Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
Emerging economies promote their new shopping centers with ambitious, strange commercials.
The death of the American shopping mall has been written about many times, including on this site (this week, in fact). But traditional, enclosed shopping centers are still thriving in developing countries with rapidly growing economies.
In many places, the mall still signifies something aspirational, or at least developers think so. That's pretty evident in a sampling of shopping center advertisements from a wide range of countries made in the last few years, with promotional materials that include celebrities, pompous ad copy, and absurd computer-generated scenes.
Here are some of our favorite recent shopping mall promo videos from around the world:
South India Shopping Mall promotes itself by having actress Samantha Ruth Prabhu hang around CGI-made bells, bodies of water, and candles. Based on the many obsessive (and creepy) YouTube comments about the actress, it's possible that her presence alone really could make people want to shop at this mall:
For Rio's Village Mall, Nicole Kidman arrives into the city by private jet and is quickly escorted to an undetermined palatial building via limo. As she struts down a lengthy green carpet, surrounded by paparazzi, she turns to look at the camera as her pre-recorded voice says, in Portuguese, that Village Mall is "the mall Rio has been waiting for."
Casablanca's Morocco Mall went all out with their promotional video shortly before its opening. A pearl emerges from an oyster's mouth, rising through the ocean before exploding into text that spells "the spirit of the ocean." Through the power of technology, fancy people, luxury stores, and a lot of fake palm trees and escalators emerge, getting viewers excited for what is now Africa's largest shopping center.
Few marketing teams in the world, however, can match the over-the-top presentation commissioned by the Mall of India for its grand opening. The video's narrator refers to the new facility as "a landmark that will leave all benchmarks behind" but only after speaking as the mall itself saying, "I was born to inspire. I will create an impression. I am going to be illustrious. I will be nothing less than incredible. I am inimitable":
Back in the States, things are not so rosy. A recently made fake ad for Kansas City's Metro North Mall exemplifies that well, with a generic '80s melody playing as a man wanders aimlessly through the nearly empty shopping center until an '80s inspired freeze frame captures him ironically jumping for joy in the empty parking lot:
That kind of sentiment for the American shopping mall hit the big screen last year with Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie. Created by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, two men with a passionate cult following for their absurdist humor and admiration for unpolished (and often 90s-inspired) visual culture, the film sees its two main characters attempt to turn around the dying S'wallow Valley Mall; occupied by modest stores that sell things like knives and used toilet paper while also serving as a makeshift home for a chronically sick man-child and the wolves that raised him: