Every now and then, a friend or colleague will reference a television commercial that is apparently all the rage, the thing that everyone is talking about. Karen and I generally remain (blissfully) in the dark about these, because we cut the cord years ago. The rare exception are adds that will appear on Hulu, and when I do see commercials, sometimes on a television in a waiting room or something similar, I generally just shake my head. Commercials generally are intended to leave one believing that if you buy that given product, your life will suddenly be fulfilled in some previously unrealized way.
Marketing, I will always believe, is a symptom of a great deal of what is cancerous in our consumerist Western culture.
Last week, Karen and I were watching a favorite program on Hulu, and we saw two such commercials. I think…I think…that they’re intended to be cute, amusing, and genuinely fun. And if you don’t think about them as you’re watching them, I imagine that they are just that. In the interest of actually thinking about what we’re seeing, though (you know, since that’s always a good idea), let’s look at Disney’s beckoning to bring us into their park for good family fun:
In what world would a grandparent have such poor self control as to upstage their grandchild? In what world would they even want to do such a thing? I’ve met a lot of grandparents in my life. I have a lot of friends that are grandparents. None of them would even dream of such a thing, because it isn’t funny, or cute, or amusing. It’s trampling your (grand)child’s self-esteem. And, incidentally, no child that I know would laugh at this either, to say nothing of the parents in the audience.
Or, perhaps even more depressing, this is apparently supposed to convince us to buy flavored coffee:
Except that’s it’s using a stereotype of vacuous women to do so, making the women in the commercial appear weak and flighty. Even worse, it’s making literary-minded women…and those interested in literature in general…to appear silly. Like we need less interest in literature in the U.S. today. Advertising as a discipline (if it can be called that) doesn’t care about whether or not it’s reinforcing a depressing cultural trend, though…it only cares that it can use it to sell a product.
Encouraging poor behavior, capitalizing on downward trends…what’s sad is that commercials like this (and there are others that are even more reprehensible…at least these two made some effort to disguise their manipulation with cleverness) do sell products. We let them. We mindlessly sit in front of a TV and soak them in, unthinking, without analyzing, permitting ourselves to be voluntarily reduced to the lowest common denominator.
The creators of these, and many other ads, should feel ashamed.
As should we.