I hate advertising. By hate I don’t mean actively and consciously despise it or what it is promoting, but rather I use the word as an opposite to unconscious love.
The sort of love that invokes a genuine reaction of awe when you see something beautiful, whether that be a work of art, an epic view or the wondrous amazement that a baby brings, I am moved – in a positive way (to give). Advertising, on the other hand invokes the opposite reaction in me as it attempts to move me – in a negative way (to take).
I don’t think active advertising can ever be art. It sucks away life and attempts to draw it toward itself rather than enlightening or giving it out. Don’t get me wrong, advertising can use art, and often does but this is exploitation of the art and our senses so that they can steal from us, it is not authentic. Would an artist seriously spend thousands of hours and pounds on market research so they could know how to sell their work? No. We give them something they need (money) in exchange for something we don’t need (most things) because they made us believe we needed it through the manipulation of our mind, telling us we are someone different to whom we thought. This is not the point I wanted to address because we all know that advertising is toxic, manipulative and dangerous, so I wont bore you (and me) with rehashed cynicism and common sense.
What I wanted to expand on was my reaction to advertising and the exploitation of art, which we see more and more of now the Internet is a hunting ground for corporations trying to sell us and buy us into their brand. I had an experience that showed me this reaction last year at some point, I can’t remember when but it was after there was a video that went viral, which was set in the arrival lounge at Heathrow and featured a load of people singing and emulating the sounds of instruments of contemporary pop songs to people as they walked through. It uses the idea of flash mobbing, which has been around for a few years and allows the shock of perceived spontaneity that surprises people and catches them off guard as they are forced to search for some internal semblance of understanding. It is very well done too. As I was watched it I was impressed with the organisation of it all. I didn’t particularly like the content of it because it’s just not my cup of tea, but I could appreciate how much work must have gone into it. But then…the T-Mobile logo hits the screen, along with the slogan ‘life’s for sharing’, at which moment everything that I had just seen completely lost all value to me and I was irritated that I had spent three minutes watching it. So, it wasn’t a flash mob at all, it was just a bit of street performance that involved 500 actors – none of the ‘characters’ were genuine members of the public, it was all fake. It is the exploitation of an inspiring idea (the flash mob) by a corporation spreading their brand through the manipulation of a situation and the gullibility of the rest of us. ‘Life is for Sharing’…really? Is that what they believe? More like, life is for sharing if it is on their terms, if by life you actually mean, THEIR adverts, YOUR time, and YOUR money. And that’s how it worked. Everywhere people were linking to it with comments such as ‘OMG. Best vid eva. Made me cry. You gotta watch dis.’
At the time of writing this, the video has been seen 7 million, seventy thousand, three hundred and one times. That means, twenty one million, six hundred and thirty five thousand, one hundred and twelve man minutes have been spent watching it. That is three hundred and sixty thousand, five hundred and eighty five hours, or fifteen thousand and twenty four days, or just over forty-four years. FORTY-FOUR years we have been spent, collectively watching the propaganda of just this single company’s, single video. A little insight into how much collective time we must spend on ALL the crap we watch. It is probably approaching something close to the entire history of the universe. Nice.
I am quite fortunate to have an anti-advertising sensibility, which means that I actually end up disliking companies more and more on a sliding scale, the more I feel they are trying to manipulate us and become even less likely to purchase the product. Even Apple. I think many of us are becoming aware of this, and it is obviously helped by our ability to communicate with one another more freely about these things. But this will not stop unless we actively engage and resist. Marketers will always reflect, exploit and inevitably damage culture with their attempts to be relevant and penetrate our lives with their stuff. If you look back in history I am sure you will find that artists lead the way, then marketers follow, flog the art and force the artists to go elsewhere without ever fully exploring the space. You can be sure that when you see it used in an advert it is the beginning of the end of its credence.