Saturday, June 4, 2011

Ad Libs

I heard an absurd radio advertisement today. "Manure," it began, "It's not a pretty word, but that's what some fertilizers are made of." Good start, that. It's not indicative of a very rigorously thought-out ad campaign that the first volley of attack on the competition is that a word associated with them simply doesn't have a euphonious sound. The announcer went on to talk down about manure-based fertilizers for a few seconds, but what really caught my ear was the effort at selling the product being advertised. The copy proudly pointed out that apart from its being "high energy," the alternative to manure is preferable because it is organic.

Amidst the fervent effort to greenwash products, have we actually forgotten what the term "organic" means? What could the livestock possibly be eating to make their excrement anything other than organic? It is stupefying to think that advertising agencies may actually expect consumers to leap at the sound of appealing language without thinking for two seconds about the meaning behind it. Worse still is the thought that they may be right. That suggests that the job of modern advertisers must be wonderfully easy. Either that or the industry is seriously lacking in truly effective, genuine creativity.

In many cases, advertisement seems to consist of little more than a professional game of mad libs:

[Competitor or general class of product] doesn't want you to know that it's [scary sounding but innocuous adjective]. But [our product] is better because it is/has [familiar but meaningless buzzword].

I hope for a breaking point on both sides. Consumers need to be more discerning, so as to not be taken in by the most obvious, unoriginal branding, which is rooted in nothing more than an attempt to repeat and bastardize the simplest terminology of current social awareness. But not everybody is that simple-minded, and this sort of advertising can only have a rather limited effect. Just painting something with the bland colors of glaringly obvious trends does not sell a product on its actual merits. For the sake of their products and for the sake of basic self-respect, advertisers need to hold themselves to a higher standard than this.

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