shock & the beautiful halo of the storyteller

The modernist moment: destruction and creative simultaneously. A self-destructive moment while shining in the process.  Can marketing create cultures out of thin air? Capturing flashes of light and bottling them, packaged as part of the cultural dialog. The Rainier beer commercials of the early 1970′s show how resolution functions when there is a crisis of representation, something searching to answer the question of “who am I and who are we?” These ads adopted surreal and dada conventions to create a space, a space of complicity for the radical “other” of modernism that is spun off and discarded only to renew itself with a sense of radicalism and transgressiveness, lending credence that the culture also defines the market.

…It was he and his small company that in the early 1970s took a job that would transform a tired, last-place local brand, and Heckler’s firm.”Rainier Beer contacted us,” Heckler said. “They must have been desperate.”At the time, Heckler was barely 30 and had one semi-major client — a ski equipment upstart called K2….

---Benjamin tells us that criticism must change and the model for this change is the advertisement or, simply, anything that creates a "perceived contact with things." Like advertising, criticism must touch and fascinate readers: because they are touched by it, blown away by it, or simply "warmed by the subject," people desire it. In a more theoretical sense, Benjamin tells us that criticism, like advertising, should affect the reader with visceral projections of "fragmented" intensity which circumvent any form of contemplation. This intensity, something like a "burst of energy," affects the very life of the subject. --- Read More: image:

…Rainier, he said, had burned through every ad agency in Seattle to little effect. Founded in 1884 in Georgetown and with the big red, rooftop R so well-known it was a landmark for Interstate 5 traffic reports, the company fell on hard times, dying in its own market. “They said ‘OK, what can you do for us?’ ” Heckler remembered. “We were their last resort. They wanted something different.”

So what Heckler and Associates did in 1971 was create an ad, now considered a local classic, that shows a through-the-windshield view of an off-screen couple and child driving through a national park. The wipers are like a metronome. Through the rain they see a “Beer Crossing” sign. Then, a family of 6-foot Rainiers (two bottles and a can) darts across the road….

It plays out often within the illuminating and extraordinary paradoxes of the everyday. It does echo Marcel Duchamp and the ready-made where the everyday banal article can become sensationalized and scandalous if the context is framed differently. That is, suddenly a near commodity like beer can be imbued with a transgressive function, part of the disturbed psyche of modernism complete with tension and self-reflexivity and an implicit emancipatory vocabulary in the quest for modernism’s other; the childish, the misfits, the exotic, the primitive etc. to guarantee the movement’s continuation and authenticity. Rainier Beer, then, as cultural commodity is like Benjamin’s theory of mechanical reproduction where zillions of copies can be made. Everyone can have a piece of the aura. The basic flaw of his argument is however that the it is not conformity but dissent that drives the system and this sense of dissonance and distortion, individualism, drives the Heckler ads.

---Likewise, the advertisement exposes the reader to what Bloom calls the aura of fragmentation that hits him/her, as the car that "careens at us out of a film screen," and, in effect, "leaves them thinking" about what hit them (post-facto) -- like PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome). Bloom argues that this is what the "aura" does; but in doing so, it looks back at us as if to say that there is something in what we see that involves who we are. Bloom cites a letter of Gershom Scholem which provides his understanding of this aura: it is like the "dissolution of Angels once they have sung their hymn."--- Read More: image:

…”Oh! Oh! A whole herd of Rainier beers, ” the woman says. “They’re just so fresh and friendly.” The Rainier executives were not sure what to think. But they approved the campaign. What followed over the next 16 years not only made Rainier Washington’s most popular beer once again, but also became a template for an entire industry. The wild Rainiers; the Jacques Cousteau parody; the Rainier croaking frogs — poorly aped in later years by Budweiser; and maybe the all-time most popular: motorcycle on a lonely country road Dopplering “RAAAAINIEEEER BEEEEEEEEEEER” as it shifts and speeds into the distance with the namesake mountain in the background.

“We wanted to create 30 seconds of entertainment you wouldn’t turn off,” Heckler said. “We wanted to make sure

one zapped us off the screen.” Read more:


Chantry discussed how designers can create entire subcultures and underground movements through skillful marketing tactics:

the impact of heckler & associates is an interesting case. when they did the rainier beer campaign, the figured out how to use satire and stoner humor to sell beer to the hip young audience (aka – kids), without aiming directly at them. they turned a 12% market share product into a 65% dominant product in a little over 2 years. rainier put other breweres out of business in the market….

---For, although Benjamin and Paolozzi came from entirely different time periods and cultures, they shared an interest in making use of "pop"; as artists, they saw a need to respond to a new mutation in culture found in both film and advertising. Both understood what many high cultural critics and artists failed to understand: that neither art nor criticism could ever be the same after the advent of advertising, film, and pop. Unfortunately, it has taken a long time for theorists to get this message.--- Read More: image:

…with k2, they helped promote and build the dominant downhill ski company. as their market aged, they looked around and saw skateboard punks and saw the fledgling burton snoboard biz and saw renewal in their sales. snoboards had been around since the snodad (a sno surfboard) in the 60′s. but k2 decided to create a culture and started snoboard magazaine and began sponsoring major boarders and began competitions creating stars. THEN they began to design product to sell to the culture they created. they virtually created the snoboard culture as we know it today. it was a marketing ploy that they exploited mercilessly. first create a market by creating a culture.

heckler & assoc. desided to do the same thing on their own. red hook became the first major microbrew. in fact, the word microbrew was coined to describe red hook’s market creation. sure, private brewers have been around since antiquity, but red hook created the microbrew culture and then exploited it as a marketing plan. the same thing was done with the coffee shop and starbucks.

my point is that there is no vernacular or lowbrow. there is only human planning. kruger exploited by creating a fine art market for tabloid humor and launched a thousand ships. but, the originators are often obscured by our ignorance of the process we all exploit.

how do you thing “grunge” happened? we all sat around up in seattle and made it up. no joke.Read More:


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