Contravertising

It’s always amusing to see a David outwit a Goliath. If anywhere, that is true in the world of business and consumption.

At this time of year, with Christmas and all the other winter celebrations passing the calendar, big brands urge us even more aggressively than usual to eat, to buy, to consume. At such times, it is uplifting to come across small businesses taking advantage of the big ones – even when they do not set out to do so.

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On this market in Britain for instance, a fast-food chain has been trying to ‘boss’ the situation. (Its campaign is part of an eating contest which challenges shoppers to gobble down one of their meals as fast as possible. Would that be to avoid tasting it?) That is to say: the image on the poster aims to bring food on our minds. And yes, if hamburgers are your thing and you pass this advert around lunchtime, it may stimulate your appetite.

But who really benefits on this market? The jacket potato seller who always has his stall on this spot, could not complain about attracting sufficient patronage that day. Who had bossed it now?

Another example:

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On the outside of this independent sandwich shop, a chain store has stuck a yummy poster for… sandwiches.

In as far as consumer ads are meant to enhance your appetite for this or that product, it does hardly matter what shop you buy this product from. The nearest shop or brand will benefit. Even a somewhat similar product will often do. When I see a well-made, effective commercial for coke, for example, it makes me thirsty, and it can even make me get a drink from the fridge or the tap – but that drink won’t be coke.

And so, without any effort, these adverts are turned into contraverts: Coca Cola advertises for home-made iced tea, Marks and Spencers for sandwiches from the shop around the corner, and KFC for local cheese spuds.

The general trend in our capitalist economy is for bigger companies to exploit the resources of the smaller. But sometimes, things get turned on their heads.

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