Proceed with caution.

6 Oct

We’re not just mucking around in advertising (except on Fridays); we’re creating an important cultural product, right?

Wait, who is advertising important to?

Like it or not, we live in a capitalist economy. However flawed the model may be our standard of living in the Western world is currently dependent on the constant flow of money in a symbiotic relationship that in its most rudimentary form looks like this:

People buy things from companies. Companies pay people to make things.

In order to ensure our standard of living, given the established economic model it’s important that companies continue to pay people to make things. Lately we’ve faced a degree of economic hardship, which has resulted in a high rate of unemployment. At a base level, that disrupts the symbiotic relationship – people are no longer paid to make things, so they can’t afford to buy them, which means companies can’t afford to pay people to make things, and so on.

It’s a downward spiral that can be averted a few ways, and encouraging spending is one of them. From that perspective we can see that advertising has an important value to everybody who participates in this capitalist economy. It is fundamental in sustaining the economic model, which in lieu of a broadly acceptable alternative is Just The Way Things Are.

So who is advertising not so important to?

Funnily enough (in the minds and hearts of most) advertising is unimportant to the very same people I just argued on behalf of. There’s a reason people don’t value advertising – it’s because it’s a manipulative force. It’s information and entertainment that comes from a source that has a vested financial interest in informing or entertaining the population.

To many, that makes advertising untrustworthy. How do we know advertisers are telling the truth? What emotional or psychological damage is caused by the constant bombardment of commercial messages?

Does it shape our perception of normal human behaviour?
Of course. It normalises the idea of consumerism.

Does it reinforce the failing capitalist economy as status quo?
Yes, in the minds of the young. My generation has already been branded self-obsessed apolitical hyper-consumers. One can only speculate on what the future holds.

What do we need to keep in mind?

  • As a cog in the advertising machine, you will spend your working life actively supporting the current economic model. It is flawed. It needs to be replaced. This is not a minority view. To varying degrees, most people will tell you they are dissatisfied with aspects of the capitalist model.
  • If the current economic model is compromised, everybody’s standard of living drops. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of people are willing to accept a fundamentally flawed economic model to sustain their standard of living. Some might call that ‘human nature’.

It’s a complex double-standard, but if you work in the industry, it’s an important dynamic to understand.

Here’s some fine anti-advertising sentiment to get you fuming:

Anyone have thoughts on this? It seems like something we should discuss.


2 Responses to “Proceed with caution.”

  1. aimee October 6, 2010 at 11:31 am #

    I’m detecting a bit of hyperbole in the video.

    What facet of any western person’s life doesn’t involve buying something?

    You buy food.

    You buy shelter.

    You buy clothing.

    We must buy these things, so how can you paint an annual spend of 70billion as some kind of horror? If 50million was on toys I’d understand perhaps, but the specifics aren’t discussed.

    • jonoaidney October 8, 2010 at 5:19 pm #

      You’re absolutely right, it’s a dangerously irrational perspective.

      But if you identify the trends the filmmakers are concerned about, the trouble is they are all direct outcomes of a capitalist marketplace.

      And in fact, they are features of the capitalist marketplace that are very, very healthy for capitalism, even if not for citizens.

      Are they proposing a fundamental economic shift? Or are they only interested in compromising the integrity of the current economy, because that’s not useful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: