Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Sadvertising is a genre of advertising video best known for its reputation for making viewers choke-up and cry. Answering the call for greater analytical attention to an expanded category of “aesthetic labor” (Bohme 2003) and “expressive infrastructure” (Thrift 2012), my paper will discuss the people involved in producing this video medium of atmosphere generation. Attending to issues of power relations sometimes left unexamined or sidelined in literature on atmospheres, I adopt a theoretical perspective that combines attention to digital atmosphere enhancement with a critical perspective of the role of working bodies behind the scenes.
Video production teams work alongside, as well as in conjunction with, the digital processes of affect stimulation including luminescent lighting, airbrushing, and CGI. Drawing on long term field work with production teams in Bangkok, the home of the sadvertising marketing phenomenon, this paper examines strategies for enhancing the laboring body’s affective tool-kit, including transgender acting coaches teaching actors gendered and exaggerated facial expressions, actors altering body shape through exercise and weight-loss, physical endurance by production assistants in the use of heavy equipment, and using massage to alleviate long working hours in cramped conditions. These forms of labor are often rendered invisible and in many cases performed silently but nonetheless contribute to powerful pieces of visual and aural video creation. Attending to physical labor in the digital creation of atmospheres, this paper further considers how marketing hype around beautiful images and digital potential ignores the value of manual and strenuous labor.