‘Object/Text: ‘Twice the Va Va Voom’ - stereotyping, differentiation and transitivity in British advertising for Renault Clio III, 2005-06’
In: Annual Conference of Design History Society. 'Writing Design', 3-5 September 2009, Hatfield, UK.
This research paper was originally delivered as a keynote address for the Design History Society Annual Conference, ‘Writing Design - Process: Object: Discourse: Translation’ at the University of Hertfordshire, 3-5 September 2009. It will be published in full as a 10,000 word article in a volume of selected papers, edited by conference convenor, Dr. Grace Lees-Maffei. (2010). Details of the conference, including the plenary discussion, can be found at http://sitem.herts.ac.uk/artdes.
My essay explores the way that ‘writing design’ is often a matter of the mediation of ‘this thing’ (in this case the car itself) as ‘that thing’ (the car in television and poster publicity) by elaborating the way that a global brand like Renault can be translated into national culture - or more precisely how a global product can signify ideas about national identities and Otherness. It focuses on ‘Twice the Va Va Voom’, a 60-second British TV ad for the Renault Clio III, and the tagline ‘French Car, British Designers’, which double-code the object in such a way that its commercial identity is performatively imbricated, scene-by-scene, with cultural phenomena from both France and Britain - engineering, food, literature, and romance. Thus the organising ludic theme of the advertisement resorts to a rhetorical and cultural contest in which negative and positive symbols of French and British history and culture are portrayed both verbally and visually in opposition to each other (hence, Shakespeare versus Sartre and the Eiffel Tower versus the Blackpool Tower). Accordingly, in analysing the ‘veritable architecture of messages’ of the Clio III campaign, I examine how it simultaneously maintains and deconstructs the cultural, social and historical stereotypes that exist on the ‘outside’, and the slipperiness of Anglo-French relationships it represents.
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