Writer: Catherine Calder
Imagine being born into a world where advertisers are legally bound to be completely relevant and honest. Could this mere thought even be exercised in today’s world, a world so reliant on advertising it has capitalism written all over it? Without advertising, our entire cultural and economic system would be in complete ruins. What some of us don’t know is just how much advertising, adver-lying; call it what you want, plays a terrifyingly dominant role in all of our lives, whether you like to think so or not.
A new reform to ban lies and misleading information from advertising would mean a new public policy. This would be like asking the government to ban poker machines. Isn’t advertising an umbrella term for the world’s entire economy? It should be. But what if this was possible? Where everyone was to always tell the absolute truth and what would this mean exactly?
Well, for one, it wouldn’t be hard to create an atmosphere of credo, the Latin term for ‘I believe,’ after all, we people are gullible creatures. It would mean that humanity would need to reject the ‘value driven’ atmosphere it has worked so hard to create. Man would need to create a medium in which receiving blunt no-frills messages was the norm.
For example, TAC and WorkSafe invest a lot of the government’s time and money playing on our emotional heart strings. You’ve probably seen that ad with the mother holding her son and screaming, ‘Give me back my boy,’ then appearing in bold text, ‘SPEED KILLS.’ But even TAC and WorkSafe advertise products for a third party. Think about it for a second. My dad wouldn’t buy a car without curtain airbags installed, would yours? Besides who has the time and energy these days? Flash me an image between ad breaks so I can continue watching the game any day. And, realistically, that’s how a lot of us think, or how we would rather it be… that is, not to think or having to think all the time. If it wasn’t for the non-thinkers, would this industry even exist?
Banning lies and misleading information from advertising would only benefit a world where the human race never evolved the idea of commercial television. But, before the invention of the ‘telly,’ so to speak, I’m almost certain that messages at the microcosmic level prior to 1956 would have been communicated in much the same way. That is, at a different level of gluttonous consumption. A world of sex, lies and rock and roll! Welcome to consumerism.
If it helps, for the most part, advertising doesn’t appear to intend to upset us. Who is it really offending anyway? Do we take advertising that seriously? Come on, the gorgeous-backpacker-model-selling-you-unbelievable-underwear-from-holesproof-unwear-that’s-so-nice-to-crawl-into is a good sell. We automatically think, ‘if I get me some of those as well, maybe other people would like to crawl into my underpants too. Though, truth be told, there have been some that are utterly repulsive. In the Toohey’s New ad, it appears the female is opening the bottle between her legs but it’s actually her belly button surrounded by blokes who have just finished a rugby match. Please. This is just plain wrong. I mean, we should be more worried about banning subliminal messages rather than banning lies and misleading information.
Okay, there is one industry that possibly deserves all restrictions; the fitness industry. It really seems to be particularly booming right now. These business people, advertisers, faceless, money hungry no gooders’ are only out there to capitalise on your insecurities. Just how much has life become a competition to be noticed? Isn’t every second person you know a personal trainer these days? Have another protein drink, or better still, stick an apple in it?! Banning lies and misleading information from this industry, would benefit society greatly, because competitiveness would be based on quality alone. There wouldn’t be any comparative standard, no ideal weight, no concrete definition of physical perfection. Now that’s a health alternative.
The truth is that banning lies and misleading information from advertising will never happen. It sounds kind of ludicrous even to entertain the idea whilst living in a capitalist society. The rise in advertising has coincided with human evolution, just as Freud’s psychoanalytic approaches to personality theory gave rise to cognitive developments, such as behaviourism. Psychologists have been manipulating human behaviour since Pavlov’s dog could salivate at the sight of food. Business psychologists are being employed to capture the mind by presenting symbols that tap into the emotions at the level of the unconscious. We are supposed to feel insecure so that we buy what advertisers are selling. It has always been clear that the world is a business, even in education, and if you think otherwise then maybe you’re meant to be fooled.
Catherine studies Sociology at Footscray Park.