Mad Avenue 7/10/08

Does anyone else see the relationship between Madison Avenue culture and values and the moral and ethical decline of America? I don’t think it is a topic that comes up often, with such juicy stuff as Iraq, oil, the economy, health care, the environment and transportation dominating the sociopolitical dialogue. The pervasive culture of advertising in America is probably more effective as a back burner issue than if people were discussing it daily. I believe that strategy is by design. Madison Avenue doesn’t want you to know just how much they effect your life.

It’s ok for men to lie to their wives and girlfriends in order to go out drinking with the boys. An expensive, hot car will help break the glass ceiling for women. Fast food is cool. Having gray hair means you won’t be getting any more sex. Go ahead and marry that trophy wife, you will still be able to satisfy her with the help of our pills (although you may have to invest in matching bear claw bathtubs). There is such a thing as clean coal and it is good for America. These are just some of the myriad lies, half truths and myths that advertising would have us believe. And I haven’t even addressed the female body issues which permeate our marketing landscape.

Advertising is such a deeply established tradition in America that we barely notice how ingrained in our consciousness the messages have become. I continually tell my teenage daughter that someone has spent plenty of money trying to get you to spend yours. She sort of gets it. I also tell her that if somebody is spending lots of money trying to convince you that something is good for you it probably isn’t.

Advertising is a multi-billion dollar business and much of our broadcast entertainment would not exist without it. I often wonder if paying for TV and radio would be a better alternative than being subjected to the constant brainwashing of ad after ad imploring us to buy stuff we don’t need. In any event, not everyone has the requisite will to resist the bombardment we are under over the airwaves and in print media, not to mention the supersized billboards that distract us on the highways.

Americans must change their lifestyles to adjust to the drastic changes they will experience in the 21st century. Madison Avenue isn’t helping one iota.

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