I want you to envision a field. There are two teams lining up. On one side is the Corporate Team.
The Corporate Team has a top quality line up. They have a bevy of product and packaging designers that have made it their business to design products that are marvels of function and form. The packaging designers have years of experience and thousands of dollars in consulting fees to create packaging specially designed to present the product as appealingly and eye-catchingly as possible. In addition to the product and packaging designers, there’s a large group of marketers whose sole purpose, from 9 in the morning to 5 at night (and sometimes later), is to spin beautiful narratives about the product and company. There are public relations specialists who feed stories to news outlets about the product. There’s an outside Ad company that creates mesmerizing presentations about the product for television, radio, print and web. Finally, hidden in the back, are industrial psychologists and sociologists, who specialize in understanding the mental weaknesses of the consumer and how to exploit them. Behind this all-star squad is the backing of a powerful conglomerate and millions of dollars.
On the other side of the field is their prey: you.
Does this sound like a fair fight?
This is why it amazes me to hear someone say that “Advertising doesn’t affect me.” Advertising is both incredibly powerful and pervasive in our society. To say that it doesn’t affect you is to say that sunshine or water has no affect on your life. It’s virtually inescapable, and it’s all designed for one purpose: to separate you from your money.
So, are conscious spenders, such as you and I, to do?
The only truly reliable method that I’ve found is to be aware of what ads are saying to me. I know some people say that they “just ignore them.” I have to disagree. There’s a reason ads are run repetitively – it’s so you hear them and internalize them. Then, eventually, act on them. By being aware of the messages ads send, I can verbalize their message and then reject it. On the plus side, some of the messages, when verbalized, are so ridiculous as to be laughable, in which case they provide a moment of amusement. Banish the Boggart of advertising with your awareness of its ridiculousness and some laughter.
Here’s a great example of the messages advertising sends, and a keen and incisive look at the lengths advertisers will go to hawk their wares. The full lecture “Killing Us Softly” is focused on advertising’s image of women, broken up into four parts, and is available below the fold.
Killing Us Softly: Advertising Image of Women – Part 1
Killing Us Softly: Advertising Image of Women – Part 2
Killing Us Softly: Advertising Image of Women – Part 3
Killing Us Softly: Advertising Image of Women – Part 4