A negative advertising trend“The perfect circle shape that emphasizes your muscular and tight bodyline!” “Show your burning passion with defined muscles!” “Show off a clear view with elasticity and a solid bulk-up!”
These lines were written in Korean, but it was hard to understand what they meant. They were a part of advertisement copy for Kia Motors’ Pride model, found on the walls of some subway cars in Seoul.
Ad copy is commercial writing with a clear purpose - to sell a certain product. But this campaign was so obscure that it was hard to understand the message. People found it so absurd that the campaign has become an object of ridicule on social networks. The ads have been displayed in the subway for over a month, whether Kia Motors knows about the controversy or not.
Perhaps they wanted to create a buzz with the ads. I asked Innocean, the company that oversaw the campaign, whether this was true. A company official said that Pride’s main target is consumers in their early 20s and that the copywriters had magazines like Vogue and Men’s Health in mind.
“If the copy was problematic, we would pull the advertisements from the subway immediately,” the official said.
So it’s all because of “dumb Vogue style.” The phrase was coined several years ago, referring to the transliteration of English words with Korean particles. Vogue and other Korean editions of foreign fashion magazines often feature articles written in this obscure style.
The copy in the Pride ad campaign is a classic example of “dumb Vogue style.”
No matter how much people laugh at “dumb Vogue style,” the fashion industry continues to use these English terms and phrases as if they are a fashionable way of writing. Now, “dumb Vogue style” is not just found in fashion magazines but is also appearing on subway advertisement boards for anyone to see.
Some might think it was up to the company to use “dumb Vogue style” in their advertisement campaign. But considering the growing influence of ad copy in our society beyond merely selling products, we cannot ignore this trend.
A good advertisement not only captures a trend but also encourages positive social changes. Over a decade ago, Hyundai Card’s advertisement campaign gave inspiration to many Koreans by urging, “After all your hard work, you deserve to leave!”
French poet Blaise Cendrars said that advertisement copy falls into the domain of poetry. We don’t want to see “dumb Vogue style” as capitalist poetry.
*The author is a planning editor for the JoongAng Sunday. JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 12, Page 30
by AHN HAI-RI