So at work we listen to commercial radio. Sifting through rails of clothes, preoccupied by fluffy jumpers and size cubes, something seemed to nag at my attention. An advert, something I usually manage to tune out, was niggling at the periphery of my hearing.
I zoned out of jumpers and tuned in to commercialism.
The advert was for Peugeot (they got me) and it seemed to go along the lines of:
1) Buy your first car from us
2) Make your friends jealous
3) Pay us money each month
4) Make your friends jealous
5) Because this shiny new car means you’re better than them
6) MAKE YOUR FRIENDS JEALOUS
I chunnered to myself about this for the rest of the day.
Is this the premise of advertising now? Selling a product based on an inherent desire to make the people you care about feel sad? Selling us the idea that value is based in making another feel worthless? Spending money on a thing, any thing, with the underlying objective to create jealousy? Really? Really?
All that is wrong with the world was summed up in that one advert. I suppose I shouldn’t single out Peugeot, right, being as most adverts are designed this way. Shiny thing equals achievement, no shiny thing equals failure. It’s just I hadn’t come across it put, well, so blatantly.
If we create the illusion that we should be making other people feel bad in order to feel good ourselves, that’s setting our whole society up for a very dangerous adventure indeed. We’re reaching a tipping point with consumerism, leading advertisers to come up with wilder ways of persuading people to part with their cash to keep the business flowing. It’s no longer ‘we’re worth it’. It’s that other people aren’t.
Imagine if owning a product meant that we could share it, use it to help others, lend it out and hack it to fit our needs. Imagine if adverts were for quality and long life. Imagine if there were no adverts, no psychology, no subtleties. Imagine if we owned things that made other people feel good about themselves?
I’m not against purchasing things. But I am against retail telling people to buy things to knowingly make others feel bad about their lives. I try to tune out adverts as much as possible (a useful side effect left over from my first year of buying nothing), and this massively influences the why behind the products I buy.
It’s interesting to listen to an advert or two every now and again. I find it puts me off massively, but keeps me aware and finely tuned to the messages sent out by our 24/7 media, our constant consumerist society, where shiny is happy and not taking part is increasingly shunned.
I’m usually happy to leave the adverts to others, preferring a world curated by myself as much as possible. But you know what? I’m damn glad I happened to listen to that one.