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Advertising is a multi billion pound business whose goal is nothing less than mind programming. Much of it is bad enough aimed at adults, but grooming our young to be consumers is revolting beyond telling.
Anecdotally, a friend of mind who just finished a PHD in psychology told me that most of the people in her Masters cohort had gone on to jobs in marketing, a shocking misuse of talent and investment of public funds.
We needn’t view all advertising/marketing practitioners as stains on humanity. Besides, Bill Hicks almost certainly did that routine better than I or any reader can.
It’s not surprising that people fall in love with crafts practised to an extremely high level by some of the planets best brains, backed by incredible funding. The £ per second or square inch ploughed into most high-level advertising dwarfs that of most of the stuff it surrounds
Advertising incorporates and co-opts some peak quality art, while not seeming “true” art of itself. The latter point maybe for someone else to confirm, but the ultimate function of advertising is ever doomed to be transitory, facile, hollow.
It’s also a practice too often occuring in the realms of “dark arts”, which is where the “E” word starts to occur to some observers.
The cited “Godfather” of marketing, Edward Bernays, was Sigmund Freud’s nephew. He wrote the seminal work “On Propaganda” and sold smoking to females as a symbol of their emancipation (“freedom torches” with staged public events to match). Ethically speaking, that’s not really a good starting place for the modern incarnation of a much older practice.
Key to modern advertising is the sense in which products are falsely, yet often successfully, imbued with such ephemeral characteristics as “freedom”, “individuality”, “beauty” etc.
At the heart of this gargantuan global trade is a deep and toxic cynicism, from which spawns a wide range of human misery, as superbly laid out in another seminal work, Naomi Klein’s “No Logo”.
It’s key to keep in mind (and remind people) that the product in the purchase of advertising space isn’t crisps, stockings, cars or whatever.
The product paid for by the advertiser is people’s attention.
In TV advertising the programs are functionally what slots in around the adverts for the purposes of capital, NOT the other way round.
This may be considered acceptable where consenting adults are concerned. Advertising pays for a vast range of information (such as news, or at least “news”) and entertainment. It’s also often informative and entertaining in its own right.
But when advertising is aimed at children, the child and it’s attention/mind is the product. This practice should be seen and loudly proclaimed as nothing less than prime and malevolent child exploitation.
Other countries have brought in legislation without their economies collapsing, but it’s likely that corporate lobbyists have too many of our legislators in their pay. We know how that works.
If a bill was to be brought in it would cost upwards of £1,000 per day for an MP or Lord to work against it, or up to a £250,000 bribe to the Tory party to probably re-write or squash it altogether. Chicken feed, in other words.
Still, this is a classic winnable issue with broad appeal, as at home in the pages of The Daily Mail as of The Morning Star.
Sometimes harnessing such broad appeal can be enough.
Please spread awareness of this issue, via the links if nothing else, and help bring an end to a very pernicious practice
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