‘Things Fall Apart’ Turns Garbage Into Clever Ads

Posted inSVA Branding: 100 Days

100 Days is an annual project at New York City’s School of Visual Arts that was founded by Michael Bierut. Each year, the students of the school’s Master’s in Branding Program spend 100 days documenting their process with a chosen creative endeavor. This year, we’re showcasing each student in the program by providing a peek into ten days of their project. You can keep an eye on everyone’s work on our SVA 100 Days page.

Objects anchor and orient us, influencing how we see. Brands exploit this power through pithy messaging designed to conjure an unfading impression. But the fading is interesting too.

Things Fall Apart is an exploration of withered and worn iconography. Scavenging for and photographing weathered branded objects, Kev Hart juxtaposes the images against examples of each brand’s ad copy to reveal the sublime and satirical. A writer by nature, he accompanies the images with offhand commentary in the form of playful odes, editorial analysis, and stream of consciousness rants.

Kev is a writer, observer, thought leader, and impact-driven strategist in Boston, MA. Connect with him on LinkedIn and find more reimagined curbside ruins  @thingsfalllapart on Instagram.

Dear Julius Pringles (yes, that’s Pringles’ mustachioed mascot’s name), genial genie in a can, please grant to me these wishes three: 1. Eliminate the highly-processed, blood sugar spike inducing carbohydrate maltodextrin from your recipe. 2. Reduce the levels of the carcinogenic compound acrylamide in your stackable spud slices. 3. Divulge to me and me only the magic stache secrets that give Julius his legendary walrus whiskers.

True story, Fred Baur, the designer of Pringles’ peerless packaging, is interred inside a can of original Pringles. The More You Knowwww 🌈 💫

More soda! When I was a youngin’ my mom would give me warm Canada Dry ginger ale for my frequently upset tummy. Then I got older, started calling my tummy my belly, and discovered that THERE IS NO GINGER IN CANADA DRY GINGER ALE! I may change the tagline to “It’s Aggravating.” Anywho, I’m still angry about it, while also in awe at the power of placebo, especially when coming in the form of a mother’s love. Love, after all, is what makes “ginger” ale so crushable.

This foreboding photo was taken in the palpable quiet of an early Sunday morning on a Manhattan street corner. Macy’s iconic logo and word mark, the residue of its storied history, not its auspicious present. Decades of shareholder driven decision-making consistently produces the dilution of distinction for the sake of mass appeal. But Macy’s was once a pioneer. Oh, originator of the department store, inventor of the retail Santa, provider of uncompromising customer service, promoter of improbably enormous parades, purveyor of unconventional product offerings, first retailer to serve alcohol onsite, owner of a generous return policy to pardon plastered purchases… how far your fall from greatness. Your annual holiday window displays draw visitors to your periphery, but the inducement to enter has almost disappeared.

Hurts. Your. Tongue. Why aren’t we talking to kids about this! Today, partially innocent adolescents across America will go see Guardians of the Galaxy and sneak into Fast X, all while sharing a giant bag of these sour sugared taste bud terminators. 7500 calories and four hours later the soft tissue in their mouths will be aching and inflamed, their sour taste receptor cells battered and incapacitated, their tongues incapable of tolerating acidic food for days. DAYS. No ketchup or mustard on your burgers or dogs. No salt on your corn on the cob. No lemonade to wash it all down. So much for that Memorial Day weekend barbecue, kids. You had to learn this one the hard way because your parents weren’t ready to have this critical conversation with you.

I promise I didn’t stage this but I will take full credit for composition and post production edits (I love you @lightroom). I’m catching up after enjoying a long weekend, resting my brain, eyes, and tormented taste buds (I’m looking at you, @sourpatchkids). So in lieu of sharing the fruits of labored research, I’ll simply note that @yuenglingbeer is fine, like @stellaartois is fine. But it holds an esteemed place in my hop-loving heart because it is a delightful epithet to enunciate. Say it with me—Yueng-ling.

@Listerine had so many uses back in the day. I first discovered this as a teenager working maintenance for the local church. While vigilantly retrieving a toolbox from a rectory basement that was certainly haunted by priest ghosts, I happened upon a shelf of dusty, cursed storage boxes that once housed a bulk shipment of the antimicrobial marauder. I touched the vile of holy water around my neck and clutched the silver cross in my right pocket while studying the spectral script on the ancient packaging touting the elixir’s wound cleaning credentials. Sundry sinister off-label indications were mysteriously omitted. Well, friends, I would never gargle so innocently again. Also, some high school classmates confirmed it could make you drunk, which is possibly why the cold sufferers in the original ad kept a bottle on hand. Please don’t drink Listerine, kids.

Truth or Dare. I mean, True or False: Falling coconuts kill 150 people a year. False. This is not a thing. A shark expert (killer career choice, by the way) concocted it years ago to illustrate the miniscule threat sharks pose to people. And yet, the myth has metastasized so widely that academic research has been conducted to disprove it many times over. One study examined coconut-related injuries in the Solomon Islands. Over a six-year period, nearly all coconut related injuries—85—were due to people falling FROM coconut palms. Three patients had an actual coconut palm tree fall ON them. Several more sustained skull or upper limb fractures from falling coconuts, but no deaths were reported. But here’s the real kicker: One man injured his foot by? I’m so glad you asked. You see, he kicked a coconut palm. Humans for the win.

When I stumbled upon this unmistakable symbol of 21st century-style useless convenient excess (a paper + plastic container for a SINGLE SLICE OF PIZZA) while walking to the T, I knew I had Friday’s photo. What I didn’t know yet, is that 7-ELEVEN has a slew of vintage ads with volumes of unnecessary copy and bizarre anachronisms, so obviously I love them. The earlier in the 20th century the better, but for 1966 this example is first-class. Where DOES Reverend McSorely pick up rectory bulbs? I think I know. I bet he snags a corndog and a pack of Kamel Reds while he’s at it. God bless America.

Sweet little unsuspecting molten lava tinted Fanta just hiding behind a mailbox. I familiarized myself with the brand’s “Idiots Are Amazing” campaign and found it so entertaining that I scrapped my original comments on this plastic bottle of liquid type II diabetes and am considering buying a CAN because I don’t remember what Fanta tastes like. Maybe that makes me an idiot, but if being an idiot can lead to greatness, then that’s a sacrifice worth making.

Deadly irony aside, it appears someone etched a phone number onto this dismembered pack of non-menthol Newports. Assets in the brand’s shameless 1980s-era “Alive With Pleasure” campaign suggest that this was a lethally seductive move. Flip to the next pic in this post and you’ll see an example: A man beams with delight through the screen of his sabre mask as a pair of joyous, laughing women nuzzle close under each of his arms, his fencing blade ringing the eerie embrace.