Images that double up
We can use images of couples to say many things. But, mostly, we use them to say much the same thing.
And this one thing applies whether the image is of teenagers looking into each other’s eyes, seniors looking into the sunset, a gay or lesbian duo out for a stroll, or four feet poking out the end of a bed. You can see somewhat fresher variations on the theme here, but they pretty much are all linked by a big idea that sits right inside the couple concept.
Each of those images has some unique signification but ever-present is the big thing that couples almost always connote if used in advertising or corporate communication. And that is a stable, positive, comfortable, outlook – a reassuring view of the world, where we look forward with hope and even happiness. Coupledom is something we are expected to aspire to, something that is the norm and desirable at almost every life stage after puberty, and for every gender or sexual preference, religion or ethnicity. It’s a signifier of social success.
In advertising and corporate communication, the couple is a concept almost as clear-cut as showing a forked road to suggest choices, or a palm tree over a sandy bay to suggest dream vacation.
And just as forked roads and perfect palm trees are not altogether realistic for all our decision-making or vacation plans, so the way we depict and use couples is a little removed from the everyday.
It’s not for Evolve Images to challenge this too much. Yes, we all argue with our partners, we all have a little ugliness at times in ourselves and in our relationships. We all have various levels of complexity and contradiction in how relationships work – different kinds of coupledom even in one life, in one time. And that’s without being promiscuous – we are not only coupled with romantic partners, but with longstanding friends, or with other relations, or work associates. There is more to the couple than just the hand-holding lovers. Oh, and let’s not forget the individual – yes, people can be happy without being in a couple. It is legal. And the happy individual makes for great positive images too… as long as we’re not thinking they’re lonely, friendless, lover-less. Coupledom implies a life at least twice as good as the solitary life, after all.
Despite all the variations possible, we most commonly see that social rock of the paired-up two-some, depicted with all the love and loyalty to each other that we might impute to a pair of swans on the lake.
Sure, we occasionally see a couple having a row, or some other dramatized moment of disruption. But disruption only works if there is a norm to push against and that norm is very strong, almost ubiquitous. It is the norm of the united couple.
If you disagree, do tell us. If you want a different kind of couple in our collection, tell us. But the stats suggest what we see most often, and what we aspire to, is that idealized relationship and that is what helps communicate and sell everywhere.
There’s simply not a lot of argument against having a happy lasting relationship, hard as they may be to come by. It’s a natural win, the human race kind of depends on it, so we won’t expect mainstream communications to depart from that any time soon.