Interesting Billboards

Advertising in Russia sometimes looks odd to us Americans.

Click on any image for an enlarged view.

Advertising in any country can often be very interesting to people from other places. Often, the style and content of the ads reflects elements in the culture that may be unique to that country, so it sometimes strikes foreigners as strange. Other times it's just a bit funny.

Notice the caption above the product name. What does 'looking tempty' mean?
Advertising is typically a reflection of popular culture, trying to catch your attention with some flashy image or snappy words. This one to the left caught my eye because of the slogan above the product's name, "Looking tempty". There is no english word tempty, as near as I can tell the advertisers were going for the word tempting.

Now before you go getting angry at me, telling me I'm criticizing Russians for not being perfect when it comes to english, let me please say I'm not being critical of anyone. Mistakes like this are just funny, and certainly we can all laugh at them. Hell, you should hear my Russian if you want to hear something really funny. Or better yet, my Bulgarian!

I recently tried to ask my Bulgarian friend Are you doing something? But what ended up coming out of my mouth in Bulgarian was, Are you doing something to yourself? We both got a big laugh out of this. I hope you do too.

The interesting thing about much of the popular culture I saw in Russia was not just the western influence, but how the western influence was interpreted and incorporated into Russian pop culture. Often this influence mingled with elements of traditional Russian culture to create something completely new. Such was the case with a rock band I heard along the Old Arbat.

This is often the most interesting kind of influence. Artists, musicians, even advertising designers take elements of another culture, instinctively allow this influence to mingle with their own traditional culture, and create styles and trends that are brand new. And this is very interesting for the rest of us. I also think this evolution of world cultures allows all of us to share more, and brings us closer together.

This one would not go over well with many American women. They'd probably shout, 'Hit him with the pan!'
This one to the right wouldn't last two minutes in the states. The notion of 'equality of the sexes' is one that is firmly planted in American culture, even though a lot of very conservative people don't like it. But we liberals and progressives don't pay much attention to the conservatives.

I got the sense that in Russia the traditional roles of men and women are much more clearly defined the way they have been for a long time. In the states, these roles have gone through a great deal of change over the last couple of decades, and I have a feeling those changes will begin to take place in Russia, as well. Although, I'm sure they will make those changes in their own way.

For example, I was very surprised in Moscow to see that many, many more men drive cars than women. When I realized this one day, going down the road in a trolley car, I began to count all the men drivers before I would see one woman driver. When I saw a women driving a car, I would then start my count of men drivers over again. This would allow me to calculate an average, roughly.

I typically counted anywhere from fifteen to twenty men drivers before seeing a woman driving a car, and sometimes would count as many as fifty men before seeing a woman behind the wheel. Why is this? I haven't a clue; perhaps one of you Muscovites can shed a little light on this for me.

Maybe it's the traditional role of men being in charge of family matters, including the family car. Maybe it's just that men can afford to own cars more often than women. Or maybe women, being usually smarter than men, know enough to stay out of that crazy Moscow traffic. This one, I think, is probably the most likely.

Booze and Gin in a can? Makes your hair fly up!
This one was my favorite. I love the fact that in Russia you can buy a product called Booze in a can like a soft drink. This is very strange to an American! In the states, the word Booze is considered a rather low class slang term.

We sophisticated urbanites never use the word booze; we might say 'Darling, after the opera I think I would enjoy a cocktail.' Out in more rural areas, though, you might hear something like this: 'Hey, Woman, while I sit my big ass down here watching wrestling, why don't you ride the mule down to the store and get me some booze!'

These Gin & Tonic drinks in cans seem pretty popular. I'd often see men walking along the street sipping a G&T in a can, as I began to call them. I tried one once, but it wasn't too much to my liking.

It was always interesting to see American products advertised in Russian with elements of Russian pop culture surrounding them. I was very surprised to find out how popular American basketball is in Russia. The first time a vendor showed me a set of the traditional nesting dolls with images on them of the five starting players for the Chicago Bulls I almost lost my senses.

She was rather surprised when I began groaning loudly, turned away and begged her to put them back in the box where I couldn't see them. I said to her, 'Don't do this to your culture. Don't do this, please!' But she didn't understand, and only lowered the price a bit, thinking this would make me like the dolls. As we say in the states, 'Eegads!'.

Giant blue lips. I don't know what else to say.
Only in Russia can you find a pair of big blue lips telling you, 'I love you'. I'm not sure why, but this billboard scared me. I thought I would have nightmares about those big blue lips.

Notice the slogan on the bottom, Generation Next, in Russian. This is a play on the phrase Generation X, used in the states to describe the young twenty something crowd. I wonder how much this appeals to Russian X'ers.

As I've stated elsewhere on these pages, there appeared to me to be quite a generation gap in Russia these days. The difference everywhere out in public between younger ond older people is quite stark. The younger people are dressing more western, laughing and joking loudly, while the older people seemed very reserved, even morose.

Without going into great detail, it's not easy to understand at least some of the causes for this gap. But one has to hope as things improve this will change, as do most things in Russia these days.

I guess in closing I'd like to give the Russians a bit of a warning. Advertising can be a really bad thing. In the states, we are so constantly bombarded with ads telling us how to dress, what to eat, even how to act, it can become really tiresome. Even more tiresome are the vast number of people who really believe they have to do what the advertisers tell them.

I suppose most Russians have already learned this. And I hope they are already looking at the new billboards popping up everywhere with at least a bit of skepticism. But advertising can also be humorous and even entertaining; it's all in how you look at it.

Well, that's all for now. If you'll excuse me I'm going to go change my clothes into something tempty and mabye even enjoy a little Booze!

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