Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Commercials: Barometer of a society

Have you been watching TV lately?

I don't mean becoming one with your comfy couch binging on entire seasons of Game of Thrones.  No I'm talking about plain old TV, commercials and all.

In a world where just about everything is on Demand from your dinner to your favorite sitcom you probably haven't noticed the latest trends in advertising.  With the curated experience of services like Netflix and Amazon Instant video you'd be excused if you haven't seen a commercial in months.

The vast majority of viewers, however, aren't completely detached from the advertiser-driven TV experience.  That means there's still an audience to watch somebody's commercial.  

Regardless of how irrelevant they may be to you, commercials aren't created in a vacuum.  Whatever they're selling,  you can be sure somebody wants it.

Ok, so we're all used to ads from everything from cars we can't afford to phones we don't really need and food we really shouldn't be eating.  I don't care about those.  I'm more interested in the filler commercials.  The ones about things like prescription drugs and ambulance chasing attorneys.  The ones you see far more often.

In the past few years I've seen more commercials about one-off gambling casinos, lottery games, settlement funding and prescription drugs for every ill than anything else.  Even the ambulance chasers have upped their game from simple fender-bender litigation to multi-billion dollar payouts from big pharma.

That there are so many means the U.S. isn't as much about consumption anymore.  It's more about want.  We're underpaid, poorly fed and sick and we can't seem to find relief.

We can't count on much these days.  Careers are transient and so are people.  It seems the ground is ever shifting under our feet. 

They sell us the promise of stability, the righting of a wrong or just something to make us feel a little better about our situation.

Maybe that's the classic advertising formula, sell a belief instead of a product.

The trouble is, what they sell is a reflection of the world we live in.  A world where needs can only be met by indebtedness to monoliths that profit from continuing our suffering.

We want the lottery win, the big settlement, the freedom from worry and want.  That desire has become an industry in itself.

We are a country forever searching for the light at the end of the tunnel but the tunnel never ends.  The joke has long been that the light is an oncoming train.  That's wrong.  Were that the case at least there'd be some hope of an end but the light seems ever out of reach.

So am I making too much out of a bunch of stupid ads? 
I don't think so. 

If the "product" is security and freedom from want then it stands to reason that those are commodities we're sorely lacking.  I don't find it acceptable to be "sold" on a dream of self-sufficiency.  I shouldn't "need" a mason jar full of pills to live another day or settlement funding to catch up on my bills. 

Trading on fear is a dark negotiation. 

Not the mark of a healthy society.

Think about it...