What a duck or gecko lizard have to do with car insurance? What about athletic skills and beer? Being priceless and credit cards? Attractive women with detergent? Drinking beer with sports? If you have not transformed your brain into a mashed potato, your answer will be an obvious "no connection." But, everyday we have been bombarded by zillions of commercials associating remotely related or unrelated things and concepts to each other. As if they put the dictionary words in a hat and pick a few and come up with a commercial for their products or services. The big corporations that dish out billions of dollars for advertisements and commercials expect us to prefer their services or products just because their fictional lizard is cute, their duck quacks loud, or because they have a zoo-full other silly and stupid reasons. Commercials are one of the weapons at the disposals of hegemons to infantilize a nation.
You are expected to buy a particular brand of beer since a joke on the commercial make you laugh or the beer-drinking guy watches a sports event like you do. Unfortunately many of us, including highly educated ones, fall into these silly branding games. Very clever and experienced people are hired by corporations to design their ads. Our brains are bombarded, conquered and ultimately branded like a sheep. Learning the terms of our insurance after having an accident, we may end up saying "ouch" instead of quacking like a duck or "talking" like a gecko. Instead of running and jumping like an athlete, it is more likely that a beer drinker, on top of growing a big ugly belly, will increase his or her chance of receiving a traffic ticket or getting handicapped for driving drunk.
According to TNS Media Intelligence, as reported by AdAge.com, in 2007 alone, American corporations spent 149 billion (with letter B) on advertisement! This is approximately 500 dollars spent on each person, child and adult, homeless and homeowner!
According to the same source, the top ten spenders of 2007 are:
1. Proctor & Gamble => $5.2 Billion
2. AT&T => $3.2 Billion
3. Verison Communications => $3 Billion
4. General Motors => $3 Billion
5. Time Warner => $3 Billion
6. Ford Motor Company => $2.5 Billion
7. GlaxoSmithKline => $2.5 Billion
8. Johnson & Johnson => $2.4 Billion
9. Walt Disney => $2.3 Billion
10. Unilever => $2.2 Billion
Those who justify the business of advertising, claim that advertising informs us about new or better products. Though we may never hear about many good products because their producers cannot afford advertising them, I concede that indeed advertising has some merits. Yes, some ads do inform us about new products and services. Furthermore, ads support numerous print, TV and Internet media fully or in part. Without commercials, millions of people could not afford reading, listening and watching news and entertainment. However, the harms of advertising practice may exceed its benefits. Here are some of the harms:
1. Commercials may misinform about products through exaggeration and false association;
2. Commercials may hide information pertinent to the service and product. If advertisers are required by law to state certain harms or side effects, they usually publish them in fine print or in hastily uttered words;
3. Commercials may promote consumerism and contribute to waste and environmental pollution;
4. Commercials may lure kids to nag and demand from their parents and ultimately force them to purchase unnecessary or harmful products;
5. Commercial billboards may create ugly scenes in our cities;
6. All commercials increase the price of products;
7. Commercials may give too much leverage to corporations that want to control or suppress vital information.
Imagine a time in the near future when the truthfulness of the news is as good as a quacking duck. This will happen at a rapidly increasing rate if advertisers are not stopped! Advertisers are controlling more and more of the news, especially relating to their product or service, and altering the facts to promote their objectives. It is a fact that many corporations have threatened magazines such as: Newsweek, Times, and many newspapers to give the corporation a copy of every article before it is published just to make sure it doesn't hurt their company in any way. And if the media doesn't comply with the terms then the corporation will not use that newspaper for its commercials, which is a very big portion of the income for media.
So is it really worthy for a society to have advertising at the cost of losing the free press? Here is a sample of what a corporation does to control the editors of magazines. There are many other aggressive corporations that are equally threatening without the knowledge of public.
"In an effort to avoid potential conflicts, it is required that Chrysler Corporation be alerted in advance of any and all editorial content that encompasses sexual, political, social issues or any editorial that might be construed as provocative or offensive. Each and every issue that carries Chrysler advertising requires a written summary outlining major theme/articles appearing in upcoming issues. These summaries are to be forwarded to PentaCom prior to closing in order to give Chrysler ample time to review and reschedule if desired . . . As acknowledgement of this letter we ask that you or a representative from the publication sign below and return to us no later than February 15." - From a letter sent by Chrysler's ad agency, PentaCom, a division of BBDO North America, to at least fifty magazines.
Even though advertising is very crucial in our daily lives for picking "trustworthy" and 'reliable" products, we must ask whether there is a point where we, the consumers, should draw a line and stop advertisers to influence the content of magazines, TV and radio broadcasting? We hold the power to change what we want as a unified community. Should we wait around and let corporations peddle their advertising with impunity so that they influence and control every portion of our lives and control our decision?
I wonder how much auto-censorship is being practiced by mass media, which are dependant on ad revenues. I wonder why we do not hear much about the robbery practices of banks that charge hefty of overdraft fees to their customers by employing tricky computer programs to lend them unsolicited small credits on their debit cards (See my article titled Bank Robbers) I wonder why we do not hear much about the contribution of the auto industry on the messy state of our mass transportation. I wonder why we do not hear loud enough about the influence of big corporations in construction, oil, and weapon and other industries that make billions of dollars out of unnecessary wars on those who make decisions of war and peace.
I hope that we all start asking these and similar questions and find a way to free the press from the hegemony of big corporations, which have successfully accomplished their mission of hostile takeover of our government. The drafter of our Constitution perhaps did not envision the modern power of corporations and their corrupting influence on the republic. Next time when you watch commercials where athletic guys promote drinking beer, a blond half-naked lady recommends you a car, where a schmoozing gecko or a quacking duck become your insurance advisor, you should also think about the news programs and talk shows presented as facts or "fair and balanced". Watch your valets and brains! Do not forget that through their misinformation and disinformation services, through their talking geckos and expert ducks, they may also sell you wars that are criminal, budgets that are unbalanced, governments that are corrupt.