What a Tangled Bank We Weave

By: Matthew Battles
January 31, 2010

Darwin’s dangerous idea does more than explain the existence of life in its myriad forms and set forth a materialist worldview that makes Biblical literalists foam at the mouths. It’s also as meme with enormous mindshare, which advertisers do well to exploit. What follows is a quick curation of advertisements that make use of notable use of natural selection.

First in the line of descent, this ’70s ad for Levi’s dacron polyester slacks (a pinnacle of sartorial evolution to be sure). The spot takes a trippy, speculative approach to the storytelling potential of natural selection. The narration — which I believe is voiced by “Word Jazz” writer and radio personality Ken Nordine — asks how we would enjoy the wonder of manmade fibers if endowed with a different bauplan:

This more recent Mentos advert, which ran in India, deploys an evolutionary sub-genre — the perennially popular descent-of-man trope — with the chewy mint serving as what evolutionary biologists term a selection mechanism:

Guinness uses a unique reversal-of-time mechanism in the spot below, peeling back the paleontological layers to discover the near-beer lameness of the primordial ooze:

And finally, an inspired piece of orthodox Darwinism from Saturn Electronics, which uses as narrative the famous “tangled bank” set-piece with which Darwin concludes the Origin of Species, replacing the word “life” with “technology”:

High and low in productive tension: Darwin’s measured cadences mechanically voice, with a hottie robot as the telos of technological evolution. “Forms most beautiful and wonderful” indeed!

What do you think?

  1. Amphibians everywhere agree, advertising *is the pinnacle of evolution!

    When I was living in Czech Republic, the train stations had announcements in Czech, German, Russian and English. All were (pre-recorded) real voices, except the English, which was that SimpleText voice from the computer featured in that last video! Made me feel right at home.

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