Advertising is a powerful tool in any society run by mass media. If a political entity or a corporation has liquidity, a good portion of that liquidity is usually spent on some type of advertising budget. Instead of undisguised propaganda, which can at least be questioned by the masses even in secret if necessary, the modern day capitalistic approach to advertising pushes propaganda in disguise – we’re selling a product, not a government service; this has nothing to do with society so you can choose to buy or not buy – your freedoms are still protected here in Washington, DC.
Lost in the fray are the political messages and subliminal attacks on anything that challenges the status quo. A car commercial will show you a family with kids staring at the DVD screen hanging from the ceiling, while the parents argue about whether or not they’re lost, and the wife turning on the navigation system. Women have so much more purchasing power since the 1970s; didn’t you know that? So the women in these commercials need to play a role too, and hey, can’t you relate to this situation if you have two kids, a dog, and a collection of Disney DVDs? You can’t?? Then you don’t fit in, silly; go back to the dark ages and leave us alone to conform to this Utopian imagery!
Since television has become such a large part of our lives, with advertising fueling that engine, advertising has permeated almost everything you see when you turn on the TV. It started in the 1950s with cute product placements in shows – innocent enough, until we find out later that corporations wouldn’t allow certain plot lines if they didn’t conform to an image with which the advertiser was comfortable. But in the 1960 Presidential debate, when Kennedy scored huge points for good looks, posture, and youth over Nixon’s five o’clock shadow and worn down appearance, advertising crossed a cultural divide: it wasn’t just about TV anymore; the image of candidates were becoming increasingly important, vs. the ideals and messages of those candidates. It’s no wonder that at about this time in US history, we lost strong leadership.
This is not to say advertising was never a problem before TV came along. Of course, advertisers had sign placements and product placements well before TV – on radio, on city streets, in magazines. As television became ever more important, however, so did advertising, and in 1960, we saw just how important it was when Kennedy clinched one of the closest elections in US history away, from a Vice President of eight years no less – even after radio broadcasters had declared Nixon the clear winner in the debates.
Fast forward to 2008, and we have much the same problem: candidates parroting words that the crowd wants to hear, and advertising simply mirroring that same problem in the form of pushing junk like hamburgers and sugar-water down our throats:
“McDonald’s spend over two billion dollars each year on advertising: the Golden Arches are now more recognised than the Christian Cross. Using collectible toys, television adverts, promotional schemes in schools and figures such as Ronald McDonald the company bombards their main target group: children. Many parents object strongly to the influence this has over their own children.
“McDonald’s argue that their advertising is no worse than anyone else’s and that they adhere to all the advertising codes in each country. But others argue it still amounts to cynical exploitation of children – some consumer organisations are calling for a ban on advertising to children. Why do McDonald’s sponsor so many school events and learning programmes? Are their Children’s Charities genuine philanthropy or is there a more explicit publicity and profit motive?”
“Advertising Age estimated global measured advertising expenditure of$1.9bn in 2006, making Coca-Cola the world’s #12 advertiser.”
In politics, money is collected in the form of donations (read: special interest groups attempting to buy a candidate so that if they do get elected, they would be forever tied to that group and their needs instead of the needs of the people). Those donations buy advertising for the candidates, and in the past few decades, the candidate with the most advertising dollars wins. Once the masses allowed Obama’s campaign to catch fire, and once he became the trendy pick for President, money began pouring in – and now the final push begins, with the election merely two weeks away:
“Sen. Barack Obama shattered, by a country mile, the record for dollars raised in a single month, pulling in $150 million in September, according to an e-mail the campaign sent out this morning….
“The number explains why Obama has been able to saturate the airwaves in swing states, and afford luxuries such as the half hour infomercials he plans to run later this month.”
In a healthy society, would morons be so powerful en masse with their “votes” – which are really bought by candidates – who are bought by special interests – via parroting ideals like ‘change’, without any details behind what’s changing or how? This is all indicative of a broken system; advertising government to the masses with fluff (which, not coincidentally, is allowed in the corporate advertising world). The government has inserted itself squarely into the marketplace, which the founders of this country envisioned as free of government intervention. To strike back, corporations have inserted themselves squarely into politics, so two institutions which were supposed to be separate (industry and government) have begun regulating each other, leaving the rest of us to watch bright images on high-definition screens – alternating between the football game, pictures of cute girls in beer commercials, and candidates on TV telling you how if you’re not happy with your current lifestyle, things will change for the better as somehow, some way, more money will be put into your pocket – or taken out so the government can take care of you like the baby you are.
It’s time our society rid itself of the collusion between government and industry: the two working together have helped produce some of the most harmful products ever seen in history for consumption – be it political candidates, Bisphenol-A, poisonous but legal pharmaceutical drugs, or sugar water assisting the spread of a diabetes epidemic. Your tax dollars, in part, go toward fueling the advertising of all of these things right back to your TV set. Speak with your actions, not just your vote: ignore the TV.
Note: this article was also published in an abbreviated format at the following link: click here