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Mar 01, 2007

World Of Innocents

Kompakt-Merkel  Kompakt-Pope

These images, running on billboards in Germany, advertise the Die Welt newspaper offshoot, Welt Kompakt.  The text below the images reads: "BIG NEWS.  SMALL SIZE.  A new generation of newspaper."  There is an example, in proper proportion, here.

On first pass, I saw these as a simply an infantilization of political figures.  But that was before I read up on the product.

Die Welt's Kompakt edition is a physically smaller version of the traditional Die Welt, which, according to management, is "aimed at new readers, particularly younger readers who don't have a lot of time but want quality journalism."  (Link.) The paper is aimed at people between 18 and 35, it sells for 50 euro cents, and is intended to be an introduction to newspapers.  (Sales, by the way, have increased 10% since the '04 launch.)

With that in mind, the pictures get more interesting.

One one hand, I think these pics do make political figures less intimidating and easier to relate to for the political novice.  At the same time, however, what is the price to pay for framing these figures -- and the institutions they represent -- so innocently?

What actually throws me off -- given my diet of stage-managed photos and hard-edged political advertising -- is that these shots aren't caricatures.  What I mean is, rather than accentuating facial features to emphasis more controversial personality characteristics, here head, hair, nose and eyes remain mostly true, making these pics simply cute.

Kompakt-4 Kompakt-Kim-

...And then, one more thing.  I'm completely embarrassed about this, and I maybe I'm blocking, but I couldn't identify the forth figure, above left.  Being perfectly honest, I'm also not sure about #5, above right, ether (if it's not Kim Jong Il). One more lesson, I guess, in cultural ignorance.

(Also, please excuse the image quality -- although the barrel effect, given the height of the billboard on the wall -- actually feels representative.  I was in Berlin last week and snapped these myself at the Schoenberg airport.)

(images: Jung Von Matt agency)


The bottom right is probably Karl Lagerfeld (


Sorry, I have to correct myself, it's Udo Lindenberg. All the shots are available here:


I was going to guess Tony Blair for the little fella on the bottom left, mostly because that looks kind of like Big Ben behind him. But the kid has brown eyes, and the more I look, it really doesn't look like him at all.

Thanks for the link to the AdBlogArabia site ... so much for productivity this morning, as I know I won't be able to resist going back there again and again, and checking out the blogroll too.

=> ein volk hilft sich selbst! : a people helps itself

Barber, Benjamin => Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole : “ Barber returns to the clashing models of civilization of his earlier Jihad vs. McWorld, focusing this time on the expanding global culture of market forces he claims will destory not only democracy but even capitalism, if left unchecked. He warns of a totalitarian "ethos of induced childishness" that not only seeks to turn the young into aggressive consumers but to arrest the psychological development of adults as well, "freeing" them to indulge in puerile and narcissistic purchases based on "stupid" brand loyalties. The increasing drive toward privatization compounds the problem, generating a "civic schizophrenia" where everybody wants service but nobody wants to serve...

...His hypothesis that consumer culture has turned adult citizens into children by catering to the lowest common denominator rings only too true, even if the sheer density and obsequiousness of this examination are likely to turn off much of the popular readership. Therein lies the conundrum of reviewing this impressive piece of work, wherein Barber proves his theory that the market imperative has conditioned us to lap up the easy offerings and reject hard, complicated works. This lifelong study of the effects of capitalism and privatization reveals a pervasiveness of branding and homogenization from which there is seemingly no turning back. With the call to arms of grassroots resistance, he does offer a glimmer of hope.

Bottom left is Klaus Wowereit, the mayor of Berlin ( I think, he might be hard to recognize even in a "normal" photograph for someone not living in Germany. So don't blame yourself. Same goes for Udo Lindenberg.

Out of the mouths of babies.

wow, I don't think that they're really cute -- they have the off-putting quality of overly adult eyes/expressions on infants, and they clearly satirize the figures involved (I mean, you can see little Georgie already trying to figure out how to cover up his latest mess)... the Pope looks downright demonic!

My first thought was, "Ack!"

I dunno, I don't think taking the facial characteristics of recognized political figures and shrinking them down to fit children's physical spaces is really working. acm is not impressed with the pope's transformation and I also think it borders on grotesque. For the most part, we KNOW these people and to place what we know about them onto the bodies of the truly innocent is somehow obscene.

Maybe the artist was going for comical like the old cartoon where the little baby turns out to be a wizened, bearded, cigar-chomping "little person" who holds up banks and talks like a gangster (of the 40's). If so, he missed my funny bone.

bottom right is dennis hastert?

my take is that this campaign just furthers the agenda of trivializing our important civic funtions & institutions, converting them into "entertainment."
i am afraid the the intellectual challenge of effecting influence (to "consume" one thing or another) on the cynical, apathetic and overstimulated citizens, and the ego/market reward of doing it "successfully," is leading us down a treacherous path, as a civilization.

I believe the bottom left (#2) is Chancellor Angela Merkel and the bottom right (#3) is pope Benedict formerly Ratzinger. This makes more sense as both are internationally recognized Germans with a stature comparable to Bush's. I don't recognize 4 and 5 but Udo Lindenburg makes a good guess for 5.

BTW Bush makes an ugly baby.....

Why do I feel as if I am looking at a sexual predator I knew once?

I'm not seeing this as converting important civic functions & institutions into "entertainment." I'm just not getting that. Though an interesting experiment to try would be to do the same to important female cultural icons. Would such a photo with Paris Hilton be that far from her adult persona?

In our culture, women are infantilized much more than men are. It's even considered desirable. So perhaps it's better to view these as talking more about gender than politics. And I think Bush is creepy enough as he is, he doesn't need any help.

Ewwww. This is almost as bad as that "dancing baby" animation from the mid-'90s.

I find it strange that they have a newspaper designed specifically for an age group of 18-35. I could see one for children, since it would be written at a lower level, maybe offer more background explanations, and maybe more pictures. But why are adults broken out into separate categories based on age? I understand that the advertising would be better targeted to different generations, but making a smaller newspaper as an "introduction" for adults up to age 35 seems to me to infantilizing the readers - or the news. Or both.

Could the author of the post, instead of saying they don't know who #5 is, say who all the others are? It's not clear who any of them are supposed to be.

To cut it clear once and for all: The pictures show GWB , Angela Merkel, Pope Benedict, Klaus Wowereit (Major of Berlin) and pop-star Udo Lindenberg. The advertisements were quite successful and I think there is no reason to over-interpretate them, they are just an analogy to "small size, great content" nothing more or less. The only point is: "babies are selling well" as the PR-people say - that's all.
Have a lot of fun

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