Have you ever pushed aside the buzz and static that watching the flickering box induces in all of us and really focused on those constant interruptions known as commercials? More precisely, have you ever watched a commercial and then try to remember any actual information that was placed before you in order to get you to part with your hard earned cash?
What a few days of sitting, zombie-like, before the ultimate distraction has revealed to me is that perhaps one ad out of a hundred contains any factual reason for buying it. Instead, what is sold is an image, a feeling, a sense of being somehow more important in the scheme of things if only you purchase what the ad eventually indicates is being sold.
Take for instance the three folks in a big white room, scratching on records and making some pretty fine rhythmic music. Each has their turn and their style until the camera finally focuses on just the upper body of the girl who brushes back her hair and declares, "My first love? A place to scratch!". Now, personally, the first time I saw it I thought, from that tag line, that it was an attempt to make Dr. Scholls or Gold Bond Medicated Powder hip.
Instead, the ad ends with the logo for the Gap. Is the Gap where she goes to scratch what itches and, if so, is this a common service for the general public or just for attractive models?
Obviously, the Gap has run out of reasons or incentives for people to shop at their stores so it's resorting to manipulating your emotions to have you believe, I guess, that the Gap will make you as attractive as the woman in the ad or that wearing their clothes will give you rhythm or something far more subliminal.
Ads for automobiles tell you nothing about the car, itself, but just show it being driven (without seeing the driver) and going through curves. You never hear about the actual or predicted mileage nor much of anything else.
Beer is sold only as a way to be popular or cool or to impress the babes.
Unbelievable thin models sell the new mini skirts for Old Navy. Men and women dance a forties swing but never speak to the clothes, themselves, leaving the impression that wearing the clothes would leave you lithe and young.
Fig Newton cookies are sold for the virtue of not being a "noisy" cookie.
Ads offer no there, there. They speak no truth nor offer anything You learn nothing nor is your life improved.
None of this is to say that advertising isn't effective. Being confronted with the 3,000 ads that people see every day, most of them truly subliminal such as the brand names of cars as you drive, license holders with the auto dealer's name, t-shirts proclaiming the wearer's worship of some product or other, lots of those damn swooshes, Levi tags on jeans, logos on shoes (what are only glorified tennis shoes in particular), radio, TV, the list is endless.
Do you even note most of these ads? Not consciously, of course. But your awareness of the ad isn't the point to advertisers. The most effective ad is one that creeps into your mind, an ad that creates within your life a "need" for the product that, since you aren't aware of the ad, feels like your own decision. When you see your favorite athlete wearing that damned swoosh, you will, without knowing, want to look like that person and wearing the swoosh seems sensible. In fact, though, very little of what you buy or what you wear or even eat is a personal decision. It's all been fed into your mind over thousands of commercials and jingles and logos until you honestly think that you have a choice.
For those who will cry out that all of us can ignore advertising and do as we please, I say look around you. Do you honestly believe that advertisers spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year selling you products and that they still aren't skilled enough to create an ad that will convince you, on some level, to send them your money? Do you honestly believe that the contracts that companies like Nike don't include in every contract with athletes and coaches a clause that their logo must be visible at all times? Do you believe that the maze of logos on race cars and the driver's uniform are just there for decoration?
The finest example of what my point basically is can be found in the shoe commercial that has the fellow put on the brand of shoes that Allen Iverson peddles. Suddenly, he finds himself living the basketball player's life with the groupies and hot tubs and limos and only returns to "reality" when he jumps into his bathtub thinking it's a pool or something. Seriously, people, is there any possibility that some sclump kid is going to turn into a pro basketball player just because he put on a pair of shoes manufactured by some ten year old Vietnamese sweatshop employee? Of course not! But I'll bet you that every single teenage boy who saw that remembers the half naked ladies in the tub and will associate that wondrous vision with the shoe brand.
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