I decided not to buy products by Benetton several year ago because I thought that their advertising campaigns insult our intelligence. This was in 1991 when they plastered posters of a new born baby covered in blood all over London. Firstly, this was not something I wanted to see before breakfast, and secondly this was a wonderful personal moment, crassly exploited to sell jumpers.
Since then hyper-commercialisation has become acceptable and politicians and artists have no shame about selling their kudos and integrity to flog stuff. Tony Blair works for massive banks and Madonna was sponsored by a Vodka company. Fair enough but when they take the money they also surrender any credibility or right to have their opinions taken seriously. They forgo leadership for the role of a hired hand.
Commercialisation is now built into the DNA of the Anglo-Saxon world and, while it may have made us richer, it has also eroded our self respect and sense of community.
I recall hearing a younger friend discussing the renovation work going on at London’s St. Pancras station and he said: “..and that’s before the shops go in…” Before the shops go in! It has now become normal that every department in every organisation everywhere in the UK must be a profit centre and sell stuff to the public all the time. Forget punctuality sell ‘em another coffee.
I saw some bloke on Dragon’s Den a few months ago trying to flog his invention. He had invented a modification to the little pole and rope barriers used to encourage queuing at cinemas, airports and stations. His idea was that advertising should be hung beneath the ropes – ugh! In a hundred years time every inch of “public” space will have been sold off for advertising. The walls, the floors and the ceilings will all be showing video advertising 24 X 7. Forget freedom or speech it will be freedom of though that we need to worry about.
I placed a comment in a similar vein to this on The Huffington post and received a reply that enterprise was the way of the Western world and that using catchy, funny and positive ideas to sell products was good.
Leaving aside whether this tripe is catchy, funny and positive I don’t deny the right of organisations and individuals to advertise their products and services. I do object to the ubiquity of advertising especially when the vast majority of it is controlled by a handful of corporations. I also despair at our press who collude in this fake controversy because it is a cheap and easy story to cover.
Many people consider that we should not object to this sort of thing because that would lead to social engineering. This is perverse. We have social engineering. The marketeers who work for corporations to create these campaigns are social engineers. That is their job.
BBC Radio 4 has a series of programs recently in what it terms its Brain Season. One example of psychological research is something known as anchoring. The idea is that you show a couple of numbers to experimental subjects and then ask them a question such as “what percentage of countries in the UN come from Africa?”. It terms out that their answers will be significantly weighed toward the numbers shown.
Interesting stuff. But who do you think is using this? Are you using it in your every day life? Are your mates at the gym or down the pub using it? No, the people who use this stuff are marketeers working for large multinationals who are trying to lure you into buying more and more useless stuff. They have even developed an Orwellian term for it: Behavioural Economics. This is what’s behind BP changing it’s corporate colours to green or Shell changing the name of their petrol to “FuelSave Regular Unleaded”. While they talk green they act mean.
So now the marketing execs at the jumper company are at it again. They claim they are promoting peace by displaying pictures of famous people snogging but we all know that their real goal is to pick away at a bunch of people who, rightly or wrongly, will take offence. The company are hypocrites because their goal is not the promotion of peace. Their goal is controversy. They want the Catholic church to take offence.
Whether you like their campaign or you loath it you are being used to promote a bunch of fucking jumpers. In 1962 controversy meant socialism or democracy. Fifty years later it means a contrived argument about kissing in adverts for a jumper company. I can only imply that the vacuity of the advertising campaign reflects the vacuity of the company and its owners.
In Western democracies in the 21st century the individual has very little power. One of the few powers we still have is to refuse to buy stuff.
If you like this companies shenanigans then by all means buy their jumpers. If you don’t then for God sake have some self respect and resolve not to buy their products in future.