Site of the week: false advertising becomes farce with Depressed Copywriter
Started in May 2012, Depressed Copywriter is a tumblr composed of Instagrammed ads with words either excised, added, or a combination that yields a much darker, and more honest “advertisement” for life as a whole rather than just a product. Although it is called “Depressed Copywriter” in the singular, the blog is actually the product of a collaboration between Chris Sheldon, Mariana Oliveira, Whitney Ruef, and Tedd Wood — all clever copywriters who, given the content, very well may be depressed.
As written on the site, their “statement of purpose” is simply: “Every time I see an example of corporate happiness I can only see the reality of life. I can’t help myself anymore. I can’t stop rearranging their copy,” followed by a long Banksy quote that can be condensed to: “Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours…to take, re-arrange, and re-use.” Their more succinct tagline? Living in disappointment.
Each post on the site features an Instagram shot of a found advertisement that has been edited to deliver a satirical punch line, like: “You’re not a guitar hero. You are unemployed,” or “We’ve made made dandruff a non-issue. Now let’s do something about your crippling self-loathing.” Although most of the edited ads contain scathing criticism of modern society, others just get dark for dark’s sake, like one that says: “Paternity questions? You are a whore,” or another adjusted caption accompanying a picture of a mother holding her two Mott’s juice box-wielding kids that reads: “I know their life is sweeter without their father.”
Although most of the jokes are about failed careers, marriages, death, debt, and other issues of both material and emotional poverty, such topics only make sense given the very sociological platform of their critiques. Still, some jokes channel these common criticisms through product-specific cracks, like an ad for Bombay Sapphire that’s edited to say: “Infused with a midlife crisis,” playing off the likelihood that a sucker for gin martinis is middle-aged and anxiety-ridden. Additionally, after opening up the site to accept submissions from its faithfully cynical reader base, there have recently been more diverse revisions for the smirking at.
In a world so saturated in ads that we no longer stop to evaluate their messages, Depressed Copywriter causes us to stop and take a caustic, but refreshing look at our consumer-driven society’s values and cover-ups, making us laugh while we’re at it.