Ad Nut
Nov 12, 2015

Canon fails to drive home message of 'social experiment'

From Australia: 'The Lab: Decoy', for Canon Australia by Leo Burnett Sydney

Canon fails to drive home message of 'social experiment'

Canon Australia ran an experiment in which six photographers shot portraits of the same subject—but not really.

In fact, the subject told each photographer a wildly different story about who he was and his personal history. Unsurprisingly, the resulting photos reflected those stories. In other words, the photographers did their job, first taking the time to understand the person and then using their skills and tools to capture the essence of the subject as they understood him.

Ad Nut understands what Canon was trying to do here, and the tagline at the end of the video sums it up well: "A photograph is shaped more by the person behind the camera than by what's in front of it."

Great. That's a thought-provoking conclusion.

However, Ad Nut doesn't think it was a good idea to completely mimic the tone of Dove's famous 'Real beauty sketches' all the way through. That work is so well-known that everyone watching is conditioned to expect a message about perception and being judgmental.

Given the setup and especially the music, Ad Nut actually felt upon initial viewing that the photographers were being blamed for stereotyping. That seemed like a counterproductive tactic for a camera company, to say the least, so Ad Nut watched again, and was surprised to find that nothing in the video besmirches the photographers in any way.

Yet so strong was the expectation, thanks to 'Real beauty sketches', that Ad Nut's mind had read it that way regardless. And Ad Nut is not alone. Colleagues had the same reaction, and online discussion of the video has also tended to focus on the 'don't judge a book by its cover' angle.

But that wasn't Canon's point at all. So while it's great that the video has more than 2.5 million views and has generated a fair amount of conversation, in Ad Nut's opinion it doesn't go far enough to land the message. This is an affirmation of the power of photography and the skill of Canon's customers. In Ad Nut's opinion, the tone of the video should have changed after the big reveal, into a more overt celebration of the art form. 

After all, no one was actually judged in the making of this video. And it is amazing that the photographers so ably turned the same man into compelling, convincing portraits of a millionaire, a criminal, a recovering alcoholic, a psychic, a life-saving hero and a fisherman—even though none of those was true and they reportedly were only given 10 minutes with the subject. Imagine what they could do with real people, real stories and ample time.

 

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