Skip to main content

what's your point?

i was reading this article earlier this evening. perhaps it's a little bit of hypersensitivity since i've worked day jobs in marketing for a number of years, but the whole thing left me with the following thought:

you're right. so what?

i'm all in favour of calling people to task for false or misleading advertising,but the criticism leveled at dove or at nike doesn't deal with that. the criticism in this article deals specifically with the fact that these companies are trying to create a "lack", a void that can be filled by their products. and somehow, to the people writing the article (and countless articles like it), this is objectionable, underhanded, dishonest. well excuse me, but what the hell were you expecting?

there's a great passage in umberto eco's "foucault's pendulum" ("the davinci code" for the thinking set) where one of the central characters confronts his father in the hopes of convincing him to order a series of magazines. in response to the son's eloquent (and verbatim quote from the magazine's advertisement) explanation of the magazine's purpose, the father looks his child straight in the eye and says that the magazine's purpose is the same as that of all other magazines- to sell as many copies as it can. and that, really, is our economic system in a nutshell.

is dove using its "redefine beautiful" campaign as an advertising tool in order to call attention to women's bodies and make them feel as if they need a product to complete their journey to self-esteem? of course they are. and what the hell else would you expect from an advertisement? dove aren't a philanthropic organisation. they are part of a corporation that seeks to make money, increasing amounts of money every year. and, yes, they do that by creating a sense of lacking, by creating a perceived need for a new product in order to achieve a sense of well-being.

advertisements don't work by saying what their product does, or how great people think it is, or how much work has been put into developing it. they work by making you, the consumer, feel as if your life would be better if you were in possession of their product. the sooner we accept that as the basic premise of all advertising, the better off we'll be. we may like to pretend that advertisers are doing something nefarious, something sleazy, by trying to create and sell us our own unspoken desires, but, looked at from a realistic perspective, that's exactly what they're there to do.

rather than pointing fingers, exposing something that should be seen as a basic truism, we should admit that this is what advertising is and that rather than expecting advertisers to strip away the layers that disguise their central purpose, we should make ourselves responsible for understanding what that purpose is. after all, as long as we choose to operate under a capitalist system, that is how our society and our economy grows. chastising the advertisers for presenting their message in a subtle way is like punishing a kid who gets good at a sport by developing a comprehensive understanding of the rules. yes, these guys are masking their ultimate purpose. but it's we, the consumers, who need to be aware of what that ultimate purpose is. we should not be depending on advertisers to spell it out for us.

more than the fact that my job involves spinning the sort of fairy tale that this article derides, i think what i object to here is the implication that we should expect leadership from corporations. i'd argue that instead, we should expect it from ourselves. understand what advertisers do, yes. but also understand that it's their purpose and that the system in which we operate mandates this sort of behaviour. instead of whining that their messages are not obvious, we should be scolding ourselves for not being more critical to begin with.

Comments

Martin Rouge said…
I'd say that the argument that any corporate enterprise is hiding it's intent is naive to a sad degree. Advertising is just applied Pavlovian psychology, associating an identity (a brand by modern parlance) with an emotional state; you're hungry, you need chicken. How about getting chicken from the guy who speaks like one? In the case of Dove, their beauty image is different, not because they want to sell you beauty, but they want to sell you happiness. Its not that the women are fat/old/whatever that makes them desirable, its that they project happiness and confidence, not self-awareness. And that's what sells. Most people are very uncomfortable with themselves and their appearance; any product that doesn't use skinny, young models will stand out of the lot, and isn't that the object of the game anyways, to get your brand noticed?

as long as you're here, why not read more?

jihadvertising?

i keep seeing this ad for tictac candies:



am i the only one who finds the suicide bomber clown at the end a little unnerving? all the nice natural things like the bunny and the [extinct] woolly mammoth and the fruit get devoured by a trying-to-appear-nonthreatening-but-obviously-psychotic clown who then blows himself up. congratulations, tictac, i think this ad has landed you on about a dozen watch lists.

oh and by the way, showing me that your product will somehow cause my stomach to explode in a rainbow of wtf makes me believe that doing consuming tictacs would be a worse dietary decision than the time i ate two raw eggs and a half a bottle of hot sauce on a dare.

mental health mondays :: the dangers of diagnosing

when you take a look at any reputable online source of information about mental health, it comes with a warning that anything you read on the site should not be considered a substitute for evaluation by a medical professional. so why are so many people jumping on the bandwagon to diagnose donald trump?

it's not uncommon for people to make glib judgments about the mental health of others, because we think that we understand what disorders entail. when i was working in offices, i noticed a lot of this: an immature and garrulous employee being labeled and partially excused because others were certain he had adhd, or a moody and indecisive boss dismissed as bipolar. [as you can imagine, that one struck me as particularly ignorant and, since i was the audience, ironic.] but in the case of trump, even professionals are weighing in on the subject. no fewer than twenty-seven psychiatrists have collaborated on a book called the dangerous case of donald trump. up to now, it's been unde…

making faces :: a winter tale

so this is it. we've reached the final season in our colour year. so far we've looked at spring, with its heart of citrus yellow, summer and its symphony of cool blues and autumn with its spicy bronzes and golds. and i'm still not sure i've found a good place to rest my face. i've chosen seasonal winners in each category, but are they really me?

it's a bit of a rhetorical question, of course, because i already had an inkling that my precocious childhood self might have been onto something when she declared herself a "winter". not that she knew what she was talking about, of course, but sometimes even fools say the right thing without meaning to. even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day. [unless you're in europe and use a twenty-four hour clock, which actually makes a lot more sense.]

as with all the other seasons, winter is divided into three parts, the true winter at the centre, flanked by neighbours who carry a hint of the adjacent …