Wednesday, 23 February 2011

How did we let this happen?


Image from Adbusters

I have recently been reading 'No Logo' by Naomi Klein. It was written in 2000 and some aspects are now dated,  but it is a fascinating account of the rise of branding and marketing and many of its points are still relevant to day.

Naomi Klein talks about how brands spend far more on marketing and advertising, than on manufacture and workers wages. They create an image for the brand of luxury and wealth that is far removed from the factories in which they are made, and the working conditions of those making the product. If you have ever felt concerned about sweatshops and where products come from, it is a book well worth reading.

The book discusses how a lifestyle image for a brand is created. I have always disliked many adverts that imply that if you buy the product, you will be prettier, sexier, more successful, have a perfectly tidy house, have a great marriage, travel to distant lands etc. Even more so I dislike adverts that suggest thier brand is superior so will instill envy from your neighbours and friends, or suggest social rejection in its absence. Isn't that a terrible reason to buy a product?

However the thing that struck me most was just the intrusiveness of adverts; that it is impossible to live in the UK and not see hundreds, if not thousands of adverts a day. They are on bill boards in towns and cities, on buses and taxis, at sporting events,in newspapers and magazines, on websites and of course on television. In fact there are few advertising free places anywhere. It is why it is so important that is an advertising free website. How have we let powerful companies intrude into our lives in such a way?

Naomi Klein talks about Reclaim the Streets movements in the 1990s and Culture Jamming of which Adbusters is probably the best known. The spoof ads are refreshing, amusing and show up advertising in their true light and hopefully make people view adverts differently.

It is easy for anyone to get drawn into the promises and images that adverts show to make their products desirable - making them out to be so much more than they really are - and telling us how we should be. Will someone please tell me what is wrong with a few wrinkles? The adverts assume we all agree that they must not be seen. Shouldn't looking older be a good thing - that people are wiser and know more about dealing with life? How have we become a society obssessed with appearance and expensive clothes and cars?

What can we do about his? On a personal level - don't succumb. If I feel the urge to buy a product, I give myself a 'cooling off' period of several days and ask myself if I really need / can afford the product. Learn to question adverts. All ads want to sell you something, so are all their claims really valid. Do you have to buy shampoo to make you feel you are 'worth it?' Do you require a brown sugary drink to have fun with friends?  Enjoy tearing the ads apart. Perfume cannot change the way you look or who will want to go to bed with you, and they certainly can't change your figure. Is it just me who never even notices what perfume someone is wearing. Doesn't soap often smell nicer?

By resisting the advertisers messages and questioning them, you will save money - and disappointment when the product turns out not to be so good after all - not to metion the carbon footprint in its manufacture and very likely the resulting landfill at its (possibly premature) demise.

Buy secondhand whenever possible and make use of sharing and giving websites such as Freecycle and of course charity shops.

What do you think?


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