When I was an adolescent, I was exploring the bookshelf in our living room and found a book on subliminal advertising. I can't remember who wrote it or the exact title, but I will never forget the picture with the word "sex" in the ice cubes of a caramel colored soft drink. From that point on, I was on my guard about advertising.
As an adult, I have been wary of advertising and found ways to avoid it by watching PBS, using VCRs to zip through the commercials and to spend time reading. I did a lot of reading in books and magazines then.
So today, it is with some surprise that I find an article on the same subject. I was trawling through Facebook and found a link from The Anti-Media. That link led me to an article on The Mind Unleashed website. You can find the article here with all the gory details. That article has very good suggestions on how to protect your mind from subliminal advertising on TV.
But what I want to talk about today is the anti-morality of subliminal advertising as a consumer. As noted previously, I know that it's out there. I avoid watching TV on the air because I know that there I have to expend extra effort to fight off the images, sounds and hidden messages in advertising. If I can't skip the commercials, then the source isn't worth watching.
That means you too, Hulu. I hate Hulu and don't care to watch anything there. If I want to watch a television program without the advertising, I go to Netflix. Then I can watch my program in peace, even it the program has been cancelled long ago. I'm just not that desperate to watch current content.
I have a basic principle that I follow when it comes to advertising, and it's very important when it comes to food, but I still follow it as a general rule. If I see a product advertised, I make an immediate assumption that I don't need it. The message in advertising video is "you want this thing so that you can feel better about yourself in the presence of others". From mouthwash, to soap, to a shiny new Lexus, it's all about feeling better when I'm around other people.
I also make another assumption about advertising. If I need or want your product, I'll find it myself when I'm good and ready to buy. You don't tell me when to buy your product. Ever. But if there is a sale price on the product, I might consider that when other priorities have been factored in. You know, like feeding my family homecooked meals with fresh fruits and vegetables. Or taking my kids to the park. Yeah, those are priorities.
When I go to the grocery store to stock up, I see the produce section as the safest place to go. There is simply no shiny, sexy or flashy packaging. It's just fruit and veggies. I need fruit and veggies and because they are unprocessed commodities, there isn't that much that can be done to them to alter their appearance beyond breeding. GMOs are making their way in, but that is another article. The main principle I try to follow there is to buy organic.
Consider the dilemma then of a company that wants to sell their product. If a company CEO believes he has a good product to sell, that will stand on the merits relative to other products, why stoop to subliminal advertising? Why should any manufacturer need to manipulate me into buying their product if it is that good? Because everyone else is doing it?
I think about this anytime I happen to see two bears discussing the merits of toilet paper. Every time I see Tony the Tiger discussing the merits of corn flakes. Every time I see that guy with the glasses saying, "Can you hear me now?" Every time I see the Apple icon. These icons, like the golden arches of McDonald's, are there to remind us that we need or want some product. They have nothing to do with what our needs are.
This is why I avoid watching TV. This is why I cut the cord for television. There is plenty of good content out there online that is not intended to wash our minds of our conscience, our will to survive or our desire to make our own choices about what we want to buy. There is CSPAN and PBS. There is Al Jazeera Online and the BBC. There is 24 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute. There is Vimeo and and a plethora of other sources that have user created content. They all have something to share, not something to buy.
Sharing is what the internet is made for. Advertising is not about sharing. It's about a struggle for the mind of our society. Then the question is, do we want our content from people who want to share or people who want to sell?