Ubiquitous advertising

How important is advertising to our lives?  We depend on it to make choices, to find where and how to obtain all manner of stuff and experiences. And we find it everywhere, no longer limited to television, radio and newspapers. Inescapable.

As a reporter and section editor on The Miami Herald, I enjoyed friendships with people whose job it was to sell advertising in the newspaper. We respected each other’s work. One such ad salesman I knew is especially memorable. To describe him as energetic understates the case. He loved his work and was successful at it. But on one occasion, he told me with a straight face that people read newspapers not to read the news, but to see the ads. He believed this. Did he also think that people watch television mainly to watch commercials? Could be.

Today’s television advertising is slick and persuasive with the power to influence our lives. This is why I want those who produce these ads to be responsible and to make sense, but evidence that they fail at this abounds. Some examples:

Some want us to believe that the best way to sell a car is to show it being driven recklessly and extremely fast, or being driven up extremely steep inclines over impossibly uneven surfaces. Neither, intelligent people realize, is the way most of us drive, and neither, I would argue, would be the reason most of us would choose a particular vehicle..

Pharmaceutical companies solemnly warn us not to take a particular medication if we are allergic to it. Say what? Are they serious? Thanks for the warning.

One American car maker assures us that the people in its ad are real people, not actors. As a part-time actor, I assure you that I, too, am a real person. So are other actors. In fact, all the actors I have ever seen, worked with or watched are real people. This offensive disclaimer has metastasized to additional advertisers. We are told that we are watching real people, not actors (whom, as we all know, are not real people).

I could go on. You have your pet advertising peeves, too, I am certain.

But let’s end this rant with what is, to me, the most offensive sound track in a television commercial: a chorus screaming, “I want it all, and I want it now!”

What a depressing commentary on us and our values.

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