Oh… well, hang on –
Yep, never mind. Our records indicate that you’re already sexy.
You’re an awesome-pants candy bar with gold coins inside, and you don’t need a damn thing from either this list or anything else you were told you needed today. You’re good to go; you’re fine. You can permanently ignore all advertising to the contrary. That’s what this list is about.
Those evil bastards on Madison f*cking Ave misuse the mighty creativity of their brains to convince you to buy mostly stupid shit you don’t need. It’s not, “Hey, if you’re doing some work on the house, here’s a really good brand of paint that is also mold resistant.” NO. They cross that line: “Hey loser! If you don’t use our unspillable paint, your shitty house will never look as good as this perfect, much more expensive house where these super happy and beautiful people live! Are you even American, you ugly twat?!” They don’t actually say that, but it’s all so exaggerated and perfect. Have you ever painted a house? Nothing pretty about it. And they never show the sanding, which is endless and brutal. And a freshly painted house will not make you better than you are. It will make your house better – and only for a few years, then you get to paint it again.
Or instead of “Hey, these yoga pants are comfy, and a little bit sweat absorbent. Also, we have cute styles – depending on your personal taste: tiger stripes, Hello Kitty!, Matrix, floral, and a few others” it has to be “Hey sludgebucket! You will never look like [name of celebrity who can afford 3 hours a day with a personal trainer and a personal chef to roast almonds and handroll unicorn meat kale wraps], but maybe if you wear our auto-thigh-gapping, fashion-forward, does-the-yoga-for-you YogaPant ™, you just might someday find a spouse and become wildly successful in your dream career”. Bullshit bullshit evil bullshit. Yoga pants are supposed to let your bits dangle, so you can get a nicely challenging but comfortable stretch, and kudos to you for showing up – that ain’t easy.
I hate these f*ckers, and so should you. If you look back through your day, I’ll bet that a full 50% of the times you felt like crap could be traced back to the untruths that sink thru our eyes to our souls like fishhooks.
Here are a few books about this industry you might be interested in.
Buyology from Martin Lindstrom, made a bit of a splash when it came out in the late 00s, though some of its conclusions are disputed. Of note is all the talk about manipulating our neurons – like teasing them into buying action. Not a fan. Lindstrom, a long-time advertising insider – has a sort of benevolent attitude about it all, “helping” us meet our needs – but what the F do they know about my needs? I’m not so keen on some cleverer-than-thou, pen-spinning office jockey climbing into my head to whisper that I “need” a new iPhone or a certain kind of underpants. I don’t “need” the new iPhone. I need water, sleep, food, love, air, shelter, and that’s it. THAT’S IT. and nachos AND THAT’S IT. The rest is optional; and yeah, there’s tons of space for optionals – I’m a big fan of optionals, even sometimes underpants – but don’t poke my neurons and tell me I need a new gadget. I do not, and f*ck off outta my brain.
Lindstrom becomes a little less benevolent towards the industry and takes them to task in Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy. Some of its claims may be a bit exaggerated – but you shouldn’t expect anything different from an adman. Never completely trust a double agent.
James B Twitchell’s Adcult USA is aptly named. You know that part in that Lovecraft story where, after many pages of conversation, our protag moves closer to his friend, sitting on the other side of the room in darkness, only to find that it’s not his friend, but it’s an alien bug wearing his friend’s skin? Or that one where the cultists all turn and slowly pull their cowls back to reveal – not human faces – but tentacles and claws where their heads should be? Or that one where the Supreme Chancellor turns out to be the Dark Lord of the Sith, and his office was down the hall the whole time? That’s this book. Our entire culture is advertising and vice versa. It’s sick and I feel filthy and Soylent Green is people and I’m not getting on the ship.
If you think I’m being a little intense about this, wait til you check out Jean Kilbourne’s Deadly Persuasion. She focuses on the insidious work advertising has done in targeting the hearts and minds of women. They connect their products to identity, self expression, growth and worth. These are the most sacred, human, image-of-God parts of us. You get a hold of those areas, and you’re Killgrave in Jessica Jones. Dark stuff. How dare they twist our insides in knots just so we’ll buy one shampoo instead of another (- which is probably chemically identical anyway).
Further, she asserts, and it’s hard to disagree, that advertising is not the sideshow of mass media, it is media’s raison d’être, it’s why it exists.
You might also look at Kilbourne’s Can’t Buy My Love, which focuses on advertising’s manipulative anthropomorphising of products, as if the things we need most (love, connection) can actually come from objects. Gospel truth –> they can’t. That’s a mouthful of sand. That’s The Shining‘s Jack embracing the ghost from the bathtub. That’s realizing you’re on your honeymoon with a blowup doll. It’s a soul-crushing bum deal.
Culture Jam: How to Reverse America’s Suicidal Consumer Binge — and Why We Must from culture ninja Kalle Lasn is the sharp edge of resistance. Hey, it’s Jyn Erso, “This is a rebellion isn’t it? I rebel.” His work – he started Adbusters – is really broad, involving not only psychology, but also the environment and politics. His “Buy Nothing Day” efforts (on Black Friday, no less) sound a touch hysterical, but he is probably the one wise man in the city who realizes the barbarians are just over the hill, nocking their fire arrows. Here’s a 3 minute video that ties together the various threads of his efforts and references no less than Emile Zola’s story “Death by Advertising”, in which a poor dumb schlub responds to every marketing goad until it kills him. Consumed by consumption. Could be us.
Nope – not pulling a fasty here and saying that you “need” these books. All you need is this, and you can have it for free: a sharp, suspicious eye for advertising and marketing. Whatever you might need in life, it can’t be bought.
You know what will make you sexy? Being yourself.
Ah – see? You’re doing it right now.