A party game that goes down like a red balloon

I just found this clever advert for The Economist which has an immediate impact but kinda becomes a bit awkward if you think about it for too long.

Presumably, it’s meant to convey the idea that the magazine is ‘mind expanding’. But as we mentioned in an earlier post, we tend to ascribe different sorts of properties to the mind and brain.

One key difference is that we don’t ascribe physical properties to the mind, which is a bit of a pain when you’re trying to create a visual advert. So the designers went for a brain.

But ‘brain expanding’ is just kind of awkward. It makes me think of hydrocephalus – a condition where faulty fluid drainage causes internal pressure which literally balloons the brain.

In young children with soft skulls this causes skull deformation, in adults it just tends to squash the brain against the side of the skull. Either way, it usually needs surgical intervention to insert a shunt valve to treat the drainage problem, else brain damage and death follow in a high proportion of cases.

Nevertheless, if you can get your hands on any of these balloons you’ve instantly got yourself a neurosurgery party game for kids. The first kid to fashion a shunt out of a drinking straw gets a special John Holter prize.

Yes, I know I should get out more.

Link to Economist advert.


  1. David Malone
    Posted July 29, 2008 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    This wouldn’t be the first time the Economist has clumsily produced adverts from English expressions. See my whinge about their “Can’t see the wood for the trees poster” at http://www.maths.tcd.ie/~dwmalone/p/economist02.html

  2. tybeet
    Posted July 29, 2008 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    Had they thought of the potential for a mind-brain debate, they could simply have written the word
    on the back-side of the balloon.

  3. knd
    Posted July 29, 2008 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Or have a blower labelled “The Economist”

  4. Jipped
    Posted April 11, 2009 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    A strangely honest ad.
    Both can be full of hot air.

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