Ads for Significant Objects

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Many observers have drawn comparisons between this project and the commercial persuasion business — after all, aren’t ad pros hired precisely to invent significance for stuff, just as our contributors do? (For some examples, see this comment on BoingBoing (and this reply to it), this Chicago Tribune article, this assessment by Grant McCrackin’, this essay by Robin Sloan (who later wrote a story for us) this writeup on Jawbone.TV, and this post on How To Break Anything, among others; my two cents on the subject is here.)

However you view the comparison, you’ll perhaps understand why it interests me, and thus why I paid a visit to an advertising class taught at the Savannah College of Art Design the other day. In a sense, I was in the role of the “client,” because the students were showing the results of their most recently completed assignment: creating ads for Significant Objects. Not ads for the project as a whole; ads for specific objects and stories.

This came about by way of an email conversation with Art Novak, a copywriting veteran who teaches at SCAD. He gamely agreed to see what his students could come up with on this score, and I was obviously thrilled to see all theory set aside in favor of real ad-creations. Over the next few days, as the final auctions from v2 wind down, I’ll share some of the excellent results of this experiment.

We narrowed the field to four specific Significant Objects — each one a promotional item. Turns out the one most students picked was the Amaco Yo-Yo + Mark Sarvas Story. Some opted to created what would be print ads, others went with more Webby inventions. Alexander Parker, for instance created a banner ad (resized to fit here) that would look like this:

[swfobj src=”” width=”550″ height=”100″ align=”center” allowfullscreen=”false”]

That’s meant to be paired on a Web page with a vertical ad (again I’ve tinkered with the size) like this:

[swfobj src=”” width=”150″ height=”450″ align=”center” allowfullscreen=”false”]

Mr. Parker has a page set up where you can get a sense what these might look like in real life — in this case the ad buy would be handled in such a way that Web surfers who end up on an About page regarding yo-yos would find it enveloped in ads for the story. Needless to say, such a strategy is beyond the means of the Significant Objects curators. However, it’s tantalizing to imagine what effect advertising an object might have. Would the power of commercial persuasion trump the power of literary narrative? Do I actually want an answer to that question?

Well, in any case, I’ll share more of the results from Art Novak’s students over the rest of the week. In fact, I’ll try to get at least one more example up later today.


Rob Walker is the author of Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are, and writes the Consumed column for The New York Times Magazine.

3 thoughts on “Ads for Significant Objects

  1. Pingback: Significant Ads: Cracker Barrel Ornament | Significant Objects

  2. Pingback: Significant Ads: Yo yo más | Significant Objects

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