This post has stuff about politics, religion, and a previous relationship. My perspective has changed
This manifesto is a work in progress. I decided to give it a page of its own. Check it out there for the most current revision.
Advertising is the language of want. It communicates our lack. It plays on our fears and frustrations—the desire for a mate, the fear of death, our hectic and busy schedules. It tells us that a product can increase our chances of finding a spouse, prevent us from pain, or alleviate stress. It tries to convince us that a product can make our lives better.
The global advertising industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year to get us to buy into their messages and it has drastically affected our lives in a negative way. So what if life existed without the endless drumming of marketers and billboards, and subliminal messages? Would we be happier, more peaceful, less tired, less fearful? I think so.
[Advertising is] the act or practice of calling public attention to one’s product, service, need, etc., esp. by paid announcements in newspapers and magazines, over radio or television, on billboards, etc.: to get more customers by advertising. [advertising]
If you look at the curriculum for most college advertising programs you’ll likely see things like Persuasive Communication, Psychology, and Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences. The idea is to teach a person to clearly understand how to present a product or service to very specific demographic groups. There are lots of different forms of advertising, from a church bulletin to a giant billboard, to a quick shot of a product logo in a movie. Some of them are innocuous, but some are coy and manipulative.
I don’t want to address the little stuff. What I’d really like to get at is the “dark-side” of advertising, how it’s affecting our culture, and what a person can do about it.
The Dark Side
Advertising Exploits Consumers
Advertisers would like us to think that they really care about us; that their product was born out of a desire to help us in our plight; to heal our hurts; to boost our self-esteem. But when it comes down to it, they really just want our money and they’ll say anything to get it.
Like most folks, I’ve been absolutely in love with the Campaign for Real Beauty by Dove. That is until I realized that Unilever, the very same company that created the campaign, is also the brainchild of Axe, which blatantly perpetuates the kinds of lies that the Campaign for Real Beauty is trying to undo. Unilever is playing us. And I thought Dove was such a great company…
Advertising Damages Self-Esteem
These days everything is Photoshopped: skin always clear, eyes always bright, golden hair, ample breasts, skinny as can be. It’s all fake. And yet it seems that even though women know this they still want to be it. Why? Because advertising tells us that we can’t possibly be okay without some type of product or service. Women subconsciously believe that that if their skin is not clear they are ugly. They believe that if they are not a 36C they’ll never get married. Men are led to believe that if they don’t “dress to kill” they’ll never get a date. And if they don’t wield the latest drill or truck or gadget that they’re not actually a man. How could anyone be truly satisfied with themselves in spite of all this?
Advertising Creates a False Perception of Beauty
What once would have been beautiful or sexy is now just bad porn. Of course Hollywood is partly to blame, but I’d say advertising is at fault too. They’ve created a false image of beauty by highlighting our perceived human “shortcomings.” Look how common breast implants and tummy tucks are. See how well the porn industry is doing. Oh and Viagra. Why do you think erectile dysfunction is so prevalent anyway? It’s likely due to this false beauty that has been so popularized by marketers. Frankly, I’m sick of fake plastic skin, big perky breasts, size zero waist and gleaming white teeth. Bring back the imperfection!
Advertising Breeds a Controlling Society
We’ve established that advertising often plays up our fears and shortcomings. Well, when the poor consumer finally starts to believe the lies they’ll do what all the other consumers do: get proactive. The thinking goes like this: “What will happen to my family if I die? Well I can secure their future by purchasing an insurance policy.” That’s right, control the future. Doesn’t it sound noble? Here’s another one: “People might judge me by how I look. If I dress in the best clothes and newest fashions all that will change.” Way to control, just like they want you to. I could go on and on about it but the fact of the matter is that the advertising industry wants you to take control of your life by purchasing stuff. That can’t be good for society.
As a Christian I find that the messages being communicated in most advertising undermine my faith. The bible is clear about advertising, actually: You shall have no other gods before me; You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below; You shall not covet.
When I see an advertisement for the Dodge Charger I want it and I feel bad that I’m driving a 1989 Toyota Pickup with a missing window. I have broken one of the 10 Commandments by coveting. I wonder if a woman who cannot go a single day without putting on makeup has made Clairol a god. She has such devotion to her makeup that she will feel awful and ugly if she does not put it on.
Detracts from the earths natural beauty
I remember growing up in Page, Arizona with the beautiful Lake Powell as its backdrop. One year someone decided to put up HUGE billboards along the highway on the way in. Luckily nobody has ever put anything on them, but I remember what a sore thumb even the structures were. Here is this beautiful red sandstone mesa steadied under an ocean of deep blue western skies, adorned with cacti, and tumbleweeds, and the scaffolding of towering black billboards, unused. They ruin the view.
Creates extra waste
What do you do with the reams of paper advertisements you receive in the mail or on your porch each day? If you’re like me I just throw it away. I don’t look at it. I barely touch it before it hits the trash can. What a waste of resources. How many trees were cut down for that advertising campaign that I just pitched? Enough said.
What am I going to do about it?
Well I’m not one to just sit around and do nothing. With all these arguments regarding the complete over-saturation of advertising in this world today there must be something one can do, right? I can tell you one thing that I can’t do, as tempting as it is, would be to engage in destructive anti-advertising tactics, such as graffiti (among other things). I would love to slap anti-advertising stickers on billboards but I just can’t justify it. Someone paid for that, and it’s against the law.
So what’s a guy to do to, at the very least, make a difference in his own personal life? I’ve got a few thoughts.
I admit that this is something I’m already doing. We don’t even own a TV let alone watch shows on one. But for those of you who do have a television maybe it’s time to consider giving the old boob-tube the boot. Think about all the time you’ll free up and all the senseless product-peddling you’ll be avoiding.
Okay, okay. I concede that it’s a pretty big step to get rid of TV. But here’s an alternative that is quite a bit easier. It’s with great pleasure that I’ve decided make this is an Ad-Free Blog. No Google. I don’t want to see the ads in my sidebar. I don’t do paid blogging anymore. I just can’t justify perpetuating all the damage that its done. I urge you to do the same.
Pay for services
I know it sounds weird, but in the “Age of Free” that we’re in now, it seems like a great alternative to actually pay for services. But what does paying for a service have to do with advertising? As you can guess, companies like Google aren’t making a living giving stuff like Gmail away for free. They’re making a living on the advertisements that they’re selling folks. Those advertisements are in essence, the price of the “free” service.
There are a couple of other points that I wanted to get to, but honestly I’ve been sitting on this post for a long time now and I just want to get it out for folks to read. With that in mind I present the following unfinished points as your homework to think about critically:
Advertising Promotes Mass (over) Consumption
“The industry is accused of being one of the engines powering a convoluted economic mass production system which promotes consumption.” — Wikipedia
“a report released by the Kaiser Family Foundation in February 2004 which suggested that food advertising targeting children was an important factor in the epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States of America.” — Wikipedia
“The clearest example is television, where broadcasters try to make the public stay for a long time in a mental state that encourages spectators not to switch the channel during advertisements. Programs that are low in mental stimulus, require light concentration and are varied best for long sitting times. These also make for much easier emotional transition to ads, which are occasionally more entertaining than the regular shows.” — Wikipedia
Also see Derren Brown , It Just Seems Sort of Weird, Controlling Peoples Minds
“advertising.” Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 28 Feb. 2008. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/advertising>.