Surrealism in Advertising: Pt. II- The Fetishized Object

Optical illusion, visual metaphor, ironic imagery, sexual undertones... all hallmarks of the Surrealist aesthetic.

Modern advertising is full of suggestions that the possession of or association with the object lifts you out of this world, into the next.


What did you think "retail therapy" really was?

Surrealism was an art movement begun in the 1920s, and led by a Frenchman named Andre Breton, to "resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality." Initially it was applied to literature, but has since manifested in many mediums from painting to film, advertising and music videos. Some of its most famous members were Rene Magritte, Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp, and Man Ray (work below).

The elements of surprise, mischief and psychological depth all played very well into the commercial space.

Advertising, especially fashion photography, has created a new version of the "fetishized object," presented in a surreal or otherworldly way, and imbued with qualities beyond it such as sexuality, luxury, status, comfort, safety, energy, rebellion, and so on.

"The Surrealist object was closely related to Freud’s concept of the “fetish.”  The ordinary object becomes a fetish because we project our desire upon it, because we look at it and look again until we cannot stop looking.  The selection of this object, like any Dada object, is random.  And like the Surrealist object, the choice is not as significant as the meaning the human psychology gives to it."

Can you think of any ads that have used Surrealist techniques to grab your attention? The new Skittles ads, for example? Geico? The latest State Farm commercials? The same methods are surprisingly relevant today.