Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Tale of Two Pain-Killer Advertisements.

I've always found myself offended by commercials that don't actually explain why their product is better than another -- let alone prove it -- because I realize that they operate on the concept of impressions. That is, they hope that the commercial itself will be memorable, so that when you remember the commercial -- because it was amusing, exciting, original, etc -- your mind associates the memory with the product. For a simple example, someone trying to cheer up someone else by saying "put a smile on" could result in that person saying, "hmmm, you know I am actually in the mood for some McDonald's."

The business incentive is that what people remember better are images and feelings (what something on TV looked like, or how it made you feel) than they do specifics of nitty-gritty facts, like whether Flonase blocks neutrophils, leukotrienes, histamines, etc (these all show up on the screen for their commercial but the persuasion is far less heady than that. It's a simple "we have 6, the competition has 1. We're better, yay! Buy our product").

The idea that someone's trying to get around my conscious decision-making apparatus and try to get me to buy something not because it's a good choice, but because it's the only product in that category that I can remember by recalling commercials, is insulting to me, because I've always preferentially gravitated toward what I can determine to be true and right and good, rather than what merely makes me feel good or what seems popular.

Plot Twist
Similarly insulting is the "identity politics" of various political movements in vogue at the moment. This is not limited to liberal/leftist/democrat agendas, but they are by far more invested in splitting their constituent demographics into groups and targeting single-issue messages to each one of them. When a political figure says "I think you're too dumb to think about more than one issue at a time," it insults me. But it must work, because candidates for both parties generate massive applause by doing what's called "doling out red meat." The primary season for the Republican 2016 field is getting ramped up, and examples of this include people shouting "God bless America" at the end of the speech, as if that's supposed to make every Christian want to vote for them, regardless of what else they said. But democrats are even more insidious, because they don't just utilize identity politics, they are far more effective than republicans at capitalizing on resentment, envy, hatred of 'the other,' often playing their constituent groups against each other. 

One way they insult you is by pretending that seeing more people "like you" represented somewhere, be it among Olympic sports teams (how many Americans are Olympians?), on television (how many of us are TV stars?), on news broadcasts (how many of us are journalists?), etc, that this will somehow improve your life. This is the insulting lie they tell women, blacks, hispanics and homosexuals, among other groups: that without doing anything significant to improve real life for the vast majority of Americans belonging to those groups, they agitate for rich CEOs to increase the amount of women news anchors, or black film leads, or homosexual sitcom actors, and they do this by telling the constituency to be angry that there aren't "more of them" represented in those positions.

The rich people shuffle the deck, the democrats claim victory, and the constituency feels satisfied with the result of something that does diddly squat to improve their life or liberty. And one simply must ask, "do they really think people are that dumb?"

Apparently they do. Whether people are that dumb depends on how representative the many people who happily follow along with this identity politicking are of the sum of the constituent groups in question.

My Point
And that's why a marketing department can propose this advertisement for an over-the-counter painkiller.

A lot of the promotion of homosexuality in television has been seen as "brave" or "bold," ostensibly because so many people are against it that it must be difficult or risky to endeavor. I suppose that means that the makers of this advertisement likewise think that there must be wide swaths of America that are Adoption-Racists, who don't think people should adopt kids who aren't of the same "race," judging by the still shot alone. It's hard to figure out the reasoning of people who don't expect you to be intelligent. What are they really expecting the response to be?

Well, the clear intent of this Tylenol commercial is to say "gay men raising children are just as good of a family dynamic as a man and woman, therefore, buy our product."

What does a painkiller have to do with homosexual households? Shouldn't I get a painkiller based on whether it reduces my pain? But nope, not according to Tylenol. They're banking on the fact that you don't buy painkillers for any scientific reason, but because you want to support the message and corporate policy of the company that creates the painkiller. They are hoping that you will think, "this company advocates for a single issue that I happen to agree with, so I will buy their product to increase their quarterly profits, to send the message that the American people supports their political views."

In contrast, another common painkiller, Aleve, uses this argument:

Aleve works better than Tylenol or Advil. All day long, all day strong.

It might be true, it might not be, but at least they're making the case that you should buy their product because it works.

Perhaps Aleve's corporate bigwigs are just as pro-ssm as Tylenol's are. That's not the point I'm making here. The point I'm making is, the way in which large companies advertise their products is based on how they are rewarded.

If an ad spot generates more revenue by making a scientific argument: "our product works and is better than the competition's," then they will keep doing that.

If an ad spot generates more revenue by making a political statement: "gay marriage, yay!" then they will keep doing that.

The increase in recent days of similar ads, which portray happy homosexual couples (together with blended families and "interracial" couples, as if those things were morally controversial) being 'just like everyone else,' bottle-feeding babies and living the American Dream, seem to demonstrate that when it comes to the Public's response to advertisements, the People are thoroughly committed to rewarding rich people who treat them according to "identity politics," rather than rewarding people who encourage them to think and make decisions based on what works.

The consequences are readily apparent to that proportion of us which prefers to think.

~ Rak Chazak

PS If a company is incentivized financially to promote a political view that many people will reward them for through increased business, how can anyone make the assessment that those are the sincere views of the company? They could just be "doling out red meat," just like the politicians do to try to get elected, but in this case, just trying to provoke their consumer base by giving them lip service. The only thing you can know for sure about a company touting a particular political view is that they're not morally opposed to it. So the irony is that identity politics applied to corporations is quite likely just manipulation of the portion of the American Consumer that submits to a herd mentality. They're literally treating you like cattle. While, on the other hand, the companies that do not jump on the bandwagon to try to drum up service, stand out by virtue of absence/omission, and ought to merit more curiosity -- why are you not doing what's evidently good for business? Is there something more than profit alone that drives your motivation?

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