Monday, April 16, 2007

Too Many Choices?

We are bombarded in modern Western culture by advertisements of all kinds. It can be infuriating, I agree. In fact I would venture a guess that 9 out of 10 ads are hawking something you don't really need, things that nobody really needs. Ads have infiltrated everything including our own bodies. Me... I personally won't buy clothing that is nothing but an unpaid advertisement. Now, if it is given to me as a gift such as a sports jersey, or as a premium from a vendor at work, well, then that's a different story.

Sometime in the 80's when product placement in movies and every aspect of the sports experience was sold to highest bidder did the sublime became the ridiculous. But somehow we endured. The movies and the games continued to entertain. The overload of ads became fodder for numerous comedic skits. It's crazy to be sure, but let's face it when actors and sports stars continue to demand and get out of this world salaries the money has to come from somewhere.

The advertisement industry is perhaps the most creative entity in the world. Not only are the print and television ads clever in and of themselves, but the vehicles in which they are delivered to us are endless. Even when one avenue is closed down its like a squeezing balloon and the ads just pop out somewhere else. Sometimes it does get overwhelming and outright nauseating such as those commercials for ED pills and genital herpes drugs, but we tune them out as best we can - unless our herpes laden and limp member is in need of such things...

Here in my city and probably yours there has been an effort to do away with highway billboards. They have successfully had large numbers of them removed. Bad news for the billboard companies? Well, technology just steps in - now we have JumboTron billboards all over town flashing in living color a different ad every 15 seconds. (don't worry the busybodies are already going after them.) Advertisers will not be silenced!

And that's the gist of it. Advertisments sell product. Without ads we wouldn't know we have the choices we have.

But here's the question? Do we have too many choices? Is it a sign of a sick, over indulgent culture, or evidence of a successful prosperous nation that has all its basic needs met? Probably a little of both.

I do have a problem, however, with folks like those who run and other socialist groups that are going after the corporate-culture by targeting the consumer in order to shame him. Their mission statement reads like the communist party manifesto:

We are a global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age. Our aim is to topple existing power structures and forge a major shift in the way we will live in the 21st century... To this end, Adbusters Media Foundation publishes Adbusters magazine, operates this website and offers its creative services through PowerShift, our advocacy advertising agency.

Consumerism and for that matter capitalism is responsible for most of the great things we enjoy today. The a$$holes at adbusters and various other consumer hating organizations who have the luxury to produce their ad laden websites, which, by the way, runs on electricity, and their magazines, which is processed from dead trees, would be toiling down at the river washing their hand sewn clothes on rocks and eating food preserves from a jar with their stale bread and beer if it weren't for the world free market capitalism has created. Let them show you all the great and wonderful things the Arabs, and the Chinese, the Russians and the Africans have developed from scratch.

Sure capitalism has it's problems. Mega-corporations driven by profit (as they should be) cut off their long term noses to spite their short term faces. The price of sustained growth is high and so are the stakes. Once General Motors was one of the largest companies in the world, now its not even close. They made mistakes and more aggressive and more efficient companies took their place. Lots of people lost their jobs, but lo-and-behold new companies were started by entrepreneurs to fill the void.

Which brings us back to advertising. The one thing the giant companies have over the upstarts (besides taxes and regulations that hinder the entrepreneur) is the wealth to advertise incessantly. Now, if these jerks like really believe in "entrepreneurialism" then how is the word supposed to get out? Telepathy?