Why advertising is cultural malware -Part 2

Advertising as cultural malware-part 2

Dont ask, just buy

ad babyPeople who, for whatever reason, have been able to think “outside the box” seem  to go against the grain of accept thought and in doing so, access a realm of knowledge and insight that appears unavailable to the rest of us. Often these can be highly intelligent individuals, that in addition to the vast intellectual knowledge they possess, they can  also reach into a more intuitive realm and take something they may not have been considered or thought of  previously , essentially pulling something from the unknown into the visible and communicable realm of the known. So inventiveness, ingenuity, imagination, creativity  and connection, are all qualities that require someone to go beyond the noise of the prevailing culture and their dominate thought pattern. As in the loud den of our advertising and consumer culture, there is no “newness” or” “creative spark” for the passive receiver, rather just recycling and reiteration of what’s needed to get you to buy what they are selling.


Advertisements and marketing messages require no critical thinking, they are in fact anti-imagination. You don’t need to understand or work out what you truly need, how you feel and what’s important,our consumption culture ensures all of that is answered for you. All you have to do is absorb, assimilate and follow, then rinse and repeat .

Many objects = many ads.


I think the power of media and advertising and the supporting technological infrastructure that underpins it, can’t be underestimated. To measure it’s  impact we only need to see the colossal amount of resources used, fuel burnt, and money spent on getting people to buy things, they in fact don’t really need and probably don’t even truly want. From the beginning of the century up until 2013 there has been this gradual and intertwining of technology, products and the need to get people buying these products .We have become cultural lab rats in the social experiment of inducing rabid consumption Yet the way we buy, our reasons for buying, the stuff we use, the media and the advertising we are exposed to is all a relativity new reality. One of the dominant aspect of this new reality that stands out in distinguishing  our society today from 100 or 200 years ago would be the amount of “stuff”. The stuff  that now occupies the shelves of shops, home , garages and factories, warehouses , trash piles and landfills around the world.


The marriage of the manipulative

As production methods advanced, we suddenly were able to produce more and more “things” For the first time in history supply came before demand, and suddenly  wants and need required creating. Also as the ability to produce increased, so did transportation infrastructure, allowing for faster and more effective distribution. As all of this boomed  and expanded, so did the advent of media and its function as vehicle to sell and promote all the “things” now being produced. As media’s ability to entertain and inform gave direct access to the minds of those with the money to spend , clinched the vital requirement in the triad for growth,  Production , Distribution and now Consumption. From the newspapers appearing from the printing press, to radios occupying living rooms throughout the world, to televisions being fixed in the corner of almost everyone lounge room in the western world, ,followed by PCs, laptops, smartphones and tablets we exist surrounded by the inescapable voice of advertising that becomes the digital wallpaper for everyone’s life . Now the apparatus of the media is merging into to one pervasive multi- medium. TV, phone, radio and computer now seamlessly  crisscross in the mean of how we communicate and how we receive information and entertainment.  Information migrates back and forth, across multiple screens of all shapes and sizes, as we watch TV on our phones, play computer games on our TV and call a friend from our tablet. This technology now determines how we communicate with anyone outside of earshot. It’s the delivery machine for all the information and our understanding of what goes on in the world. Yet also not just a means, is also a “what” in how’ we spend our time and the way we work. Now in every stage of  the media’s evolution from print to radio, radio to television and so on, there has been discreetly placed“advertising”. Media draws them in and advertisers make it worth their while to procure them their desired “mind time” so  they can flog whatever it is they are selling.  .

How do you lie without lying?

freedomYet there has always been a fundamental problem in the selling of many good and services, that is, How do you make someone want and need something that in fact they have no awareness of any want or need for that product? Beyond  physical  and basic needs for shelter, clothing, food and water, anything else we need and wants come from a different of part of us. When surveys have been done asking people what is it they need to be happy, people overall do not say a “Porsche” or “luxury villa” and even if they did, it still would be about how those things made them feel. Most often the needs mentioned are related to their feelings of themselves and others. People want to feel in control of their life, they want warm and loving family relationship. They want to feel self-confident and proud of who they are, they want to be liked and respected and have a close circle of friends. I know myself, if asked what do I need to be happy? I would answer much the same, to be free of some of my negative beliefs about myself and to be good father, husband,brother, son and friend to all those close to me. So the stark reality when it comes to the consumption of products, “things”, “stuff”, most of it I don’t need or want. Yet I do, yet people do, we are turbo consumers, yet if  most of us want closeness and connection why do consume in the frenzied way we do?

Pairing together ,what is in fact apart

It is  here the crux of the title of the article comes in advertising the malware of the mind. As far back as the earlier 1920s advertisers worked out that just providing the information about the products was not enough.To get people to buy, these deeper needs for love, attraction, connection, respect, approval and so on had to be paired with these inane and lifeless objects.  The specifications of a how a car was built, was no longer good enough to sell them. The car had to mean other things, status, respect, modernity, control. This could be done not just with the pairing of the affirming wants with “having” but also by playing on peoples fears and insecurities by “not having” Promises had to be made, without actually promising, as at heart what was required to get people to buy things they didn’t in fact need to manipulate, trick and fool people into thinking and associating that product with a needs that they want to fulfil. So you link a perfume with feeling attractive, sensual and desired, rather than just listing the ingredients and how it smells. Yet to really make it work, in addition to the message there was needed an adequate opportunity to expose people to that message. It here that the marriage of media’s  ability to capture peoples time and attention, advertising was able to boom. As we see behind most newspapers, radios, TV stations and now more and more internet browsing, advertising is  being the primary source of revenue. The marriage works because the advertisers say, we will give you more money, if you provide us with the more access to as many eyeballs and brains as possible. So ways and means to get that attention came about  through providing entertainment,  sports, romance , music, news, and so on. What gets them in front of the TV or tablet screen is relatively inconsequential  as longs it not anti-consumption, which always safeguard against anything to truthful.

Billions of eyes fixed on a black square.

If you think about it 100 years ago it would have been a  large corporations wildest dream, if someone was to say 50 years from now, a black box will sit in the corner of every family home in the USA and every night millions upon millions of families who have money to buy things,will stare mindlessly into this box, put themselves in semi-hypnotic state in order to be entertained, amused or enthralled ,all for the price of having to sit through your advertisements. In addition to that  they are told this TV will bring about this captive audience, not just once, but over and over, evening after evening, day after day, year after year. As farfetched as that may have sounded 100 years ago, that has come to be and more .As competition has increased and getting access and then getting those minds to pay attention has got harder and harder, so they have had to reach further and further, working to colonise every inch of visual and auditory space  and fill it with an ever increasing need for more provocative, engaging and attention grabbing messages. If you live in a city, anytime you spend outside everywhere you look, on buses, billboards, in schools, on the back of receipt, toilet urinal, there will advertisements. That eye and ear pollution is everywhere and all facets of life actively working to hypnotise us to into thinking that getting things, having this, doing that, looking this way , will get us the feelings we are looking for.

Malware we dont choose or at times dont even know is there..

What makes it malware is it hides is true message and  they take what’s healthy and good in us, being our need for closeness and feeling good about ourselves, then ruthlessly exploits  it to make money . Yet if someone made the living from making advertisements I would think it’s likely they don’t feel the same way I do .They could argue that once an adult, every person has free will and can chose whatever it is they want. Advertisers don’t point a gun to peoples head and make them buy that specific brand of anti-dandruff shampoo. They made that choice themselves, so get off your high horse and stop demonising the advertisers.Although this is true from one angle, it doesn’t take into account the environment or context that we choose from.For many people may not have close relationships, they may in fact yearn for some kind of intimacy as the automation and dreariness of many people day to day lives, compels them to find something, somewhere that makes them feel a certain way. It’s in the context where people aren’t aware that they are being manipulated, they are just willing to accept that they have been told will give them the feelings they want. So if we don’t get to choose the context of how our choices are made, then it makes that person less free to “do a they will” as it appears.

Whats possible

What galls me about advertising is how it monopolies such a wonderful and creative medium of communication. There are so many other things that could be used with TV, radio, and other form of communication. Yet as all major TV stations, radio stations etc.all rely on advertising revenue, there always has to be time and space for products to be pushed and a ”shopping friendly “ atmosphere surrounds the commercials. So if we are going to be surrounded bombarded and pushed why not let it be for something that does some good, something that advances people and societies wellbeing ,instead of the inanity of just buying stuff.  I personally believe that each of us has within us a unique way in which we can contribute to the betterment of ourselves and the world, each person and each society, is enriched with an internal value that in individuals it may expresses itself as love, kindness and creativity and socially as unity, friendship, purpose and connection. And the culture we inhabit, should be working to draw forth (which is the original meaning of the word education)those qualities from society and individuals .Yet the medium of advertising is about implanting in order to invoke unoriginal, unauthentic beliefs and ideas that suppress those better parts of us. All happens when we “buy the lie” the outcome will always put us back to where we started. Independent of what useless production does to our planet, which is its own standalone issue, the advertising that surrounds us should be seen as poison.  As we see it this way, we can then reclaim what is truly our own thoughts, our true feeling and reside in what is an authentic experience of ourselves.

Seeing lies behind truth

Advertising mental pollutes both the individual and the society. As externally we force feed “toxic mind slime” and told it’s what we want, its democracy, its freedom, thus creating a hard to shake cognitive dissidence. That feeling that something is not right but all around me I’m being told it is .I think it’s that feeling so many people identify within the movie “The Matrix”. That this world we are told is real , is somehow not real or another way of looking at it is what we are told is truth, is in fact a lie .In the same way it hard to drawn in deep breath of fresh, clean air when you’re in smog filled city, so to, is feeling at ease and at peace with oneself when we are breathing in all the time the “smog of advertising” and the empty value system that shape it .

Evidence of its power

People may think or say “well it doesn’t affect me, I just switch of and don’t even take it in” which may be true for that person but when we look at consumption around the world, of “stuff” that is essentially unessential,  there obviously are many people who are not being “unaffected” and who are unable to “switch off”. Then in other parts of the world that haven’t reached our sickening consumption, we are envied  and aspired to. As if somehow you know you have arrived at the Promised Land when you see the golden arches. So for now most of the world is just consuming like its business as usual. Which makes sense that most “captivated” captive is the one who think they are in fact free. As they think the food they are forced to eat, the prison walls that determine where and how far they can wonder, are in fact things they are choosing. This is a prisoner that will put up no resistance and that will resent or fear those who do. I think we all can fall prey to this mind set and live our lives in a kind of mindless way, buying things, doing things, accepting things without really asking the important questions.

Bypassing the cunning craft and getting to the source of how we meet our needs..

So I think if you start to see advertising, not a benign imagery but an misleading , cunning , destructive and illusory feature of our culture, at minimum it allows to have your guard up, to be more vigilant in shielding our kids from its message, guarding ourselves. It also give us the impetus to really embark on journey to know how we “really” get our needs met. What happens when somehow we bypass the middleman selling expensive tickets to nowhere  and go directly to the love and connection we are looking for the whole time?. What happens when we stop looking for answers from those peddling lies and reach out openly to the people and the community, that in fact need us as much as we need them. What happens, I actually don’t know , what I do know is it can only be better that what’s on offer. Finding our original voice, our authentic self and seeing through the mass distraction, falsehoods that encloses us, is one step closer to a world where what we “have” is always second to the love we give.

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