Absolut Absence

Our analyses of ideology have thus far focused on a) that which is present in an ad and b) the ideology of form (of metastructure). Let us now add to this mix an emphasis on absence.

Ads draw us in to participate in producing meaning through the ad by providing an absence for us to fill. This absence, at its deepest level, is to be filled with us. We are to fit our selves into the hollow that it provides. That we participate in this 'consciously' is essential to the ideology of 'freedom' of the advertising medium, for as individuals we then are apparently endowed with the 'freedom' to make the choice to consume the commodity.

Hermeneutic absence supports the ideology of consumerism, by encouraging the illusion that we are consciously and freely creating the meaning of the ad, when in actuality that ad may be setting the parameters of meaning construction. The metastructure of ads gives us patterns which we can learn and follow until it becomes habit to instantly decipher ads, but without the implicit emptiness, there would be no way for an ad to evoke our participation, and thus our insertion of self into the ad.

In this Absolut Evidence ad, the absence is nearly complete, but not so complete that there has vanished a scaffolding around which the spectator can seek to supply meaning. The entire ad consists of three elements: the word "absolut," the word "evidence" and the black denotative smudge of a fingerprint. Because of the self-referential nature of the long-running Absolut campaign, I do not see how it would be possible to be an only slightly actively literate American and not be able to supply the essential meaning needed by the vast absence.

It is essential to this ad that the spectator recognize Absolut as being the brandname of vodka. The spectator must also be adequately advertising literate so as to supply the absent bottle, the absent product, which from experience with other ads should be in the middle of the ad. Thus an almost blank page, for me signifies the absence of an absolut bottle. Even in its disappearance from the material ad, the bottle is there, in us. Linking up the various elements of the ad of "ABSOLUT," "EVIDENCE," the finger print, and the missing bottle, there is an absence that is constructed so as to allow, require the spectator to produce a rough narrative. The bottle is missing, and the only evidence of its location is a single fingerprint. The spectator can insert him or herself into this narrative as either the one who it has been stolen from, as a detective, or even perhaps as the perhaps as the one who has stolen it. In any case, the absent narrative, that the reader is to supply, positions the reader into taking a self-fetishized role of obsession with the absent commodity. The reader's 'conscious' participation in the ad, in the task of filling the gaps in the meaning, pulls the reader in to take an active role vis-a-vis the commodity. That the product is absent, and the absence positions the reader as actively seeking it out in the absent narrative, implies an absent resolution to the narrative: via the purchase of the commodity in a store.