In the interest of one of my dear, close, and good friends (who is a graphic design student and a very good artist, not to mention a beautiful, intelligent, quiet, and wonderful woman), I’m not going to attack everyone involved in advertising…but I am going to attack specific parts of the advertising industry.
How much is too much? How many ads do we NEED on highways, in newspapers, on sidewalks and the sides of buses? How much advertising is needed for a product before it becomes overkill? What is the mentality behind mass marketing? Why not word-of-mouth? Why not a few flyers instead of a morning newspaper-stack full? Why not a dog with a sandwich board instead of the Goodyear blimp? Why smiling little girls and cute little babies and fast-talking guys in suits trying to con you with cheesy catch-phrases instead of something that is simple, to the point, and presented by someone average (someone like you and I)?
These days, advertising makes things sound and/or look way cooler than they really are to cover up the lack of quality or usefulness of the product. A great example of this is anything that is advertised on the Home Shopping Network. The silliness of the energetic folks trying to sell these crap products is WAY BEYOND over-the-top theatre acting. I admire (but mostly feel sorry for) these people whose jobs it is to be advertising whores for a money-hungry industry that wants to squeeze every consumer (it can get its hands on) dry of every cent they’ve got and then toss them to the side and scurry about the street like a spider looking for its next victim. Seeing people trying to pawn things off to us on the Home Shopping Network reminds me of the commercials from the 1950’s. Have you seen any of those? It’s usually a voiceover guy with a really deep voice (trying to sound charming and happy), and some smiling kid with great white teeth running about acting as happy as he’ll ever be in his entire life, holding the product or discovering it and plastering a really fake surprised look on his face once he finds out the purpose of the product. There’s usually also some blinking words that pop up to emphasize a specific quality of that product, too. Those commercials were made the same way that movies were: the character is not as well off in the beginning of the film as they are by the end of the film; in the case of advertising, their life becomes so much better once they have the product.
Exaggeration plays a big part in advertising. I saw an ad for Greyhound on a transit bus today. There were two coffee cups (looking suspiciously like cheap rip-offs of Starbucks coffee cups) in the picture: the cup on the left was completely full, while the cup on the right was about 7/8s full (my guess) and had lipstick on it. The tagline was “Quicker than you think.” Do you see the exaggeration? They’re saying that they can get me to a destination in the time it takes to have a few sips out of a coffee cup. So where are they driving me, the end of the block? I can have an entire meal (or two or three) on a Greyhound bus, with 2 hours of time between each meal, and STILL not be to my destination! What the ad is trying to say is, “We can get you to where you’re going REALLY fast!” Faster than what, a plane? If I want to get to Prince George in the fastest time possible, the first word that comes to my mind is “Westjet”, NOT “Greyhound”. If I’m feeling cheap, adventurous and leery about flying on a plane, THEN I’ll go Greyhound.
Why is there so much crap being sold out there today? Simple: PEOPLE ARE BUYING THAT CRAP! The stuff can’t continue to sell if no one is buying it. I don’t know who the hell is laying down the money for these products, but someone HAS to be. A good example is anything that you find in one of those “Seen on TV” stores: those places are CHOCK FULL OF SHIT! OVERFLOWING! COME GET IT ALL NOW FOR HALF PRICE! WITH A COUPON, YOU CAN GET A 3RD ONE FOR HALF OF THAT HALF PRICE!
They’re always trying to cut us a deal: discounts, half off sales, liquidation sales….why? Why can’t they sell the product at a really low price ALL the time instead of having sales or discount sales once in awhile? Is the product not that good (they’re usually not if they’re being sold at a really low price)? They’re always trying to fuck you around somehow, whether it’s by selling you a crappy product at a low price or a good product at a price that’s WAY too high. And this is known in the business world as “making a profit”. That’s all these businesses care about: profit. They don’t care about you, your life, or your troubles. They just want your money, and they throw a lot of the money they get from profits into the advertising pool to come up with cool slogans and neat catch-phrases to try and trick you out of more of your money. In the end, that’s all they want: money.
Whoever said, “The best things in life are free” didn’t have a clue about some of the more useful things in life that cost something. Have you SEEN some of the things that you need money for? Cars, candy, weight training equipment, movies, sex toys, computers, musical instruments, sports equipment, guns, trampolines, planks of wood, watches, stereos…..those things all cost money. So what’s better than all those things? Love? LOVE? How many women nowadays marry men SIMPLY FOR THEIR MONEY? Happiness? Have you seen a child’s face light up when you give them an ice cream cone or a toy? That child becomes ENTHUSIASTICALLY, DELIRIOUSLY happy! And how did the child happen to receive these things that made them so happy? You BOUGHT them for the child…using MONEY!
I think I could get through life without seeing any more commercials on TV and posters on walls. That, however, will never happen, because there’s always going to be people out there who are trying to entice you into buying their latest invention to make us a little bit lazier and a little bit stupider (and them a little bit richer). I don’t go out and buy something simply because it looked cool in an ad. I want to get my hands on the thing and find out if it’s something that I like, that is useful to me AND that I think is worth the price that it’s being sold for.
Advertising has crept its way into movie theatres. I recently saw “Sin city” at the Cineplex Odeon at Park & Tilford in North Vancouver, and there were about 4 commercials BEFORE the coming attractions! You know what that’s saying? “Hi! We know you’re here to see the movie and get away from everything else in life for a little while, but don’t forget about us and our GREEEEEAAAAAAT products! I hope this advertising sticks with you in your puny little consumer brain long enough to make you buy one of our GREEEEEAAAAAAT products when you leave the theatre!” Back in the ‘80s, there were no commercials in theatres; same with the ‘90s. But they are here now, and we’ll NEVER get rid of them. Bill Hicks once said (in a 1993 interview for Capzeyez) that U.S.A. stands for “United States of Advertising”. If you watch Jibjab.com’s “This land” video, you’ll see a sign in there that says, “Buy crap!” right after the Indian… I mean Native American…speaks his line.
There are lots of studies done on people who buy things. These studies are called “Marketing research” and the people who buy things are known as “consumers”. There were a few that I’ve read about in past years that went something along the lines of: Marketing research shows a 65% increase of consumers buying Floppy Dong dog food after they saw the brand-new-and-improved, span-dangily, super-outstanding one-hour long network special entitled, “Floppy Dong drags the competition through the mud”. I’d give other strange examples but I can’t stuff my own shit into my ears fast enough to come up with a brain fart big enough to match the sheer shittyness of today’s “marketing strategies”. Why not take all that time and money put into marketing research and do something useful with it? For example: instead of trying to find out what people want to BUY, find out how much pollution is in some North American cities and compare that information with countries that DON’T have as much pollution, and then try and determine the average life span of a human being living in those North American cities compared with that of a person living in an area that is NOT crowded with gas-guzzling vehicles and heavy industry. But there’s no money in that, is there?
Don’t be fooled by advertising. Find the product and search it for faults. Study the advertising for that product and try to see past the exaggerated bullshit that the advertising industry is pushing on us. There are a lot of good products out there that I myself will never buy because of the shitty advertising that’s attached to it. If every consumer in the world started thinking like I did, the advertising industry would be forced to stop bullshitting us and would have to tell the truth about every product with no forced-smile salesman tactics, no juicy terms, no catch-phrases and no billions of dollars spent on advertising. Don’t be peer-pressured by these greedy fucks who just want your money and are willing to do and say anything to get it. Think for yourself and make up your own mind. If you bought the product because of the advertising and later you felt bad about it, it’s YOUR fault. No one FORCED you to buy the product; you made your own choice, you gave in to the advertising industry, you succumbed to its shiny, appealing, manipulative ways, and you spent your money. Now the money’s gone and you have this product that has half the quality it was supposed to have, does a third of what it was claimed to do, and is made in a country that has no labor laws and atrocious (or close to it) human rights abuses.
The choice is yours. They’re just billboards, posters and pages in magazines. They can’t hurt you, threaten you, or force you to spend your money.
P.S. Here’s something of mild interest: