Advertising and marketing are very popular majors for university students these days, especially in Asia. The only fields which are which rank as high in popularity are banking and finance and business. It’s difficult for me to wrap my head around this fact. Why would so many bright, young people want to devote their working lives to being paid shills? Advertising companies and departments, along with their sidekicks P.R. firms, are hired disinformation agents. They can invent and use all the euphemisms they want to describe themselves and their work, but the bottom line remains the same: they are paid to manipulate people, using whatever overt and covert means are at their disposal, to act against their best interest and buy products which they do not need.
Perhaps the notions of idealism and ‘doing what you love’ and ‘following your bliss’ have been swept aside in modern global capitalism with its ‘dog eat dog’ mentality. Furthermore, today’s youth have grown up in a corporate world, with corporatism infusing every aspect of their lives from birth. Like a fish swimming in water, today’s youth have no conception of a world without corporations and are used to the daily barrage of propaganda, advertising, and lies spewing forth from the plasma televisions bolted into their bedroom walls. Graduating university and going to work for ‘The Man’ is the most natural thing in the world.
It doesn’t really matter anymore how absurd the advertising is. People don’t complain or subject it to its proper ridicule. The sum total of all the daily images, words, video, etc. just becomes a big blur.
I work as an educator in the highly competitive English teaching industry in Asia. Not surprisingly, the private schools here devote a significant portion of their working budgets to advertising and marketing. Everything the schools sell to students has the company logo on it, with the backpack being the most important item. The bigger schools will often place a five or six-story high photo of smiling, happy students on the sides of their buildings. I always chuckle when I walk by these buildings and see the photo. The schools are different, the students are different, but the basic theme is always the same: a group of fifteen or twenty kids sitting with ramrod straight backs, eyes fixed on the teacher with happy smiles, and each of them raising their hands high to volunteer to answer a question. Any teacher who has spent a day or two in a classroom will tell you that such a class has never existed and will never exist. The typical shy and passive Asian student rarely raises his hand to volunteer, and when he or she does, it is a subtle and wary gesture, with the elbow often remaining on the desktop. No matter. The advertising departments forge ahead with their idealized class of happy, enthusiastic students. “Okay, everybody raise your hand for the photo. One, two, three. Got it!”
I recently wandered into a local outlet of the ‘The Body Shop.’ This pseudo eco-groovy corporation likes to grab hold of whatever trend is hot in the field of natural health, incorporate it into their line of products and then of course advertise the hell out of it. Hence, they have distinct sections of their stores devoted to pomegranate, aloe vera, hemp, maca root, seaweed, tea tree, vitamin c, vitamin e, shea butter, cacao, almond, and jojoba. Each section is accompanied by large back-lit photos of pomegranates, aloe vera plants, and tea tree plants. There’s just one problem- very little of these natural ingredients actually goes into the products. Most of the items contain ingredient lists like this: tocopherol acetate, p-Anisic Acid, Disodium ETA, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Polysorbate 20, and PPG-2. The disconnect between the colorful advertising and the actual ingredients in the containers couldn’t be more obvious. And yet, we the consumers are not supposed to notice that, let alone care about it, let alone complain about it. Everyone- the plastic smile automatons who work there and the oblivious customers- simply goes along.
If you read through the ingredient list on ‘The Body Shop’ products, you will also encounter the words “Against animal testing.” Pay close attention to the words , as they were undoubtedly crafted by the marketing department in close association with the legal department. It doesn’t say ‘Our company and all of our affiliates do not engage in any form of animal testing for any of our products- 100% guaranteed.’ NO. The corporation simply states that they are ‘against’ the practice, which of course means absolutely nothing. This legalese claptrap ensures that the Body Shop cannot be sued in court if any of their suppliers is found out to be engaging in animal torture, I mean ‘testing.’