Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Bad advertising

Picture the advert: a girl is sitting on the sofa next to her dad. He's eating a bowl Nestle "Oats and More" of cereal and in order to stop her from eating any, lies to her that the cereal is flammable. The tag line is it's too good to share, and other adverts for this product promote similar deception and greed.

This is just one of a series of TV adverts that seem clever, but under the surface they're promoting behviour such as selfishness and greed (as in the "Oats and More" advert above).

What sickens me about this is that:

  1. The ad agencies who dreamed this up must have some pretty "low" people working there,
  2. The companies who agree to run those ads and then put them out have equally poor moral judgement, and
  3. The TV companies who air them should be ashamed of themselves: money rules over good taste.
We're living in a society (here in the richer countries) that is seeing a downward spiral in morals and behaviour, and it worries me that advertising is not only trading on this, but actually promoting the behaviour as desirable.

Do we really want young children watching an advert like "Oats and More" to feel that being selfish and not sharing is OK and cool?

It's not just Nestle who are to blame. What about the awful Kellogg's advert for "Crunchy Nut" where a man chivalrously chases after an escaping shopping trolley with a baby in it, only to rescue, teetering over the brink of a stairway, a box of cereal rather than the baby. OK, most people will just smile wryly and think that's stupid. But stop - think. There's a subliminal message here that somehow the cereal is more important than the baby: and what might a young child make of this?

And the cereal companies aren't the only ones. Remember the Ford Ka adverts that showed various ways of torturing cats and other animals? (One even shows a cat being decapitated). In the the tag line "The Ka's evil twin" the irony is that Ford is actually acknowledging that this is evil, but is at the same time promoting it as somehow a good (or perhaps cool) thing to be.

Another series of adverts that positively celebrate being evil (or in this case wicked) is the WKD adverts. This example is where a coach ties his athlete's shoe laces together and laughs when the athlete falls over. Once again, like the "Oats and More" advert, or the "Crunchy Nut" we're seeing here someone in a trusted role (the coach) reversing their trustworthiness completely: a theme that runs through WKD's adverts.

Of course sex comes into it somewhere - our TVs are flooded out with this nowadays, and people seem to just accept it. A recent Lynx advert (you know, the series where men suddenly become irresistable to women when they use the deoderant) even won "The Best Advert Overall" in the 2009 Kodak awards. In fact this was one of the less titilating versions, but what gets me about this one is that it was OK to attract the glamorous models, but the ordinarly looking girl at the end was not OK. Demeaning to women - and in fact to men also: as if a relationship could really be based on the attraction of a deoderant, and only glamorous women are "worthy"!

For a well balanced adult, all of these (and so many more) would simply be dismissed as stupid and possibly a bit wrong headed. But my concern is children. Nowadays they watch a huge amount of TV - and they learn adverts off by heart. And they'll pick up these messages in an uncritical fashion, and along with all the other poor role-model influences that bombard them every day, this will just help to cement the growing sense of selfishness, greed and lack of care that seems to be happening in our society.

Shame on you: advertisers! The advertisers are not the only ones at fault, but that doesn't excuse them.

So my plea to us all is let's stop allowing this to happen. Let's start to complain when we see this stuff. Maybe we can start to make a difference, like the man on the beach throwing starfish back into the sea.

No comments:

Post a Comment