48-Hour T-shirt No. 3: Veladone-Rx

Posted by Rob Walker on December 15, 2008
Posted Under: 48-Hour T-shirt

You’ve read about the 48-Hour T-Shirt in Core77, PSFK, Design Observer, Coolhunting, Coudal, or We Are The Market. And now…


The third 48-Hour T-Shirt is now no longer available. That’s the design, above: White on a red American Apparel 4.3-ounce fine cotton athletic fit T.

I can’t name a favorite design from this project, since I loved them all, but since I came up with the ideas that inspired the designers, I think I’m allowed to say which one was, in my opinion, my best idea, and it’s this one:

Veladone-Rx is a made-up drug name used in an experiment about pricing and the placebo effect. You already know I have a thing for imaginary brands, so I’m particularly excited to offer you the opportunity to advertise this non-existent product drawn directly from — of all places — the world of behavioral psychology studies.

A summary of the research inspiring the design, below, is also available in PDF form, here.

This fictional pain-killing drug was part of an experiment conducted by Dan Ariely — the behavioral economics expert and the author of Predictably Irrational — and colleagues.

Subjects read a brochure explaining what a great painkiller Veladone is, and that it cost $2.50 a pill. After a dose, almost all subjects experienced less pain (from electric shocks). In reality, Veladone was merely Vitamin C. Here, then, was the placebo effect in action.

Then the experiment was repeated – this time a group of subjects were told that Veladone cost just 10 cents a pill. Under that circumstance, the result was much less impressive: Only about half the subjects experienced pain relief.

The moral, evidently, is that we get what we pay for – even when we’re just paying for a placebo.

Design by Angie Smith, MFA student in advertising design at Savannah College of Art and Design.

The T-shirt Veladone-RX is available until 10 a.m. Eastern, Wednesday December 17. Time’s up! Direct inquiries about your order to the designer directly, at: anchaline@gmail.com.

The aim of The 48-Hour T-shirt Project is to prod consumers to think more about our own behavior, about how we can be manipulated, and about how we manipulate ourselves. Yes, doing this by way of products may be seen as either ironic, clever, or hypocritical. That’s (part of) the point.

* * *

The 48-Hour T-Shirt Project is proudly sponsored by The Murketing Organization, and Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are, recently named one of the five top nonfiction books of 2008 by Salon; one of the 10 best business books of the year by Fast Company, and recommended by Core77 as one of its 77 gifts under $77.

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

“The aim of The 48-Hour T-shirt Project is to prod consumers to think more about our own behavior, about how we can be manipulated, and about how we manipulate ourselves. Yes, doing this by way of products may be seen as either ironic, clever, or hypocritical. That’s (part of) the point.”

Very cool idea. Perhaps by wearing the tee-shirt itself, the wearer could feel that they are not manipulating, but enlightening people who take the time to read it and ask the meaning behind it. It’s kind of a rebellious statement to me, not just exposure. It’s a statement against the advertisement industry and a challenge. Instead of ad agencies competing with like brands, they’re now competing with these counter-brands or ideas, their viral-marketing effect, and the agencies own exploitation. They’re competing with brands that create products that probe self-reflection and the thought process behind why we want to buy the advertised product in the first place, and the creation of skeptical and less ad-vulnerable consumers.
Not only is this company fairly underground, but the meaning behind it’s products is kind of stick-it-to-the-man as far as human response to ads. Instead of advertising a logo, they advertise an idea and expose a new way of looking at the products we buy. It’s like viral marketing but in reverse. It’s fascinating how this scientific study can expose our natural consumer instincts on a somewhat neuronal level. Maybe 48-hour T-shirt and others like American Apparel (as referenced in your book) with their logo-free shirts only recognized by various people in their niche market, will start a revolution in the advertisement industry.

And I mean, as far at the companies can be argued to be hypocritical, if anyone is familiar with these brands and recognizes their exclusive design on someone’s shirt, I wouldn’t really see it as being an advertisement. Marketing tactic, maybe. But if the goal of the design is to enlighten and educate and not to manipulate consumers to thinking one way about their product, fine by me.

Morgan

#1 
Written By Morgan May on December 16th, 2008 @ 9:18 pm

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