Progress in Advertising?

Well, here’s a note for the culture wars: Evolution sells.

Or, at least it seems that recognizable bits of cultural iconography associated with evolutionary biology do not, in the minds of advertising types, raise a red flag for at least one segment of conservative culture.

In the February 2006 issue of the National Rifle Association’s American Hunter magazine, there is a two-page spread advertisement for Elcan’s “DigitalHunter” riflescope. This adds digital still and video capability to a scope, with an LCD on top for review of images. I can only recall one time in my youth when I went deer hunting with a rifle, and I don’t know precisely what the process of sighting something, snapping a picture, and then bringing the rifle into an upright position to review the image is supposed to do. Perhaps it’s meant to settle those old arguments: “I swear, he had ten points if he had a nubbin!” Perhaps the next craze in fishing will be a digital video/still camera that would capture images of whatever comes near the hook.

I digress. The real reason that I am discussing this ad at all is the artwork that goes with it. Click on the image for a larger version.

That’s right, it’s a derivative of the famous “March of Progress” painting. The message seems to be that if you are a hunter, anything but Elcan’s DigitalHunter riflescope is hopelessly primitive.

The other message, as I mentioned above, is that evolution, for all that the US polls show substantial numbers of the populace taking issue with it, seems to be just peachy as a way to draw positive attention to a product. There have been indications that the conservatism of hunters on the issue of firearm ownership and access to public lands has been put at odds with the current administration over the reduction in available public land because of development, and over policies that seem to be more in line with “pillaging” resources than “managing” them. It’s a conundrum, because a liberal administration would tend to do better protection of natural resources, but also put the firearm ownership and use at risk. (Well, the NRA sees no conundrum, and continues to advise supporting the politicians who say that gun ownership is fine, but may soon obviate any need for the things as far as intra-US hunting opportunities go.) In any case, I think that natural resource conservation is one issue that hunters and “green” groups can usefully work together upon.

And for something completely different, there is a new simulation game called “Spore” that uses the notion of deep time and evolutionary change — with “designer” intervention, where the “designer” is each player. It will feature a network repository of “creatures”, so the results of multitudes of rounds of the game will be available. It is hard to tell what the reaction of the ID advocates might be to this. While it does involve intervention, it also derives things via its own programming, giving an overall view of evolutionary time as something that only at long intervals might have an intervention event. The notion that evolutionary processes are adequate for almost everything in the game may be too subversive for ID advocate tastes.

Final comment: A cover story blurb on the American Hunter reads, “Brushes With Death: A Wildlife Artist’s Close Encounters”. Just tell me that the film will not star Kevin Costner.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

2 thoughts on “Progress in Advertising?

  • 2006/03/08 at 8:30 am

    Advertising is a form of commercial communications, and ideally accomplishes two goals; informs your target audience of the benefits of the product, and touch their unspoken emotional needs for ownership. In a print media you need to be noticed before you can be heard, so ads use visual devices to grab attention and interest. You over play the importance of the “march of progress” in what is being communicated. I’ll give you it is a bit trite, but it was a genunine and honest attempt to differeniate the product from 150 years of Galilean telescopes. There are 38 million hunters in the United States that purchase nearly $325 million in optical rifle scopes. As with other buggy-whip industries, it is only a matter of time before digital technology replaces analogue optics. Why trash an innovation that offers people something new? It may not be from everyone yet, but neither were cell phones The first cellphones were not the shirt-pocket wonders they are today… they EVOLVED based on our needs.

    So other than the unrelated background noise of intelligent design and “Scopes” Darwinism… give these guys credit for doing something creative and helpful. If the product does NOT meet the unspoken needs of its customers, then it will fade from the gene pool without help from critics.

  • 2006/03/09 at 10:28 am

    I don’t have a problem with innovation (my major in-field recognition is for just that). As a means of communicating the advantages of their product, the actual ad left quite a lot to be desired. I don’t see any “replacement” of “analogue optics” going on here; where did you get that notion? This appears to be a riflescope, i.e., the same old analogue optics, with digital image capture and viewing capabilities added.

    I had to go online to find out what the actual operation of the device is like; the information is not in the ad. The hunter sees an electronic viewfinder. The hunter enters data on the rifle that the scope is attached to, and in the field enters a range to the target manually. If the rifle and scope have been zeroed in on a range, the crosshair is adjusted for bullet trajectory at the user-entered range. That is, indeed, a useful innovation. Too bad that they didn’t see fit to mention it in the ad.

    I think that you will find that “analogue optics” are likely to long be a feature wherever high-quality digital imaging is happening. Why else would consumer digital products now have marketing taking note of Zeiss (on Sony), Nikkor (on Nikon), Canon L (on Canon), and Leitz (on Panasonic) optics?

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