We hardly crisscrossed all the boxes of the last year, and a new one began. I’m still full of everything and I sit around, quite literally, as well as in all other ways. Even more so because of the fact that in December, harshly, destructively and effectively — because I am “professionally deformed” — every advertising message hits me thoroughly and directly. They get me everywhere, directly and relentlessly. I will not go on what I see and hear, because it would only add fuel to the fire.
I just want to argue the fact that I now have to pay to watch a video on national television Internet site by watching a 15-seconds commercial package of suffering. At least I can turn off the volume… So, all this advertising, worse, promotional cacophony, as it approaches the climax, throws me into the state of self-reflecting analysis of the reasons, causes, consequences, and drivers of the business I am, truth be told, also a part of, inevitably.
The fact seems to be that almost no one really likes advertising. “Almost”, in this case, means I have to exclude all of us who actually do like it, because it can be something fun, creative, and very emotional. And all of those who make a good living because of advertising. And all the media who need it like a desert needs water. And all those and others… So, does it mean that, in fact, many people love it? Well, not quite. The real emotional-erotic feelings of humanity toward advertising range from platonic-ambivalent-ignorant to extremely repulsive. 5-year-olds who can repeat every latest TV ad they saw in the commercial break are excluded here. Their brains are still very much like Sponge Bob, and they still can’t tell what’s really important or what’s just useless, but they will learn soon enough. Many others, on the other hand, would give couple of fingers to get rid of it, but you can’t.
Advertising has grown a beard so long and roots so wide that I won’t even dare to try to find its origins, but if not before, it was well alive at the ages of goods trading when some miserable sheep keeper, full of milk and sweaty under hundred layers of wool, which he had pulled over his head, was able to cleverly rename that same wool into a merino and angora and cashmere wool (with capital first letters) and what-not, so he could exchange it for a few pounds of carrots, apples, a prehistoric version of PlayStation, and a pint of milk for a home-made beer, which effectively erased his memory of where he gets home to his better half while the beer was still fresh enough. Must have had a marvelous brainstorm in his synapses to have figured out the integrated marketing strategy, where to hit the target group and which media to use. Later this undoubtedly became a real hobby to many, until in the twentieth century, it finally became quite serious, multi-billion and world spinning business.
Then came the golden fifties and sixties, Beetles and lemons, real Mad Men, colors, festivals, media, and it all crashed in the previously described unbearable whistling and buzzing and screaming and glaring, and there was soon too much of everything. Unfortunately, the radio did not destroy the print, television did not destroy the radio, the Internet didn’t destroy the TV, everything is just accumulating and multiplying. And then we felt that there will be a big bang, when all three thousand or how many advertising messages hit us every day, compacted in an extraordinary concentrate, would suddenly burst into the width of the universe, flow far away from us, and suddenly leave the liberating silence all around us.
We grew used to overlooking. Watching beyond. Closing our eyes. Ignoring it. Not seeing, not hearing, not feeling it. Not registering. We are no longer a wall, we are more like the horizon over which the infinite and continuous murmur of the sea in the distance spreads. A murmur that never mutes, but we aren’t listening any more. Once we used the advertising block to flee to the bathroom just to be hit by another ad from the magazine there, but now we can stare at the TV, but we don’t see anything. Perhaps the future will put this almost revolutionary leap in the evolution of mankind onto some exceedingly eminent pedestal, and today, we still don’t quite understand it.
But there is something else we don’t understand. That same advertising (if all this mess of messages that occupy a myriad of forms is pumped into one word for a simplification) moved from a violent, omnipresent, and completely visible at the same time into almost imperceptible and hidden somewhere behind. If it has previously been mostly noticeable (because it must be by definition), it’s now mainly a must, omnipresent and omnipotent. If it was previously only the tip of the iceberg, it’s now everything that is hidden under the sea. Previously, it was the horn of the car, now it’s the engine. Advertising has perhaps imperceptibly, yet effectively, began to run the world.
Am I exaggerating? Absolutely. A bit of this, however, is true. Think about just how much time you spend on the Internet (in one form or another). How many hours? Every day? Okay, you have a number in front of you? And now think of the Internet and the one-two-three pages you frequently visit. Did you just mention Facebook? What about Google? Only two of the biggest. All, or almost all, of what they give us, especially Google, which seems to be more altruistic and omnipotent than the good man who visits us in December, is apparently free of charge. Search engines. Mail. Photo services, chat rooms, walls, apps, maps, games, translators, and much more. As if somewhere far away, someone is sitting at a giant table and pushing buttons for the gifts that are being sent to us, gift after gift. But “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” Someone has to pay for all of that. And that someone is advertising. That someone is millions of businesses that pay for ads, information, links, contacts, databases, analytics, and targeting, and thus enable Google and Facebook and all the others to keep giving us everything that we wish and need, and which we can’t live without anymore. That someone is you who clicked with the mouse, typed “how to lose weight and a week without starving” (tip) into the search engine and watched and explored and visited… All I can say is: thank you.
Today, the entire world is one giant advertisement. And without advertising, it would have probably just stopped. All that we have left is a bit of ignorance, pretending that the unbearable noise really started to move away, or face it. But there is another way. We can try to be Elon Musks and create better, different, more advanced and friendlier machines that drive the world. At the end, the essence of all the advertising is a message, a piece of information that needs to find its way from the sender to the person to whom it is intended. Maybe next time, we can send it in a better, friendlier, and more efficient way. There are many ways, some of them are good. And we can always look for those that are better than the others.