Last week I went tanning (get over it) and as I took my sweater off, my hair did this flippy thing and I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and thought… Damn. I look good.
2 seconds later I immediately felt guilty. Who am I to think I look good? There are billions of better looking people on this planet. And I’m fat. And I can’t run. And my shoes are dirty. And I’m lazy. And I have crow’s feet. And… the list goes on.
This is a sick, sick habit we have. In a world where everywhere we look we are force-fed images of people who are richer than us, happier than us, have better hair than us, have better clothes than us, and are having more sex than us, it’s hard to believe we have the courage to leave our beds at all.
I love creative advertising. I love clever advertising. I love powerful advertising. I do believe it serves a purpose when it’s done properly. It is the most effective way to make people aware of your brand or service or product. It’s a great way to promote charities and events. It helps create awareness about diseases or even politics. Like most things, it can be used for good.
The problem begins when the goal is to promote something that isn’t a necessity or even a GOOD product. That’s when advertisers have to rely on other methods to pique your interest. They need to make you feel as if you need this product more than the company needs you to buy it. And what’s the easiest way to do that? Exploit our insecurities.
The advertising industry relies on our insecurities to be profitable. If we were all self-assured, confident, people who were happy with WHO we are, the entire industry would cease to exist. They not only exploit our insecurities, but they make them 10 times worse by constantly bombarding us with images of false happiness. When you are told something over and over again, no matter how strong you are, eventually you start to believe it. That is how advertising works.
From the second we are old enough to understand the messages they are sending us, they enforce one thing: purchasing equals happiness. Happy Meals. Toys. Candy. We are raised to seek out happiness in material objects. We become addicted to the feelings we get when we get something we’ve been wanting. Instead of learning to love who we are on the inside, we learn to love brands we wear on the outside. We actually convince ourselves that how we dress has something to do with WHO we are (I’m sorry, but if you tell yourself that fashion is anything more than aesthetics and ego, you’ve got some soul searching to do). We live as slaves to brands, grateful that they’ve entered our lives to rid us of all the misery that comes from never being good enough. We want more and more and more. It’s never enough.
It’s sad. Really, really sad. People are getting ass implants, man. What are we saying as a society when people feel that their value as a human is in direct correlation to the size of their ass? The problem in chasing happiness through material objects is that it will never be enough. It’s like chasing a high. As long as you spend your time buying shit instead of developing as a PERSON, you will never be free… or truly happy.
And what happens the second we feel good about ourselves? Guilt. Shame. Second guessing ourselves. Like the Catholic Church, advertisers rely on us to feel these things in order to devote ourselves to them completely.
As ironic as it is that I’m about to reference a video that ended up being used in a Maxwell House commercial, I still think it’s a perfect example of how we should all start our days. Fuck the guilt. I’m amazing.
Now back to my job… at an advertising agency.