There are certain things in life that can be avoided.
For all our howling about vapid, synthetic pop-songs we do, at the end of the day, have the ability to simply turn the radio off. For all our wailing about trashy, stupid television, we have the ability to just point our remote and switch off the TV. Even people who annoy us we can at least avoid.
But that’s not so much true when it comes to advertising. Unless you’re living in an underground bunker somewhere in Colorado, it’s not something you can get away from.
Between telemarketers, logos, TV and radio, billboards (including mobile ones, which we have in Vegas), and the internet, there’s really no escaping. Even if you’re sitting alone in your house, it’s all around you. You’ve got company emblems stitched onto your shirts. Manufacturer’s names written on your underwear. Go to your kitchen, and you’ll find advertisements on the back of pasta and cereal boxes.
I’m only here to offer some food for thought; I won’t be taking up myself the war cry that advertisements and commercials always play to the lowest common denominator. Sexuality in the crassest, most objectified form, greed, gluttony, envy, passivity, sloth (not the kind shown above)- it’s all there, and thrown at us every waking minute of every day of our lives. What does that do to us?
Most people who work with this line of thought point to the movie Idiocracy as a dark prophecy of the world to come.
In this movie, a man is (accidentally) cryogenically frozen and awakens in a dystopian future where advertising and trashy TV has resulted in the average human IQ dropping well into the double digits. While it’s not a masterpiece in and of itself, and it’s suggestion that dumb people have inherently dumb kids is just plain wrong, the fact that more and more our society seems to be moving towards Idiocracy is downright eerie.
I will, nonetheless, offer an alternative for you to ponder.
What if advertising is actually raising our BS awareness? Information on the internet is usually either (at best) misrepresented or (at worst) outright falsehood. We don’t seem dumber as a species for it- on the contrary, we seem more skeptical and discerning. Perhaps we are, in fact, becoming tougher to fool. Naturally I can’t point to any cause-and-effect relationship, but it’s certainly something to think about.
Of course, there’s the dark alternative to that as well.
What happens to our psyches and society when we’re constantly on-guard against everything? Is that paranoid cynicism really healthy for us? What does it do to us to hold everything in contempt as just another scheme to take away your money? Even if we tone that down a bit, what does it do to us to walk through life constantly being sold things? Cradle to grave, confronted by sales pitch after sales pitch- how can that be anything but damaging?
Again, this isn’t to simply rail against advertising. There’s plenty that advertising, well, I don’t want to say “does right,” but certainly does “well.” Managing to communicate messages or ideas in the shortest amount of time using the smallest amount of words and images is, well, impressive. The ability to remotely encode associations, emotions, and reactions in the human mind through slogans, catch phrases, campaigns and the like is undeniably clever, even if more than a little Orwellian.
Imagine if all that money, research, and manpower was put towards something actually constructive. Imagine even just a quarter of all advertising dedicated to communicating positive messages. How much more of an intelligent, healthy, compassionate society would we be? If nothing else, it would mean some telemarketers could do something more fulfilling with their lives than shilling out cruises in the Caribbean.
It’s just something to think about.