Advertising drives culture (in the wrong direction)


I know. My last post suggests that I must have mistaken the oh-so-subtle, deliciously clever ending of Mad Men, that Don goes on to be a part of one of the biggest advertising successes in the history of the world, the one that convinces billions of people that buying soft drinks will make them happy and bring harmony to the world.

I didn’t. I just don’t think it is clever.

Don is a con man. He found his angle. He always finds his angle. He has his brief brush with humanity (please!) and moves on to his next con.

Is Mad Men a satirical dramatization of the history of advertising or is it an attempt to fool Americans into thinking it is a satirical look at advertising while promoting modern products and the companies that sell them?

On the face of it, that show would seem to make all advertisers and the agencies that represent them look bad. Why would they do that, though, when the show is most certainly sponsored by big corporations?

Is that show a way to create positive emotional responses to modern advertising campaigns that are currently evoking negative responses because of opposition movements? In other words, is it designed to offset the bad image big corporations are struggling with today?

Pretty clever. Or am I giving them too much credit?

Advertising is emotional manipulation. We know that.

If we look back at when advertising became an integral part of American culture, we realize that advertising then began to drive American culture.

Advertising IS American culture, and that is what is wrong here. American culture is all about what we purchase and consume. It is about emotion and perception, not critical thinking and scientific evaluation (science must be critically evaluated as well).

What do you think when someone announces that they don’t let their kids watch television? Think about it and be honest. You think that those kids are being deprived, right?

A family member recently declared that she wouldn’t shop at Whole Foods because they don’t sell Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and their prices are really high (yep, food that isn’t subsidized by the government costs more). Really?

I am discouraged. Seemingly intelligent people have allowed themselves to be brainwashed into thinking that certain brands of foods are vital to their happiness. They simply cannot live without them.

That is the insidious nature of advertising.

L’Oreal says “…you’re worth it” (slogan convincing women that they should apply toxic chemicals to their hair and bodies).

Haagen-Daas tells us that “pleasure is the path to joy.”

McDonald’s convinced us that “I’m lovin’ it!”

Burger King told us that you should “Have it your way!”

What is reality? I’m OK, you’re OK. Just do it! You deserve a break today.

Today my 22-year-old son made me a green smoothie for breakfast. I choked it down. It was good for me, right? I mentioned that maybe he should invest in a juicer. He told me that the nondigestable cellulose in plant-based foods is good for the colon (humans are not able to digest cellulose — we are not herbivores).

I don’t think I will make green smoothies a daily thing. I am not sure we’re meant to drink our fruits and vegetables. And there was an awful lot of fruit juice in that thing. I don’t drink fruit juice often because of its high sugar content.

I have news for you: that green juice habit is the result of big business and lots of advertising dollars according to Barron’s article “Drink Up!”

You can’t escape it! The world is driven by advertising. Habits, beliefs, practices, and, most importantly, consumer behavior: all driven by advertising.

Even the organic movement that I believe in is driven, in large part, by the almighty dollar. That’s why Big Food is buying up small organic and natural food companies such as Annie’s Homegrown (which was recently purchased by General Mills). They see the writing on the wall, where the big money is to be made in the future.

Is it all an illusion? Are all of us being manipulated by advertisers? Are we just pawns, even those who believe a more natural food system is better for the world and the people that populate it?

Something to think about (and keep in mind when critically evaluating ideas).

We need to stay smart and be wise, remain skeptical and never forget to be critical (as in thinking).


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