Thursday, 11 April 2002

Advertising Reality

Why are we so easily fooled by advertising? I'd say most consumers are bright and aware and wise to the ways of marketing media, but still they buy shoes to make them faster, exercise machines to make them stronger, protein shakes to help them lose weight, and shirts with stripes aligned for a sleek, trim silhouette. Are the shoes, the machine, the drink, or the clothes what make us the shape we are? No, absolutely not. Even though these items might be beneficial to the body physique such as good, light-weight shoes that fit well can make our feet feel better and ready for walking and jogging to enhance health, the shoes themselves are not automatic nor self-motivated. It is the wearer who counts and who must do the work to reach success.

If you watch television very often you know how advertising softens our senses and sets us into buying mode. Do you need a burger right now? Probably not but that tantalizing hunk of meat topped with fresh vegetables, melted cheese, and gooey sauce is quite inviting and may force you from the lounger to those special, aforementioned shoes and into the care for a zip through the drive-through window for a carry-out bag of delicious, dripping with grease delight. Forget the lack of hunger or diet promises and live for the moment.

Advertising coerces us to purchases every item under the sun, 99% of which we do not need. Say, for example, you have a fairly new car that runs great and gets excellent mileage and then the hunky movie star waltzes onto your screen, smiling as he jangles the twinkling keys and slides into the smooth leather of a new ride. The idea starts to itch your brain as you gaze out the window at "Old Reliable" in the driveway. Easy financing, friendly service, and soothing voices beckon and guess what? Tomorrow you are at the car dealer signing up for a deal. Even when money is tight, auto dealers have a method to entice buyers with a "lower than your old payment" appeal and soon you are happily driving a revolving money pit as you ride the new car cycle again and establishing an always a new car lifestyle.

Advertising can be educational as facts are provided, photos are shared, actors and actresses offer feedback on vacations, homes, ways to travel, gardening supplies, job possibilities, and on and on. Advertising gurus are excellent at their trade and they know how to bend our heart and mind strings to get what they want us to want. If 97% of all Americans buy Product X, why would I want to be an outsider, a loner, and purchase something different. If I came out in public with the wrong make-up, wrong clothes, and wrong hair color, my life could become a disaster. And for some, especially those chased by the paparazzi this might be true, but certainly this is not my case.

I did hear a story recently, however, where the shoes would have made all of the difference. A young man had recently moved to a university city from England. At 6'7, 350 pounds he had been an amazing rugby player, one to be reckoned with based on size alone. Recruiting football coaches spied him and invited him to "walk-on" to the team. Going home and chatting with his dad he pointed out that he would need cleats, the special $150 type. His dad, unimpressed with his deal or his plea stated that the bargain store shoes would work just fine for this walk-on affair. Being 18 and aware of status and also a bit stubborn, the son refused the cheap shoes and so no walk-on arrangement arrived. Instead he waited a year for the football call to come around again and instead went to college with his dad's financial support. The next year coaches called again with shoes made available and while he was not a scholarship player until the following year, he then had a full ride to play and complete his education. A lot of money in the long term could have been saved with the purchases of those fancy cleats.