Aug 192015
 

I never understood the point of advertising. Oh, I’ll admit any day that if all my friends are raving about Vex – “and you know, it actually works,” – I might very well buy Vex regardless of what it’s for or whether I need it. But if some smooth humanoid that looks like Bambi pops up on my device and starts reeling off reams of pseudo-scientific twaddle about Vex’s riboneucleic effect on the peptic lumen of my wrinkles – not to mention if Bambi uses expressions such as “nature’s own” (in which case Vex is probably made of seaweed) – I’ll go and make a cup of coffee or turn off the device. Most likely the latter, because Bambi will be be sure to turn up again in the course of whatever it is I’m watching, and I won’t want more than one cup of coffee.

No, I never understood the point of advertising. Until now, that is. Now that I am actually paying a little attention to the ongoing election campaign in my country. (No need to look it up – just municipals, no big deal.) And now I finally understand the point of advertising.

You see, if you’re producing something you know will most likely not have the desired effect, you can’t let Bambi tell the public, “well, at least it probably won’t hurt you” or “it may stain your clothes”  or “be sure to bring an iron with you wherever you go”. With her gleaming unnaturally bright soft smile, she will – nay, she must – say that our wrinkles will disappear within 6 months, or that there is a 6-year guarantee or simply: no wrinkles. If you’re producing something that is essentially just seaweed or sawdust, your product’s survival hinges on your capacity to convince us, the public, what it is not, to wit: worth our money. Mind you, we, the public will be paying not only for the seaweed and the blender, packaging, pectin and chemical preservatives but for a bevy of lawyers hovering over every word uttered or written by your company. In spite of all their legalese precautions, there are always a few cranks around who will take you to court because they can effectively prove that the wrinkles did not go away, so you also need a few economists who can calculate the potential losses of the worst case number of lost lawsuits.

Q: But what if the campaigning politician is actually telling the truth, what then?

A: Stupid question. The only people who will vote for him or her will be friends and family. Who wants truth, for heaven’s sakes? Elections are like Christmas parties. We want gifts. That is what we have been taught to expect. Why would we otherwise take the trouble of standing in line somewhere to cast a ballot? We want something in return, don’t we.

Q: But surely there are some politicians and some voters who……?

A: Yes, yes, all right. Of course there are people, even some politicians, both on the so-called left and the so-called right side who seriously care – and many of them are even well-informed, take pains to stay informed and believe it is their duty as citizens to try to understand the complexities of our world. Nevertheless, the bottom lines of elections always tend to smack of seaweed or, worse, sawdust.

Q:Why? Anybody can have their say!

A: Yes, but not during elections. Elections are not about issues, but about what political party will get the job of governing the country or municipality. The people who talk are elected by their parties to say nice cheerful things that will make voters happy and vote for them, not the things that will depress voters.

For instance: Europe is tiny and there is a tidal wave of desperately poor and traumatised people rocking its fragile outer borders. Already, there are many cracks in the border, and people just go on dying by the thousands, attempting to cross. How do our politicians propose to deal with this issue? Some of them say (thankfully, many others do not agree) “We don’t want refugees here!” Have they ever taken a moment off from their politicking to imagine what would happen if the tables turned, if Europe were sacked, as the Roman empire once was, by very angry, very illiterate and very hungry millions? Where would we go? Who would give us asylum? Do you think voters want to hear about that?

True, these are only municipal elections, so the global situation is really not on the agenda. But the climate should be. Is my municipality willing to carry its part of the burden of changing the way we live here? This is a cold country. We use an awful lot of electricity. It is also a very long and sparsely populated country, so we use an awful lot of cars to get around. In 2014, carbon emissions from road traffic had  grown by 25% compared to 1990, while our total greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 3-4%. Do you think voters want to be told that from now on, they will not be allowed to drive to work?

So, yes, by all means, try Vex. Maybe the wrinkles will disappear, but if they don’t, don’t worry, be happy.

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