What the Penrose Stairs mean in the Smart BTS ad campaign

The Smart BTS campaign has officially launched today with its message of pursuing Passion + Purpose thoughtfully resonating in a 120-second commercial film using the concept of the Penrose Stairs.

Also known as the Escherian Stairwell or Impossible Staircase, the Penrose Stairs is a two-dimensional optical illusion of a staircase that makes four 90-degree turns forming an incongruous loop.

It was originally created by Swedish graphic artist Oscar Reutersvärd, a.k.a. the “father of impossible figures,” who pioneered the art of physically impossible 3D drawings in 1937.

But it was the Dutch graphic artist Maurits Cornelis Escher (M. C. Escher) who made it popular through his 1960 lithograph titled Klimmen en dalen (Ascending and Descending), which he based on Lionel and Roger Penrose’s “continuous staircase” presented in the British Journal of Psychology in 1958 and 1959.

The mind-boggling structure has since been associated with the idea of “defying impossible situations.”

It dares to confront and challenge our knowledge and acceptance of what is realistically possible and impossible, and the Penrose Stairs has opened numerous other interpretations as to how it philosophically applies to human life.

Here’s how we think this idea relates to Smart Prepaid’s campaign:

Keep walking the path

Passion has always been at the center of Smart Prepaid’s products and campaigns.

This includes its thrusts to mount or support activities involving sports, e-sports, music and concerts, local travel, food, entertainment, vlogging, etc., which make up the interests and passions of today’s youth.

The telecommunications brand understands how this generation likes to try different things and allow themselves to dive deep into their passions because they want to explore possibilities until they find what fits them.

Their drive to find a sense of fulfillment that comes from doing something that brings meaning into their life–their purpose–is much bigger than hitting targets based on the traditional metrics of success.

By immersing in their passions, some are able to find their purpose in helping others, in being an inspiration to someone, or in engaging and building a community, which they are able to fulfill with the help of Smart Prepaid’s products.

In getting BTS as a brand ambassador, Smart Prepaid hits the right note as the biggest music group in the world literally walks the talk when it comes to living life with passion and purpose.

Not only are the music and content they consistently produce cool and trendy, but they also carry a deep meaning.

There is always that purpose to give comfort and healing to listeners and viewers through personal stories and inner emotions of the BTS members that most, if not all, people can relate to.

Watching BTS as they ascend and descend on the staircases in the film is somehow symbolic of their eight-year journey through self-discovery, both as artists and individuals.

From pursuing their passions as singers, rappers, dancers, and music producers, RM, Jin, SUGA, j-hope, Jimin, V, and Jung Kook are now understanding their purpose as global superstars.

In the group’s speech at the 75th UN General Assembly last year, Jung Kook briefly touched on what he thinks is BTS’s mission in these uncertain times.

“If there’s something I can do, if our voices can give strength to people, then that’s what we want and that’s what we’ll keep on doing,” he said.

Perhaps the Penrose Steps is a creative representation of the never-ending path a person goes through to learn more about their passion and purpose–just as BTS continues to grow and discover their own.

The stairs in the TVC also shifts in direction and there are different sets of staircases as well, which could mean that we won’t be walking on just one staircase our entire life.

As we get to fulfill one purpose, it doesn’t mean that our journey has ended. We can always turn to another staircase to pursue a new passion and find a new purpose.

The steps in the TVC are also encoded with messages: “Keep inspiring,” “Keep learning,” “Keep connecting,” “Keep chasing your passion,” “Keep exploring,” “Keep moving,” and “Keep living your purpose.”

These all point to the idea that life is a constant journey and an endless cycle like the Penrose Steps.

Conquering the impossible

Another interpretation of the Penrose Stairs’ parallelism to the Smart BTS partnership is that passion and purpose are both illusions like the impossible stairs.

Until you start climbing your way to them, they remain abstract ideas in your life.

Looking at the Penrose Stairs from the eyes of a bystander, one can only see the impossibility of walking it.

This is the vision that other people–your critics, your detractors–see when you pursue your passion that may make a lot of sense to you but sounds absurd to them.

Like BTS, they chased their dream of becoming good performers who their fans can be proud of; but not everyone was on their side from the beginning.

They had people criticizing and discriminating against them, giving them a hard time as no other K-Pop group has ever experienced.

They were told that they’ll never make it, but they kept climbing the steps until they managed to shatter multiple glass ceilings.

Walking on the Penrose Stairs as BTS does in the TVC, can signify taking charge of your own destiny, walking the steps toward your passion and purpose, and conquering what only seems impossible to those who are not walking your path.

Love and believe in yourself

A third interpretation relates to BTS’s constant message of loving yourself.

Loving yourself includes believing in your own power to achieve the dreams you have made for yourself and not the ones carved out for you by others.

As the Penrose Steps go around in a monotonous loop, the tendency to walk the same path repeatedly or follow a path that someone has already walked on is highly likely.

But as the individual staircases that BTS members walked on in the TVC suggest, you don’t really have to climb on the same staircase if you don’t want to. You can actually create your own.

You can be passionate about school or work–the essentials–but also be passionate about a certain hobby or project without losing sight of your purpose to live a meaningful life.

At the same time, every new path or passion that you pursue is always linked to the greater goal of realizing and fulfilling your purpose, regardless if you find that purpose along the same way as your current passion or through an entirely different staircase.

Set your life alight

Whatever the interpretation may be, the artful commercial from the Smart BTS campaign aims to spark inspiration and encouragement for #PearlARMY and the youth to keep going and keep pursuing their dream.

In a video message by BTS for the Philippines, Jimin said, “We can spend our entire lives and not experience everything life has to offer, so wouldn’t it be nice to have a purpose to see and enjoy a lot of things and sometimes to enjoy life?”

This is now the challenge of putting the idea of the impossible staircase and the Smart BTS campaign into action: How will you live your passion with purpose?

The answer might just be in V’s message for #PearlARMY: “Challenge yourself. No matter how many times you fall, don’t give up. Keep yourself going without giving up and you will break one of the big walls in your life.”

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4 thoughts on “What the Penrose Stairs mean in the Smart BTS ad campaign

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