I’m Sold, How advertising is making me ill …

11 05 2010

I like to think I’ve become immune to advertising. I snarl at the TV when an advert comes on that I find offensive or particularly insulting to my perception of my intelligence. I vow never to buy those products and try not to talk about them to others (no advertising is bad advertising), I don’t even talk about the commercials I don’t like. But how did I get here? How did I get to the point where I distrusted and/or disliked certain advertisements so vehemently?

The Good Ol’ Days

Advertising used to be a way for manufacturers and vendors to let the public know about their product’s availability.

“Buy Seafoam Bread”

It quickly became a means of educating potential buyers to the product’s superiority over other products.

“The first time bossy comes home wearing a Harmony cow bell, you’ll wonder why you ever bought any other brand.”

Soon advertising started to create need by describing benefits, real or imaginary, of the use of a product.

“Are you embarrassed by your nails being unpolished after only three days? Try Neverfade Nail Gloop, guaranteed to last for weeks.” “Are you embarrassed by your nails being the same colour for weeks? Try Fadeaway Nail Slime, guaranteed to fade in less then four days so you can put on another colour.”

Modern Times

Today, advertising’s job is often to create a need out of thin air by manufacturing a desire. This desire is often nothing more than to be like the wonderful and lucky people in an advertisement or possibly to be nothing like the unlucky people in the advertisement.

“The Autopit olive pitter will pit olives at a startling rate of 20 per minute. (your results may vary) Your guests will be happier, even your husband will want to spend time at home when you have freshly pitted olives. If you act now we’ll throw in the amazing pimento strip cutter and the home olive stuffing press. You can pit and stuff olives just like the ones in the store. Hate shopping for stuffed olives? Are those stuffed olive jars hard to open? Does pitting olives by hand end in tears and tantrums at your house? Well we’ve got the solution …”

Infomercials are yet another form of advertising that has me shaking my head. Thinly disguised as entertainment with the familiar talk or variety show setup of a host or hostess and a guest on stage and a very excited, responsive and appreciative audience, they pollute the late night airwaves with opportunities to fill up our kitchen and pantry cupboards with amazing things that do seem to work wonders at there tasks.

“Oh my, Bill! When you tried to dry your lettuce, the counter, the towel and your hands got wet. You must spend hours every week trying to dry up after making salad.” “Not me, Jen! I use the new Saladri Salad Drying Machine. Note how it looks just like a hair dryer. Well it is in a way, but it’s been specially manufactured to never burn your salad, only dry it, as long as you use it for the exact amount of time required for each batch of lettuce. And look, the cord wraps around the handle for easy storage …”

Let’s hope infomercials don’t start selling ad time …

Out of my Depth of perception …

Maybe I’m wrong on this, maybe it’s always been about making us think we want or need something. Maybe the shift or progression has been from short and subtle to crass and overt. Maybe the subtle was so subtle I just didn’t pick up on it. If so, that would suggest that they were far more expert at subliminality back in the early days of advertising. Somehow, I don’t think so.

Are we such tough nuts to crack?

Perhaps we’ve become harder shelled, the advertising of today has to be stronger and more powerful. But why? Wouldn’t we be more accepting of a product that simply filled a real need and was presented as such? The problem is, how do they sell all those things that don’t really fill any need? I admit, I’m baffled by the conundrum. I’d love to talk more about it, but I’ve suddenly got a hankering for freshly pitted olives … Don’t let them hard sell or soft soap you, ‘kay?

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