his ear back. Because ... now ... he can ... enjoy ... the silence ... better ... with two ears ... instead of ... just one ... Agency: Dentsu Y&R.

9. Zeldox, Finland, 2007.

Zeldox is the Pfizer brand of Ziprasidone, a schizophrenia/bipolar disorder drug. Did Vincent suffer from either of those disorders? Who cares! Let's all laugh at suicidal mental illnesses. LOL—BLAM! Agency: TBWA/PHS, Helsinki.

8. The ADDY Awards, USA, 2011.

  The "ADDYs" are one of the lesser advertising awards shows, put on by the American Advertising Federation. (I've won two, just for reference.) The body copy, which is hard to read thanks to over-art direction, reads: "You've gone through a lot to create great work. It belongs in a museum too." BA-HA, no, it doesn't. RE: the headline—I learned at SVA to never tell a reader to "imagine" something, because you're basically calling him/her an idiot. But I'll give it a try. His arms? His head? His pecker? His beard? Who the FUCK cares. Agency: LGA, Charlotte.

7. iMeet, USA, 2011.

iMeet is a video meeting service.
The agency here is the much lauded MUH•TAY•ZIK | HOF•FER of San Francisco.
I do not understand why they are much lauded.

6. Elite Paintball, Brazil, 2011.

This is, really, the worst of the bunch, but because it is so audaciously stupid, I've moved it up/down. The unreadable headline: "Van Gogh lost his ear, and if he hadn't paid attention would have lost his eye as well." A much better headline is the copy next to the logo: "Only the best painters survive." Agency: Festo, Brazil.

5. Gardena garden shears, Germany, 2004.

Copy: "Every one a work of art." Gardena sells gardening tools worldwide. Van Gogh liked flowers, particularly sunflowers, I guess. So, bingo! Ad. (sigh) Agency: Serviceplan.

4. Desirée hairdressing school, The Netherlands, 1999.

"Cheap haircuts by student hairdressers."
At least it's via Vincent's home country. Agency: Result DDB.

3. Lazer helmets and eyewear, Belgium, 2011.

(Fucking ADs and their unreadable type/font choices) The thing you might not be getting with this Belgian ad is that to wear Lazer Magneto combo helmet/glasses, you don't need ears. So, therefore...IF VAN GOGH WERE ALIVE TODAY, HE WOULDN'T HAVE NEEDED HIS EAR TO GO BIKING. Agency: Dallas, Antwerp.

2. Panasonic RF-HXD5W headphones, Israel, 2014.

The only thing that makes this ad "better" than the others above is that it is related to sound and that it makes some sense. Agency: McCann TLV.

1. Sky 100.7, The Netherlands, year unknown.

"100.7% listening enjoyment".
Again, at least the ad is via The Netherlands. And again, at least the ad is related to sound. It is the same concept as the above layout. But since it is older than the Panasonic ad and a tad more subtle, it is the "winner". Agency: unknown.


The Perth Zoo, Australia, 2010.

The ad is from a 2010 campaign promoting actual elephant paintings. (Here's the Warhol execution.) I didn't include it above because it doesn't use one of the Van Gogh paintings. It's a little subtle for a moronic mass audience, but... Agency: The Brand Agency, Perth.


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