It’s easy to look back on 50’s advertisements and see the toxic imagery — subservient women and obedient children, usually enthralled to the virtues of a product. Most people underestimate the power of such images to normalize unhealthy attitudes. Fewer still can detect toxic imagery in today’s advertisements. But this Cozi ad is so far beyond the pale that many can detect the dystopian family life that this company urges upon us.
Jerry Seinfeld set a trap for the advertising industry, and they walked right into it.
You may recall when Steven Colbert became a household name — it was after his 2006 speech to the White House Correspondent’s Dinner, in which he insulted the audience for incompetence and cronyism. You can see Colbert’s speech here (it’s still funny eight years later):
The networks wouldn’t cover such an impropriety, but the speech went viral, and his truths got out.
A comparable impropriety happened last October. Jerry Seinfeld, who had memorably advertised for both American Express and Microsoft — unusual ads! — was honored by the Advertising Industry for Acura ads that he wrote.
What’s interesting about Seinfeld’s Acura ads is that they are anti-ads, featuring the “ideal” car salesman who doesn’t sell the car, and instead just gives good life advice, while the car sells itself.
The peculiar style of the Acura ads in particular might have signaled Seinfeld’s opinion about advertising, but the ad masters didn’t pick that up. Instead, they gave him an award, which he accepted:
“I love advertising, because I love lying…Spending your lives trying to dupe innocent people out of hard-won earnings to buy useless, low-quality, misrepresented items and services is an excellent use of your energy…”
Normally people don’t get big microphones unless they have bought into the system in some significant way, and the power elite therefore can trust them to not challenge the official reality. And sometimes one of those heavily mic’d people finds their conscience and decides to take a stand for truth. This was one of those moments. Nice to see.
But what was most fascinating was the industry’s response.
Writing in Advertising Week, the weekly bible of the advertising industry, master ad strategist Kathy Ruiz wrote that Jerry Seinfeld’s speech at the Clios was “no joke.” She said, on behalf of all advertisers,
“What we do is far from meaningless. We have the power to create aspiration, to make people fall in love, to show the world in a different light. We have the ability to tell fascinating stories that move people, to say one thing in a million different ways and show different sides to these stories, to connect people in unique ways, to captivate with the unexpected. We have the mediums at our fingertips to turn services into art, products into lifestyles, brands into consumer relationships, people into celebrities, celebrities into spokesmen. We have the skills to turn ideas into multi-million driving forces that move economies. And we also have the responsibility to create things that matter, to improve the way we say things, the way we do things. The media does shape thinking, behaviors, and actions, and as ‘meaningless’ our lives might be deemed to be, our influence in the media does have an effect in shaping the world.”
It’s hard to imagine that Nazi master-propagandist Joseph Goebbels could have defended his craft any better or differently than did Kathy Ruiz defend the advertising industry’s craft.
Here is how Goebbels described his work:
“That propaganda is good which leads to success, and that is bad which fails to achieve the desired result…It is not propaganda’s task to be intelligent, its task is to lead to success.”
That is, I think, the definition of a good advertisement. Did Goebbels aspire to anything other than to “tell fascinating stories that move people…to turn ideas into…driving forces that move economies…to shape thinking, behaviors, and actions…in shaping the world.” Indeed, that was his craft.
Here is how Wikipedia describes Goebbels, citing The Face of the Third Reich, page 92:
He openly acknowledged that he was exploiting the lowest instincts of the German people – racism, xenophobia, class envy and insecurity. He could, he said, play the popular will like a piano, leading the masses wherever he wanted them to go. “He drove his listeners into ecstasy, making them stand up [Compare Ruiz: “create aspiration, to make people fall in love”], sing songs, raise their arms, repeat oaths – and he did it, not through the passionate inspiration of the moment, but as the result of sober psychological calculation.”
Kathy Ruiz uses the worlds “responsibility” and “improve” in her critique of Jerry Seinfeld, but is it a responsibility to society, and the improvement of the human condition that she prescribes? Nope:
“Responsibility to create things that matter, to improve the way we say things, the way we do things.”
We already knew that the advertising industry was just a Ministry of Propaganda, privately owned and managed, but raised by technology and psychological research to staggering heights of effectiveness, its sole objective to psychologically manipulate people toward ends directed by its wealthy corporate and political patrons.
Nice to hear the advertising industry admit it so clearly.
This outlines the local situation reasonably well. A few of the early settlers here (fin d’ siecle) were farseeing and nailed down senior water rights for Carlsbad, which continues to be pretty strong in this department. As the droughts continue and temperatures rise a bit, surface water storage is going to become even less effective and it’s going to become increasingly obvious that water is best stored underground.
The dissent is as always about the flow of the Pecos and how much it’s affected by pumping. But this dissent links directly into above-ground storage. Ultimately people in the region should recognize that they are fighting the wrong battle and should address pumping overall, not the flow of the Pecos specifically, but that would mean fighting water rights that are over 100 years old.
Meanwhile what will probably happen is the mining companies will buy up the land with water rights as the drought continues and farming will suffer a severe setback in the region, which is likely a good idea, except that at least with farming, the water is given back in some manner – mining tends to pollute and even sequester it.
I never really got how we were supposed to be permanently worried about mid-March just because a Roman Emperor came to a bad end then. I blame Shakespeare.
It’s most definitely Spring here in Carlsbad, New Mexico. We got the greening of the Bermuda grass, we got the flowering of at least some of the trees, including my forsythia. We are experiencng also the lovely windstorms, which, though duly impressive, are fortunately also occasional. At the moment.
But the Ides will come soon, I fear. Drought Kali Mother is relentless.
I’m planting anyway. In pots. Large pots. So I can put them under the trees when it Really Gets Bad.
And then I can put the dog pool under the largest Tree as well, and we can all slosh around there, me and the Dogs, watering the Tree.
I am Prepared. I may have to live underwater for some time in July. That reminds me: I should order Straws. Or learn to make them from reeds.
We recommend The Christmas Game, if you want take the commercialism out of Christmas. The Christmas Game organizes hundreds of activities into nine different categories:
Most families enjoy Christmas, and recognize the need to make their Christmas celebration less commercial. Many have even tried to alter the gift-giving tradition to de-emphasize presents (for example by drawing names from a hat to determine who gives and who gets).
The Christmas Game helps families preserve traditions that are working well, while making space for new traditions focused on kindness, togetherness, and other non-commercial shared values. Instead of opening presents and then scattering to watch television or play video games, families that play The Christmas Game can strengthen relationships and advance values in ways that are meaningful for each family.
Capitalism purports to offer the freedom to choose, but what it actually delivers is the illusion of choice. Nowhere is this more important than in mass media and public discourse, which of course has not only economic but also political implications. This chart says it all.
Today I got up at four, and was the first person at a yard sale down the street, where I purchased a six inch cast iron frying pan, an enamel teapot to boil water in, and an excellent black rayon Hawaiian shirt with stylized yellow and orange dragons, for a total of five dollars.
Then I went to the Cat’s Meow thrift shop that is an organ of the local animal welfare foundation that runs the local animal shelter, and gave them a box of books I neither need nor can profitably sell, and also spent two dollars on four books, two of which I might be able to sell for around three fifty, another I will give back, and a fourth I will read.
Then I went to the grocery store and bought some stuff to make lasagna with.
Then I came home and worked on things some, and then I walked Casey out to the vet to get the rest of his shots caught up.
He found this experience fabulous as always. It made my feet hurt for awhile afterwards but it was a good walk with only one loose uncollared potentially rabid Chihuahua to fend off. I didn’t worry about this before the skunk rabies outbreak; previous I merely found it annoying. Casey as always sees this as all in a dog’s day’s work. No starter of fights, my dog, though I have noticed that after managing the occasional attack, he tends to smirk a bit.
Fortunately I had not yet at that point forgotten and left my stick somewhere though I did manage to do so prior to our returning home. Fortunately there are always more sticks.
When we got to the vet they weren’t back from lunch yet so we got to kind of hang around with the other customers out front for about fifteen minutes while the train went by at one point and sufficiently alarmed Casey that he asked me rather strongly whether we could not perhaps go into the vet’s now to get away from the train. (the tracks are quite close by, pretty much a couple-three lots away).
I discussed this with Dr. H. as well, Casey’s great love of the vets and fear of alien noise. Case does not love the machine gods not quite as much as he does not love the thunder gods, but he is fond of neither.
Dr H. said that some dogs are very phobic but others just love them, those vets. Very specific critters, dogs.
Dr. H. turned out to be the main vet who knows me personally via social contacts involving S.B. and P and B, which I had almost forgotten. Usually Case and I see the other guy. So we got to catch up about stuff like S.B. being dead and P having left B after he sold his house here so he could live in a trailer with her so she could go to school and marry him, and we both agreed that generally people are mysterious but also we would have preferred B not sell that house.
Then Casey and I walked back and stopped by the post office, which one can do here with one’s dog. And on home with my feet indeed very sore.
And then I did some more chore stuff and made marinara sauce for the lasagna and somehow I suspect I am not going to make it to the seven a.m. yard sales tomorrow but there won’t be that many and Rome wasn’t built in a day.
As well, this essay won’t have a photograph, as I failed to take more photographs of Casey today, which was foolish of me. I will remedy that this weekend, if something else does not become more immediate. Meanwhile, Casey is good to go just about anywhere he might need to go. Next, gotta work on myself.