Advertising! It pays for things! Like TV shows about real housewives (made of plastic that have paying jobs) and cats from Hades! And journalism about similarly important affairs! Sometimes, FAMOUS PEOPLE star in it! Its like seeing movies for free just with no plot and mostly Photoshopped to Hello! magazine headquarters and back rendering the celebrities dead-eyed and hollow! Celebrities in ads, they're just like us!
But advertising is a cruel mistress and a minx. It draws us in with punchy copy and sexy models then makes us spend wages we're not earning on products that will render us neither sexy nor punchy. It transforms once lithe magazines into monstrous tomes and prevents us from getting straight to the "Anaconda" video on Youtube where we all belong. It makes otherwise sane people develop crushes on a sociopathic human Eeyore named Don Draper as he waxes poetic with his convoluted word wizardry and day drinking.
Yet some ad campaigns have seemed to transcend all that hogwash and glitter and get to the heart of something deeper, some poignant note about the endurance of the human spirit in a vulnerable world. Surely everyone has been touched by an ad that made them feel a little more certain in an uncertain world. To those people, I'd like to introduce myself. I am a big wet blanket full of a dose of truth more potent than the case of smallpox that hippie family's kid is carting around because he wasn't vaccinated. Which is why I am about to ruin some inspiring ads that might have momentarily warmed that delicate fist-sized organ in your chest cavity.
THAT FRIEND THAT GOT YOU, FACEBOOK
Facebook has ads for Facebook on Facebook. The one below recently emerged and it was soooo cute because we all have that friend that just GETS ITS when you wear a miniature green cowboy hat. But Facebook is mostly not home to those types of friends. It is home to monstrous strangers that look like people you once knew.
You see, once upon a time, only an elite gang of private school brats and outlying bandits that craftily stole .edu email address with impunity were able to have Facebook accounts. Back then, it was super exciting to connect to someone you hadn't seen since junior high because it had only been like five years since you had seen them. Maybe back then, this ad had some truth. But the democratization of Facebook means that longer stretches of time pass between when you last spoke to someone and when you connect with them on the ole 'book. Conversations nowadays go something like this:
Jean: Glory, Miranda! So great to get connected again! It has been an age!
Miranda: Hasn't it though? We had so much fun together on the pep squad! I can't even remember the last time we saw each other.
Jean: I think it was in 1988 at the 10 year reunion at the Marriott. You and Pascal had just returned from your honeymoon to the Corn Palace out in Mitchell. What HAVE you been up to?
Miranda: Oh when our last daughter moved out, Pascal and I sold the house and moved into a cabin where I run a vegan nihilist blog while he builds an empire on Etsy selling crafts made from squirrel bones. What about you?
Jean: I'm a professor at Columbia and spend most my weekends hosting underground salon discussion where local elites plan a fascist coup to further fortify existing structures of power and lord over the unwashed masses...(PAUSE) I do love cooking with tempeh!
Miranda: Oh tempeh is on its way out, I'm much more vegetable than grain-based in the recipes for my blog that is ultimately pointless in this world void of meaning or any truly moral actors!(PAUSE) So....you always did have big ambitions! Salon discussions, huh?
Jean: That's what I fucking said, isn't it, you wood-dwelling peasant?
Miranda: Your revolution will fail, Jean. All the revolutions will fail.
Jean: You'll have to give me the link to your blog!
Miranda: Will do! Great catching up!
IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING, ADIDAS
Oh the old, "Let's put our transcendent word salad inspiration copy on top of a larger-than-life public personality and make it seem like she/he said it!" trick. It is a sneaky tactic that has convinced people that Benjamin Franklin invented capitalism and that Harriet Tubman practiced yoga. The "Impossible Is Nothing" campaign did it to a man (presumably with his estate's permission but STILL) with whom one ought not trifle.
First, because Muhammad Ali knows very well that there are a lot of things that are impossible. For example, standing up to unjust wars like the one in Vietnam and not paying dearly for it or recovering from Joe Frazier's vicious left hook. Secondly, because Mohammad Ali has made so many more pointed and blistering critiques of sports, society, race, and war that associating him with this drivel ought to be treason or something. Also, come on Adidas: "Impossible" has ten letters in it, which is just not that big of a word.
EVERYTHING DOVE EVER SAYS ABOUT SELF ESTEEM, UNILEVER
Before Dove started their self-esteem workshops for girls, the world was a wasteland free of any ways of giving girls a sense that they were beautiful such as gentle and encouraging parenting tactics or movements designed to affirm them like Girl Scouts, sports, positive role models, books with strong female leads, feminist teachers, or a kind network of friends. THANK GOD DOVE CAME ALONG TO GIVE THE FIRST DOSE OF BEAUTIFUL FEELINGS TO THESE GIRLS. It only took them so long because their parent company, Unilever, was working on its latest Fair & Lovely campaign to promote the popular skin-lightening products that exists because international beauty standards are still in a chokehold by insidious white supremacy so women all over the world put toxic chemicals on their skin to make it lighter. The good people at Unilever's ad team were also putting the finishing touches on a new Axe Body Spray advertisement where women dressed up in leather cat suits and crawled on the floor toward men as if he were a laser pointer because women degenerate into animals at the mere mention of Axe products. Girls are beautiful, women are sex-crazed cat monster people who could go down a few shades.
LIVE RICHLY CAMPAIGN, CITIBANK
To be clear, I have mad respect for the entire horrifyingly effective Live Richly campaign that Citibank ran early in the century. It included other cutesy and feel-good ads like, "Money can't buy happiness. But it can buy marshmallows, which are kind of the same thing." It was all "hahahahahaha, we understand the neurotic and soul-crushing obsession you have with money, it really is hard to have those feelings. We get it. Come trade a smile. Buy a flower. Laugh harder. Sign up for a financial product that we'll earn obscene amounts of interest on. I mean...eat marshmallows. Yes, yes that's right. Sign at the bottom and initial where I've highlighted. There there, I'm sure she's going to call you."