I don’t own a television. The one I had broke four or five years ago and with technology being as it is (with smartphones and the internet and so on) I could never really figure a good enough reason to replace it. Which is likely the reason I only recently saw this commercial (see below) and so I’ll apologise if I’m a little late to the party. Take a look.
Watching it, I couldn’t help thinking how refreshing it was – revolutionary almost – to find an advertisement whose aim was to affirm the viewer, rather than persuade her of some existential lack that needed filling by whatever the product or fashion being shopped.
The promotional technique we’re most accustomed to is to be, quite subtly, told we don’t have enough this or that (possessions, property, experiences, position, money, smarts, beauty, whatever), and are somehow behind the times, lacking… stuff, and but here’s what to do to remedy your problem, for just 10.99 (fill in currency as appropriate).
Everything from the photoshopped celeb mag to those strangely arty but ultimately incomprehensible (and accidentally funny) aftershave ads (pouting dudes with tanned six-packed torsos staring meaningfully at the camera to their own breathy – and accented – voiceover) seem designed to deal in the currency of discontent, to emphasise what you’re not and ought to be and what to buy to make it so.
And don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not anti-TV. I love TV. I even like some TV commercials. But the one above, well, I just really liked.
I guess the thing that interested me most was the great yawning disparity between how the people in it thought they looked and how they actually looked. Who they thought they were versus who they actually are. Which, if you think about it, is sort of fascinating.
It got me thinking. Where does our sense of self come from? What’s informed it? What shapes it? Experiences? People? Nature? Culture? TV commercials? All of the above? And if so, how valid can any of these things be if the idea they give us of who we are can be so fickle and so different from the reality?