Ever since a friend drew my attention to television commercials and their insidious effect on his efforts to maintain a healthy diet, I’ve been fascinated by them.
On the one hand, I find them shamelessly destructive to their target audiences. ‘Spend! Eat! Beg Your Doctor For Drugs!’ seem to be the primary messages. As with many scenes of destruction, I find it difficult to look away.
And therein lies their power.
What’s fascinating are the demographic profiles they paint.
If I believe the portrait of America according to the advertising industry, we are a hopelessly obese, socially challenged, disease-ridden, lonely people suffering from erectile dysfunction. We tend to smile most when dinner is served or when we find a paper towel that’s really, really absorbent.
Our bottoms are fuzzed with toilet tissue. Our eyes are dry. Our insurance companies are either run by geckos with British accents, or by agents with magical powers of teleportation. Our teeth won’t last if we eat or drink anything. Our phones are our best friends. Every medicine we take today will involve us in a lawsuit tomorrow. Our relatives will shun us if we choose the wrong air freshener. Our hair is grey and our skin is wrinkled. Prowlers and vagabonds lurk in our yards, checking to see if we have the right home security system.
But don’t despair! If we work hard and are vigilant, we can remedy all the bad things and take advantage of all the good. All we have to do is listen and do as we’re told.
The problem is, if you do listen long enough, you’ll decipher the Master Message that hangs like a fearful pall over this maze of enticements and warnings.
YOU WILL NEVER HAVE IT ALL.
You slam into the realization like a crash-dummy into a brick wall. Having been drawn to the edge of your seat, quivering with greed and need, pupils dilated and respiration rapid, you stagger back from the impact. Your survival instincts click in and you finally understand: The only way to dig yourself out from under this morass of advertising directives, is to turn them off. Or at least mute them.
Because all you really need are your family, your friends, your health, and a really, really absorbent paper towel.
The rest is just noise and smoke.