Apr 29, 2007

The USA according to its Advertising

Advertising is a pretty good way to know with what issues and behaviours you are dealing in every country (or city) in very broad and general terms, of course. I am surprised it is not used more often by sociologists to analyze cities' "psyche" and problems at a particular moment in time.

As a former advertising creative, I have always enjoyed seeing advertising from everywhere. But the reels that you can see at Cannes or in Festivals are not really representative of a place, because at festivals you are seeing "the best" ads, but not all of them. And to have a good idea of what is going on a place, you don't want to see the best ads but ALL of them, so you can work with frequency of ads, type of ad and type of product at the same time.

So each time I travel (and used to travel a lot) I would stay a couple of nights at the hotel just watching advertising. I didn't care if I couldn't understand a word (like in Russia or Greece) I still could learn some things about that place in that particular moment of time, just by watching their advertising production.

So after living in the US for a while, here is my list of issues in the USA that you can perceive through advertising:

1. Money issues: There is a big chunk of the population that is over their head in debt. (you can see or hear ads from thousands of different agencies that offer people to either "consolidate their debt, get a second mortgage to pay their debts -or get in more debt to get out of old debts-, or help file for bankruptcy") .

2. Hyper-consumism: Still, all those money problems don't seem to stop this society when it comes to consumism. At least 3 or 4 tv channels are solely dedicated to sell, and almost all cable stations dedicated to the same after 3 or 4 am. Buy this or that or this new product, and all your problems (money, health, pounds or whatever your worries may be), will dissapear. Keeping up with the Johnsons is also very important apparently, so one more reason to buy stuff even if you don't need it... (and to be in debt for!)

3. Health issues I: The labs seem to be running a good part of this country (money wise) and they seem to be able to come up every month with a new pill for some new, rare (and almost stupid) syndrome --like the restless legs syndrome. Of course, most of those meds can have very undesirable secondary effects what I am sure gets people into have some other pills for those secondary effects. (BTW as someone that in fact has restless legs syndrome, I rather move my legs that have ANY of the problems that the pill against my nervous legs can give me. Is not SUCH a big deal, believe me, you just move your legs and that is it!). On the other hand, weight issues (mostly overweight) is, no doubt another common issue.

4. Instant gratification: But no matter what your problem is, health, weight, debt, there is always an offer promising an "instant solution". Some ads are just unbelievable, as in 'too good to be true' but it seems that there is a public for them. Yeah, there is still people believing in the magic potion apparently.

5. Health issues II: Insomnia and depression seem also to be a big part of the US population problems. What makes sense, especially if you are in debt but you are still buying shit, while overweight and feeling sick because of the cocktail of pills that you are taking to take care of a syndrome that may not have been a real problem in the first place, plus the pills for your allergies, plus the ones for your weight problem and the ones for your insomnia... pills that are some extra expense that adds to your debt. Who wouldn't be depressed, uhm?

I promise I will make a similar list about what you can tell about Argentina and its problems by just seeing its advertising (and funny enough, by different reasons, insomnia is also one of them).

And then at some point I will workk on a list of the problems that you can suspect are more popular but according to another type of advertising, the one know as 'spam'. Probably those problems are going to be more 'x-rated'.

If you think I left a big problem out, pls let me know!

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