Advertisements saturate society, plague populous
September 25, 2008
I hope I’m not the only one who has a love/hate relationship with their major. My major is marketing communications, and academically, it’s been real enjoyable so far. The breadth of the marketing field is sort of what drew me to it in the beginning. But I can’t help but feel ambivalent toward the obnoxious and sometimes evil nature of marketing.
Sure, the profs will all say “We’re innocent! We’re only delivering value to the customer!” Junk mailers, spam email, relentless internet pop-ups, Jared Fogle, insidious advertising, the menace of adware, the slow erosion of personal privacy – all of these are unfortunate side effects of the field I’m dedicating myself to.
Most subjects under the marketing umbrella are fine by me. Downright fascinating even. But it’s hard to ignore all the tiny things that make me want to hurl bowling balls at my television set or my computer screen. First of all, advertising is EVERYWHERE. It seems to inhabit every available inch of space in the public square. This is sure to get worse as time passes. For example, the world of sports is one utterly dominated by sponsorships and corporate overcrowding. Beach volleyball players sometimes play with corporate logos screened onto the ass portion of their bikinis or shorts. We have to deal with places called “Cingular Field” or the Phoenix Coyote’s superbly-named “Jobing.Com Arena” (I’m serious, Wikipedia that shit). Promotional events are non-stop: come get a Minnesota Twins poster schedule presented by Hardware Hank! Or get a Michael Cuddyer bat presented by Waste Management! Or join the “Celebrate Diversity Day” at the ‘dome, presented by McDonald’s! All real Metrodome promotions.
Lots of promotions are sweet because they entail the giving of free stuff to the masses. Most people like this, but the price we pay is total corporate saturation. Go to a sports game – notice that everywhere you look there’s a freakin’ logo or brand image or company name. Absurdly enough, I’ve even seen baseball players on TV wear brand-imprinted eye black!
Good advertising is a nice thing to enjoy from time to time. The best commercials on TV are like little movies – they can be downright enjoyable. But bad advertising is a plague and a curse. No Dr. Scholls, I’m not “gellin’” – don’t ever ask me that again. Tell me what else is priceless, Mastercard! Your shrewd advice really helps me set my priorities. We all know the one word to describe Kraft Krumbles…they’re KRUMBELIEVABLE. And FreeCreditReport.com somehow manages to make credit reports even less hip than they were before.
Judging from these dreadful commercials and the swarm of other obnoxious ads in mainstream media, I’d say most people in the marketing industry right now are unimaginative and completely out-of-touch. Perhaps this wouldn’t be giving them a fair shake, though. The unfortunate reality in many cases is that in this industry, advertising serves one purpose: to increase profits. Creativity and originality are often tossed to the side as dollar signs become the only thing to focus on.
Why do we put up with so much advertising? Why do we sit and watch fifty minutes of crappy commercials before the movie starts at the theater? According to CNET News, 95 percent of all email sent in 2007 was spam. How do we keep from lighting ourselves on fire? Well, advertising does have lots of purposes. Ads keep content online free and relatively convenient. They let us know about important events, promotions and products. They even have the power to define our culture and how we interpret it. But in the words of comedian Bill Hicks, “You scumbags, quit putting a goddamn dollar sign on everything on this planet!”
Joe Hager is a student at UW-River Falls.