You kind of suck. Strip down most of the half-minute commercials on TV, and that’s the gist of the message. Prancing around like Comet and Vixen, repetitive comedy sketches star charismatic models and actors earnestly pretending to give you altruistic advice. “Love comes with this diamond karat ring,” oh listen to those preachers sing! Negative campaigns imply that we’re sad sacks who are lacking, deficient and continuously missing out on what everyone else already has, is and knows. Want women? Spray Axe! Want to be confident? Buy this foundation! Don’t have it? Better get it!
The feeding season for materialism never ends, and the sharks are always in heat. They’re swimming about with their Cupid and Easter Rabbit disguises on, kicking up a frenzy to make naive guppies like you and me green with envy. Twitter feeds like UK Kellogg are acting like twats, promoting “1 RT = 1 breakfast for a vulnerable child.” The currency for charity is now tweets, and my stomach is turning as “Frosty Fakes” uses humanitarian aid as a guilt trip.
Yet strategies like this, which deserve our backlash, go unnoticed. There isn’t any visible watchdogging by the media, so we just internalize that this is the way interpersonal communication should be — fake smiles, guilt trips and idealized lives. To accept ads that exploit love and compassion to engender feelings of jealousy and exclusion. To accepts ads that play off our insecurities. To accept that we’re being manipulated.
A commercial during the annual Christmas “buy lots of crap, Jesus who?” extravaganza showed off ruby-red Dodge sports cars zooming around a lit-up track while cheerful chimes jingled in the nighttime setting. I was feeling it. But as I sat like a child glued with awe and wonder, a jarring voice boomed from the television heavens. No! No! No! It was not the chuckle of gregarious Saint Nick, but the nasally drawl of a creepy sounding prick: “Let’s see the neighbors compete with that!” Compete with that? Compete with my car?
I’d rather see the neighbors compete with researchers trying to find vaccines for diseases or against the contributions raised for disaster and famine relief. Compete with teachers trying to tutor diverse students about new languages. Try to hang with research on mental illness. Keep up with ideas for finding renewable sources of energy. Or simply change the face of an industry where the strategies of some agencies are giving it a bad name.
Let’s see the “Joneses” work on ideas for jet propulsion that’ll take us to the stars, far from our pissing contests on clouds. Let’s beat others with success, not our collections of excess, and race around life’s track with surgeons, doctors, investigative journalists, humanitarians, lawmakers, scientists, engineers, coaches and teachers — professions that are just as important as the celebs on our screens, and the businessmen and women who bear the weight of our economy.
Today, adverts will continue casting picturesque figures who are constantly admonishing your faults while flaunting their own sex appeal with smiles that hurl a chorus of unspoken accusations: Your hair’s not straight enough, clothes aren’t slick, lips aren’t full and your car isn’t hip. The party will always be somewhere else and a sexy partner with someone else. But together as consumers, we can force change with the power of our purchases and choose to back those that don’t hold charity hostage for retweets. Let’s stop being appeasing and silent. Let’s start being mindful and support companies that at least try to tiptoe the line instead of cutting it.
I don’t hate the market, but I hate how we’re marketed to. Every kiss does not begin with Kay, so drop it and speak to us directly, not deceptively — mmkay? Do that, Ad-Man, and I’ll buy your ice mocha coolatta, “chew-lata,” chupacabra … whatever.