Advertising is a natural function in our market based economy. More so now than ever before. Without advertising, your prospective customers will never know the services or products you are offering. This doesn’t bother me in the least. What does bother me is the extreme effectiveness of advertising…
Now that I sit down and think about it, it’s really the combination of the advertisement and the product or service being offered. For example, examine a Blockbuster Video or HBO commercial. Here is an ad imploring people to stay at home, sitting on their couch and being entirely passive for an evening. Eat some popcorn, snuggle up with a loved one, and do nothing all night long. It’s not like the commercial is encouraging the audience to discuss the movie afterwards. No, what it is encouraging is complete passivity. Don’t feel like dealing with your kids tonight? Rent ‘em a movie and plop them down in front of the tube - passive child control, and pacified children in one swoop.
Compare that with the Army commercials - “Be all you can be.” The exact opposite of passivity. Action. Direction. Doing something. Even though I disagree with the concept of the modern armed forces, I at least admire their commercials for engendering a sense of action in their target audience. The same can be said, to a degree, about Nike and Gatorade. “Just do it.” Action prevails in their commercials. Of course, the problem with these advertisements is the underlying message that you can’t really play basketball unless you’re wearing a two hundred dollar pair of shoes, or you drinking their beverage.
One of my favorite commerical sets, presently, is Sprite. I love their message that image is nothing. I also laugh hysterically every time these commercials come on, because of the inherent hypocrisy. It doesn’t matter what you drink when you’re thirsty, as long as it’s a Sprite. I also get a huge kick out of beer commercials - drinking some watery American beer will land you all the hot chicks and make you suave among your friends. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but here in Columbus, Ohio, woman drink a lot of cider. And those that do drink beer don’t seem to interested in the particular brand of beverage being consumed by the hulking Adonis in the corner who’s been staring at her like a date-rapist all night long. Or the fantastic Keystone commercials, proclaiming their beer to be the least bitter! Excuse me, but I thought that was kind of the point of beer - kind of like coffee in that regard. Their beer is less beer-like because they saturate it with sugar, thereby making it less of a beer (a true beer drinker knows that there are only four ingredients in a good beer; and sugar is not one of them).
What really irks me about advertising is the effectiveness is has in getting us to buy things we really don’t need. How many people really need a new car? And yet a recent GM commercial indicates that a new GM car or truck is purchased every six seconds in this country. That is a frightening number of cars in one day. What’s happening to all the old ones? Does the average American Joe really need a new car every two years? I’ve long wondered what would happen if the entire automobile industry would simply stop working for an entire day. The entire industry - production, sales, cleaning, refurbishing, towing, moving - everything. Do we need thousands of new cars to be produced every day? I don’t think so. My car, while older, runs just fine. It gets me from point A to point B just as well as a new car would. But the power of suggestion present in advertising has made us all think that our personal worth is somehow connected to the car we drive. If I’m not in a Jaguar, then by God at least my Saturn doesn’t have rust spots on it! Hot chicks respond favorably to guys in a nice car. Guys are envious of a guy in a bigger pick up truck. More trunk space means that your family will have a better vacation. Anti-lock brakes somehow make everyone a better driver.
Does anyone else really listen critically to commercials? As I drive in my car, I get annoyed at the commercials on the radio. I rarely watch television in general, but when I do I find myself at odds with the advertising that occurs. Am I alone in this? Am I the only person who really tries to examine the process behind the commercial? If other people think as I do, I wonder what would happen if we made it clear that advertising of this sort doesn’t work as well as they’d like it to… ?