on advertising

before I rant about the topic at hand, a television review (brief mad men spoilers):

90% of mad men is a great show about how advertising is the appropriation and reworking of the human soul into sausage tubes fed to the gaping maw of the capitalist profit motive.

the main character, Don Draper, is the “American dream” laid bare to its insidious underpinnings — the ways that privilege intersects with the “self-made” myth, the specific intersectionality of who gets to rise above difficult circumstances and how — and that his advertising work is so intuitive, so emotional, while he himself is so venal and fundamentally inane is a great reflection of profit motive spurs emotional manipulation and psychological abuse in the form of feel-good commercials and targeted marketing and reduces the complexity of human interaction to “will this sell”

oh fuck off

or at least that’s how I read the show until the end, where Don Draper achieves nirvana and, having finally found a state of genuine human-connected bliss, produces a fucking Coke ad. fuck you matt weiner

(end mad men spoilers)

I can’t insist on this enough: advertising is not human; it is not a promotion of social connectedness; it is a manipulation of those things for other ends. whether you celebrate or bemoan the latest Nike advertising campaign, you participate in a process whereby you increase Nike brand recognition and sell shoes. you improve the profit margin of a corporation and make the social justice concepts behind Kaepernick’s original protest into a peripheral thing, even moreso than already happened when a thoughtful and careful sign of protest was turned into a pissing contest on who most loves our shit-ass national anthem

a commercial is a movie trailer where the movie in question is a brand name. all commercials. period. no company commissions commercials that run counter to or avoid this context; it’s the whole and only reason a commercial ever exists.

can art be created in this context? sure, but it’s art serving a utilitarian, capitalist purpose, and it’s crucial never to forget that, never to give nike credit (as if it’s a singular person that can earn or deserve credit — hey corporations are people I guess) for exploiting your feelings to tastefully, gracefully shove its logo into your face and your mouth until you’re seeing and spitting it everywhere you go

can the message being packaged into the ad ever be worthwhile? don’t we want our advertisers and corporate overlords to at least parrot the messages of social justice, such that the overton window is moved and social decency inches closer to the norm? yeah, OK, but those will always be a company’s secondary (or, more likely, totally incidental) motives in comparison to its fealty to stakeholder, meaning fealty to stock price, meaning fealty to the abstract notion of wealth that serves to benefit only ever those in power and to perpetuate said power.

power is not your friend; it serves itself first and you only by accident. trickle-down is a myth. when we applaud a corporation we tacitly endorse the horror of its manufacturing, the cruelty of its distribution, the oppression of its self-perpetuation. Nike doesn’t give voice to social justice — it cuts that voice off and yells faint echoes of the real words over the top.

OK I’m done now

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