One of the implicit messages in the advertisements we see is, in effect, “You are not adequate, you are not pretty enough, thin enough, healthy enough, popular enough, rich enough.” Further, “The world is a threatening and difficult place and you are not up to the task.” And then comes the pitch, “Buy our product and you’ll make it, you’ll measure up and solve life’s challenges. You won’t be so pathetic and ill equipped.” So the basic recipe is: incite fear and push the product as a solution.
And to be fair, the advertisements often do this with humor and creativity. Further, it is not wrong to sell a product to help meet a need. Needs are simply facts of human existence and people and companies do have good products to help us meet these needs.
But in the end we need to be more consciously aware that not every fear or apparent inadequacy elicited by an advertiser is a real or legitimate fear, or actual inadequacy. We don’t all have to be young, good looking, popular and perfectly healthy to be happy. I used to be young tan and trim, increasingly now, I am old, white and fat. But God is good and I am quite happy and more blessed than I deserve. I am also reasonably healthy, despite the extra weight. And even if advertisers insist that I should look and feel as I did at 25, I’m not buying into the fear, guilt and inadequacy thing. It’s wonderful to get older. And though my outer self, my body, is less sound and sleek, my inner self is being renewed day by day (cf 2 cor 4:16). I am more alive today than I ever was at 25.
Another thing that goes unsaid is the ultimate inadequacy of anything in this world to really satisfy us. Despite the many promises of ads and other media, no one product or even a huge collection of many products can really fill the God-sized hole in our hearts. I will say, there are many things that bring convenience and comfort. But, in the end, they don’t really cut the deal when it comes to deep satisfaction. In fact, the more we have, the more dissatisfied we seem to be. This is probably due to the unrealistic expectations all these creature comforts and pervasive ads strive to create. But in the end the words of Ecclesiastes still ring true:
All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. (Ecclesiastes 1:8-10)
Indeed, this world cannot live up to its hype. That longing in your heart which too easily is translated as “Buy a new car,” is better translated, “Seek always the face of the Lord” (cf Psalm 27:8) . Occasionally a new car is warranted but it won’t do the trick the advertisers say. A good beer, or a glass of wine can cheer the heart, but not really heal it .
So here we are in media world permeated with many unrealistic premises. We do well to ponder the often unquestioned assumptions of these marketers, even as we enjoy and use some their products.
In the following two videos, both Bud Light commercials, there are actually a couple of moments when the veil is pulled back and the inadequacy of the product is admitted, albeit in a humorous and subtle way.
In the first ad, two men are hopelessly bored as they sit through an opera with their wives. But Bud Light (smuggled in) comes to the rescue! Unfortunately, the glass bottles prove insufficient to withstand the opera as the “fat lady” sings. Alas, the beer could not really come through in the end! But wait! There is a twist in the end, maybe it really “can.” You just need the new and improved version! Nevertheless, just for a moment we see that maybe beer can’t really make everything OK.
In the second ad, our beer drinkers have installed rubber floors so that they will never break a beer bottle again. But alas, there are unintended consequences that emerge. And here too is a brief moment of truth as we learn that beer isn’t everything, and that choosing to make beer the point, may cause harm to other things we value. A brief moment of truth that “Dog-gone-it, you can’t have it all, even with beer at the center!”
By the way, nothing personal with Bud Light. Your blogger enjoys a nice cold Bud light from time to time!
Photo Credit: Trash on Earth.com