Ciaran Watkins – The Strangest Advertising In-Joke I’ve Ever Seen

Posted on April 23, 2011 by


So on the way back from work I noticed a billboard and immediately had to take a quick picture.

The ad itself obviously references the fact that the new Audi has a wi-fi router built in. This means that a wireless network is available anywhere you can drive you car. A brilliant idea for people who go camping, on long journeys, and for festivals and what not. What caught my eye was the imagery. The wi-fi symbol, the classic gradually larger three arcs, has been employed to look like a steering wheel, of which two hands are grasping. Innocent right? Wrong.

The image of two hands holding an object in that manner references something from the worst part of the internet. The dark and vast areas that normal internet users don’t tend to browse. We’re talking about the original shock websites like Steak and Cheese, Stile Project, and 4Chan. This existed long before 2Girls1Cup, MeatSpin and 1Man1Jar. This particular hand gesture has been burned into my brain, and it’s something I’ll never forget. It comes from one image, and one image only. If you know what I’m talking about, you’ll immediately spot the reference, but if you don’t I’d probably tell you to stop reading here. It’s not nice, and I beg you don’t go on to find it yourself as it’ll probably make you vomit. I am of course talking about Goatse.

This image I mention is infamous, and it’s actually managed to sneak it’s way through the dark voids of the internet and into mainstream society before. It’s never been up in billboard format though, and I think this is the first implementation! It’s been every where I can think of and featured in internet user tributes, video games, and it even made it on to the cover of Time Magazine. Quite a feat really for such a shocking image.

Maybe the art director didn’t know this image existed, and that I’ve been scarred by it so much that I’ll always see similarities. Maybe he did, and it was a subtle game to try and get the advert to run. Either way, this billboard poster will go down in goatse history, and it’s another notch in the ‘how does public creation influence the arts industries’ post. Referencing popular internet memes is big business. Look at Rudetube, a program that has been created just to showcase the weird and wonderful side behind Youtube.

Content is always being reused which is no surprise in an age where anyone can take a picture, create a video, or record a song and upload it for millions to see, but in this particular case, it’s something more than that. It’s almost like an in-joke. If you get it, you get it, and if not, it’s just a regular billboard. Credit where credit is due Mr.Art Director. You made my bus ride home a memorable one. I hope you know what you were drawing, because if not, you do now.
Read more over at Whatever’s In There, Falls Out Here.

Posted in: Ciaran Watkins