British Airways Open Skies: Ce n’est pas une publicité.

In this ad, British Airways tips its hat to Belgian Surrealist painter René Magritte. The text in Magritte’s painting, The Treachery of Images (shown below) translates as:

This is not a pipe.

In the painting, Magritte tells us that we’re not looking at a pipe. We’re looking at an image of a pipe—a representation of the object, not the obect itself.

In the ad, British Airways uses the headline:

This is Not a Plane.

The copy tells us that we’re not looking at a plane, we’re looking at

…part of a complete travel experience designed around you. Blah blah blah blah…

It’s a plane. Or a picture of a plane—a picture of a plane above a headline, that’s above some copy that no one will read. 

Here’s what the reader sees:

A plane, this is not a plane, open skies, turn the page.

British Airways paid a lot of money to create and run this ad. Not only won’t the reader of the ad get the message, they won’t even know what company the ad is for. The words British Airways appear once, in tiny print, as if it was an afterthought.

Here’s a surrealist riddle:

Q: How many surrealists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: A fish.


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