Advertising + Communism = Strange Things On the Internet

This wonderfully weird video has been floating around the Internet for a few years now:

Though it's identified as an old Soviet commercial, I suspected when I first saw it that it was actually some sort of found-footage film put together by a radical vegetarian. It feels like an avant-garde short, not an attempt to get people to buy something, and certainly not an attempt to get people to eat chicken. And why the hell would they need commercials in the Soviet Union anyway? But apparently it's legit: Dangerous Minds has just interviewed the man who made the spot, an Estonian named Harry Egipt. Here's how the conversation starts:

Jason Toon: What was the purpose of Soviet commercials, since the USSR did not have a consumer-oriented market with different brands competing for sales?

Harry Egipt: During Soviet times advertising had an entirely different purpose than it would have today. For example, it shows the absurdity of Soviet planned economy that the commercials produced by a state-funded agency were sometimes prevented from even being screened. The primary purpose of advertising was not to encourage people to consume, it was not to market a product or service, but rather to inform and educate people and shape their views on society in general as opposed to finding a market for a particular product. Advertisements were targeted at a wider audience, not at a specific group of consumers.

Soviet ads were absurdly twisted in the context of contemporary advertising compared to their capitalist counterparts. Selling a product was not as important as the entertainment value, thus making the ads themselves the product to be consumed. Products often vanished from the shelves without need for any advertising but ads were produced nonetheless. At other times an ad would be produced in hopes that, at the time of airing, a product would be available for sale.

According to Egipt, even this distorted sort of consumerism opened a space for personal expression: "Quite often adverts provided a financial basis to make television programs—with less bureaucracy and more creative freedom." If nothing else, it looks like he found some of that creative freedom for himself.

Read the rest of the interview here. Read more about ads as art here. Order a DVD of Soviet commercials compiled by Egipt's son here.

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  • sarcasmic||

    what the....

  • Fist of Etiquette||

  • robc||

    Endut! Hoch Hech!

    Worker and Parasite is one of my favorite Simpson's bits ever.

  • sarcasmic||

  • ||

    I'm sure the commentariat will appreciate the Pinguin ad.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I'll be in my bunk.

  • ||

    I had a harder time tracking this one down. For the ladies, and those who like bodybuilders and yaks:

    Toidupuljong!

  • ||

    For the ladies, and those who like bodybuilders and yaks:

    So...everyone?

  • ||

    I didn't want to be presumptuous, but yeah, pretty much everyone.

  • sarcasmic||

    There's a penguin that's driving down the road in his air conditioned car, when of course the car breaks down. The mechanic comes and tows him to his shop where, just across the street, there's an ice cream store. While the mechanic is fixing the car, the penguin goes across the street to chill in the walk-in freezer. The mechanic finds the penguin with ice cream all over his face and says "You blew a seal", to which the penguin indignantly responds "It's ice cream!"

  • ||

    Careful with that joke, it's an antique!

  • gaijin||

    My soul, now with strength and perk!

  • Drave Robber||

    The most popular slogan was perhaps Храните деньги в сберкассе!, also other financials (bonds, insurance) were heavily advertised in futile attempts to keep money mass under control. And yes, there was no line between advertising and propaganda.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Chicken Minced Meat: You'll Want to Spend HOURS in Line Waiting for It!

  • ||

    W.

    T.

    F?

  • ||

    I want to know more about pink top shoemaker here.

  • tarran||

    I suddenly want to go to shoemaking school!

  • Tman||

    KANNA KANNA!!!

    I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.

  • ||

    Every week is the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.

  • ||

    Estonia. If I have any money next year, I'm going to see about making it to Lalupidu.

  • robc||

    Estonia is apparently where Finns go on vacation.

  • JW||

  • Sevo||

    All in all, I'd rather be in Philly.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Tovarishch! Why wait in Bread Line #71 when Bread Line #72 has so much more to offer?

  • Sevo||

    OK, some bureaucrat approved these things (even the one with the bodybuilder and cows!).
    Why? What sort of criteria helped make the choice?

  • ||

    This looks like some crap stock footage for a movie set where a character is sitting in front of dozens of TV screens with tiny metal arms keeping his eyelids open. This would be looped on one of those TVs.

  • drugwarisevil||

    "And why the hell would they need commercials in the Soviet Union anyway?" For the same reason the US Postal Service does. For the greater glory of the bureaucrat in charge.

  • Raymond Luxury Yach-t||

    This video was so much weirder without the subtitles.

  • Agammamon||

    Reminds me of my time living in Japan while in the service and watching AFRTS (military produced, English language tv programming) and seeing commercials* recruiting people to join the navy.

    *sorry not commercials, AFRTS never had commercials just spots, in the same place as commercial breaks on regular tv, that looked and sounded exactly like commercials - but weren't.

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