Society is being built on ever more sophisticated lies based on myths, spurious claims and fear. It sounds like the start of some conspiracy theorists political rantings against the brexit vote.
Yet while myths, claims, fear and lies are repeatedly peddled by politicians of all colours, the worst offenders are advertisers.
Despite marketing and advertising permeating every facet of our society, the sector is almost entirely self or under regulated, relying on the efforts of the general public to police misleading and false and counter claims. Even then, the Advertising Standards Authority – the main watchdog – managed to ban more than 4,500 ads last year alone.
A decade ago, before Facebook, Twitter and the like took hold of our consciousness, including logos and brands rather than pure ads, estimates are that we consumed around 3,500 brands every single day. Today it is more like 5,000. In the meantime, the number of pure paid for propaganda adverts that we see on average hovers around 400 every 24 hours and rises every year.
Quite how they know this is beyond me – and probably beyond them. But the point is we see an awful lot of these – around 146,000 paid for pieces of corporate advertising a year – selling crap we don’t really need, don’t really want and can’t really afford. And despite this, we have just one watchdog retrospectively and reactivity vetting whether these ads are bone fide in their claims only once someone has complained about it.
This means that as long as no one checks those stats then no one will complain. No one complains then it means I can keep using the ad. Someone complains and the ruling gets upheld I can also get more publicity for my claims. Extending the truth beyond recognition is a win-win for me as a company but a lose-lose for people.
Why does it matter? It is all harmless after all. Yet adverts are specifically designed to sell things that are neither good for us or particularly useful in making our lives better. You never see an advert telling you to stop buying stuff and you never see an advert telling you to buy decent things – like fruit or tap water.
But you do see a huge amount of advertising selling you stuff that is inherently not good for you, your family, society or the planet. From vitamin pill ads that make you believe they improve your health (they don’t) to fast food ads that make you believe you will be happier for eating them (they won’t); from bookmaker and lottery ads helping you to dream that it could be you (it won’t be) to car and deodorant ads tricking you in to thinking that driving their brand of car or squirting their BO buster will make you sexier (it most certainly will not) – these companies are selling unfulfillable dreams based on lies that will make you unhappier and damage the planet when you buy their CO2 emission spewing product.
The society we live in doesn’t even ask if this is harming us. Instead everyone believes that the ads are not affecting them – that they won’t be tricked by the marketeers techniques and they buy the stuff they buy on their own free will. Tell that though to the $1trillion industry that is all pervasive throughout every echelon of the establishment and our economy.
It works for everyone that you buy more stuff – even if it is based on lies. It works for the politicians who can cheer the great economic news. It works for the industry who can woo multi-national companies with demonstrations of how many units they can flog by overselling their guff. It works for the media as that is how they make a profit – filling ad spaces. The only person or people who don’t benefit is you and your family. The lies, the fear, the added money you spend on stuff pushing you further into the red. All of it. All of it is again and again designed to screw you.
So buy a banana, drink some water, don’t buy anything for a week. Fight those powers that are stopping you from being happier. It may even work. You may feel just a little bit merrier and it will cost you less than nothing.