A visual analysis of corporate advertising
Saint Mary's University Art Gallery, Halifax,March 28 - April 19 1984 and 49th Parallel Gallery New York January 5-February 2 1985
This exhibition took as its subject various forms of corporate advertising; product and service advertisements, corporate image and advocacy advertisements produced for the United Technologies Corporation of Hartford, Connecticut. The reproductions of the advertismenets produced for the exhibition were collected over a four year period from the pages of The Atlantic, New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and Airforce Magazine. The Reading Room video programme consisted of twenty television advertisements which had been produced for network broadcast. Together these advertisements represented a fraction of the total production of advertising by United Technologies Corporation during this four year period. Their advocacy advertisements alone appeared in approximately 20 publications including some like the Economist and the New York Times magazine with world wide circulation.
The exhibition focused upon a relatively recent form of advertising used extensively by corporations and governments in North America and Europe - advocacy or controversy advertising. The primary intention of this focus was to reveal the propagandistic function of such advertising and to lay the foundation for a critique. For this reason the exhibition was organised in a manner that would enable members of the public to participate in the organisation of their knowledge of corporate advertising through the reading and discussion of these examples in the context of the gallery. Each week during the exhibition the public was invited to participate in an open discussion on the nature of the material presented. At its first exhibition at St. Mary's University formal classes in philosophy and economics participated in these discussions.
Reading Room I was divided into four sections. The first consisted of slide reproductions of corporate image and service advertisements projected on to the windows at the entrance to the gallery*; Section 2 consisted of twenty 60"x40" enlargements of full page advocacy advertisements culled from the pages of The Atlantic magzine from 1981-1984. Each photo enlargement was accompanied by a sheet of footnotes which provided reference points to some of the contents and sources for the main body of the text in the advertisement. The footnoting was an attempt to clarify information which has been appropriated from a particular context and stripped of values peculiar to that context. The third section consisted of a thirty minute collection of United Technologies Corporate image advertisements. A handbill accompanying the videotape provided information on the company itself, its history and various corporate activities. Section 4, the exhibition `catalogue' or bookwork, contained reproductions of Section 2 with an essay linking the history of advocacy advertisments to the notion of integrative propaganda. The catalogue, the video programme and other source material provided the base materials for four two hour discussion sessions.