Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Our basements are full of junk

The King of Bhutan would like to abolish adverts. No, seriously.

Think of any Vintage advert. Like this one which they've preserved for posterity here in Viking City. Isn't it pleasingly straightforward? While possibly not being 100% truthful, it does at least have the redeeming feature that any out-and-out porkies remain at the front of your mind where they can easily be dealt with, rather than being quietly slipped down into the subconscious, from where they are almost impossible to remove.

Like a lot of other things in life, adverts have simply become too "efficient" for their own good. What started out early last century as a business of simply informing people about your business, has now morphed, with the help of thousands of millions of pounds, some disciples of Freud, and a conniving nod from every government on earth, into an industry that does for people's mental landscapes what the coal and oil industries (among others) are busy doing for our physical ones.

Don't believe me? That bottle of fizzy sugary liquid should put you in mind of the resulting unwanted flab or trip to the dentists. Instead it probably invokes images of slim, tanned people (with perfect teeth) on tropical beaches or having a fun night out on the town. The sports kit with the same logo as that worn by the indifferent local likelies in the pub, rather than reminding you of them, in "advertising fact" turns you into an elite athlete. I could go on.

It gets worse...adverts have also been busy telling us that our own efforts are futile: don't struggle to find the words for that thank-you letter, just buy Auntie our chocolates instead. Don't bother making your own jam, buy ours instead. I wonder what decades of this pep-talk has done to people's confidence.

But...supposing I have bought something and am genuinely delighted with it, and think the world would be a better place if more people would do the same? I might put up comments on, for example, a public internet forum, about our new PV roof. Is that an advert? The people who installed it are, after all, a purely commercial enterprise. Going a step further, ethical or mutual firms need to be able to tell people why the world might be a better place if we would put our custom their way. They put their information up on (for example) my Facebook page and I "share" it: not just information about the goods this time, but the name of the provider too: would the King of Bhutan's finest come round here and drag me off to the slammer?

And there's more: how would anyone know what was on at the local theatre or music venue if there were no flyers? Would a web-page count as an advert? Even displays in shop-windows are designed to entice buyers in: they, too, are therefore adverts...

In the time it has taken me to write this page, the post (with its usual complement of adverts) has arrived, and an ice-cream van has played its amplified chimes in our street (with the weather a balmy ten degrees, I might add).

The Advertising Standards Authority (remember them?) exists to make sure adverts are "Legal, Decent, Honest and Truthful". Given that "Honest" and "Truthful" are synonyms, perhaps we should change the last to "Don't raid the subconscious"? 

Because I'm willing to bet that there are genuine health benefits from not having a subconscious that's cluttered with the festering by-products of adverts.

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