Was talking to some students the other day and remembered that great John Berger quote about advertising – ‘Advertising sells you an unobtainable future’. Just because Wayne Rooney wears Nike boots doesn’t mean that you’ll play like Wayne Rooney if you wear Nike boots.
Anyway, I’m currently doing some work with WWF around their ‘Think of me as evil?’ report and in it, it talks about the fact that a large amount of advertising appeals to ‘extrinsic’ values – namely it encourages us to be concerned with status and our outward appearance. This is in opposition to ‘intrinsic’ values which are linked to being concerned with each other and the environment. Broadly. This makes intuitive sense, but what’s the reality? So I decided to take a walk down the street and find out. So, in a sort of GCSE Media Studies analysis, here’s what I saw.
There was a lot of, what can be regarded as ‘neutral’ messaging, just told you what’s available. So, stuff like:
Okay, then I can buy that – it’s sort of ‘Just The Facts’ kind of work. It’s public announcement advertising from the commercial world. But, what about that extrinsic stuff?
As it turns out, there was quite a lot, so here’s just three:
Ummm, so, buy this hair colour and it ‘transforms’ you. Really? If I was being generous I could say that it’s true – it transforms your hair colour. But, I think it’s fair to say that it’s trying to say a fair bit more than that. But maybe it can. Maybe changing your hair colour can transform you into a different person.
Next up is the end-line on a bus side for Pandora jewelry. Buy Pandora and you are promised an Unforgettable Moment. So, let’s be generous again. Let’s say the most likely opportunity for that to be true is when someone buys it for someone else and in the act of giving it, it could be an Unforgettable Moment i.e. the same strategy as a diamond ring when you ask for someone’s hand in marriage. But, it’s not a diamond and it’s not asking a hand in marriage. So, can that be true? I think that Pandora is writing cheques it can’t cash (or at least guarantee) there. It’s definitely closer to the ‘unobtainable future’ there, I’d say.
But, my personal favourite was this, for Venture portraits:
Run that by me again? Your current family situation is the ‘most important story ever told’. So, more important than ‘War and Peace’, the story of mankind, anything by Shakespeare, the Bible, Koran or the life story of Ghandi or Mandela or any other historically significant figure or even the person standing next to you? Your family contains the ‘most important story ever told’. Ever told. If there was an Extrinsic Hall of Fame, this would be in it.