I’ve worked in advertising most of my adult life and have even written a few TV commercials. I understand the value of advertising, as it brings to light new products and services that in theory, make one’s life simpler or more enjoyable. That is the theory of course—the reality is that most things advertised on TV are things you are told you can’t live without, but don’t necessarily need.

Here’s a thought. Have you ever seen a commercial that advertises the essentialness of drinking water? Before you say, “Hell yes, just the other day I did.” Remember, what you saw was an ad for bottled water extolling the benefits of drinking their brand over others because their water is more pure and water-like in quality in regards to one of the most basic substances on earth.

You’ve never seen an ad that tells you to drink water simply because it’s the building block of life. You have seen ads about how you can’t be an athlete without Gatorade because, “It has stuff that water doesn’t.” Yes, it’s called sugar and judging by the residue it leaves in your mouth, possibly trace amounts of Mrs. Butterworth’s. No average human needs Gatorade—ever, no matter how much crossfit you do. IF we needed it, we probably would’ve heard how Jesus turned water into Glacier Freeze.

And the lord sayeth, it is blue, and it is good, and it has electrolytes

And the lord sayeth, it is blue, and it is good, and it has electrolytes

The end game of advertising is to convince you that this is something that you cannot do without. That your life has been meaningless until this product or service came out and you just didn’t realize it. The television is a perfect example. I know I’ve stared at a photo of a family sitting in their parlor (Now called a TV or family room) just smiling at each other, and possibly even conversing. I can’t help but stare in horrid fascination wondering how they ever did this without a TV show that features people engaged in made-up discussions with each other.

Deodorant is another prime example. Did you know that until right around WWII, no one realized they had body odor? That’s because no one cared until advertising told people through some pseudo-scientific research (Much like the stuff conducted to write this post) that giving off your bodies pheromones through your natural scents was disgusting and that women much prefer when you smell like a pine tree that’s been wrapped in bacon.

Or smell like a potent, bile flavored candle

Or smell like a potent, bile flavored candle

Now that I’ve hammered you over the head with the inherent vices of advertising, it’s important to note how the lack of it creates its own category. This is explained by one of my personal inherent vices, alcohol.

*Note: I just read Inherent Vice and really enjoyed it

Just a really good read if you like snappy, traditional noir style dialogue and intricate plots

Just a really good read if you like snappy, traditional noir style dialogue and intricate plots

Vodka is advertised on TV, but not just any vodka—Grey Goose, Ketel One, Absolut, ya know, the ones mentioned in rap songs. That is advertising in and of itself, but what do all these have in common? A bloated price for something that tastes like the stuff you clean your floors with. They need to convince you that it’s worth paying an extra $30 for this vodka because it’s the choice of cultured people who live by the night, and it was filtered through a glacier or something. But we’re just going to mix it with some juice that will cover up that patented, smooth Grey Goose flavor so we can guzzle it down faster.

Grey Goose is actually French for

Grey Goose is actually French for “Sucker”

The lesson here is that while you’ve never seen an ad for Banker’s Club vodka, you know it and you know it’s also easily masked by cranberry juice. No advertising required because the necessities in life, like cheap alcohol and takeout Chinese food, sell themselves.

The red label says high society, the plastic bottle says good times

The red label says high society, the plastic bottle says low opinion of your self worth

So next time you’re being subjected to some sort of advertising, ask yourself, “Is this something that I really need?” When you inevitably answer yes, at least you’ll have a good idea of why they convinced you.

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