When I was in advertising sales, I often ran into the typical objection, "Nobody reads your publication. Why waste money on an ad nobody's going to see?"
While I understood this was their way of saying- I don't want to spend any money on advertising right now- I also knew my job. Not one who likes a combative approach, I'd usually end up in a conversation about business in general. My client would share how things just weren't like they used to be. The eighties were great, they'd say. But the eighties were long gone. (This was all prior to the 9-11 attack, subsequent war and fall of the economy).
There are three things that stand out in my mind about advertising, and they've remained long since leaving the business:
1. Junk mail isn't junk if the receiver is interested in the offering.
2. If advertising was unimportant, why did household names like Coca Cola still advertise?
3. If nobody were going to see the ad anyway, why not place an ad stating your business is giving away one dollar bills all day?
My point is this: People do see, hear and read advertisements. They're bombarded with them every, single day and the cumulative effect is enormous. A child may not know why they want a particular toy--it's all based on the notion an advertisement gave them. Like seeds planted in the back of our minds, the media, in whatever form, finds its way into our psyche.
So much of what we see in terms of advertisements, (I won't even get into programming, etc.), is not healthy for us, and more importantly, for our children. I've found myself quickly reaching for the remote and muting the television when a violent commercial comes on about a horror movie, etc. I hate the energy permiating my space. My senses are heightened and I feel the effects of negative 'vibes'- through internet ads, TV ads, radio spots, magazine ads, stories of violence, hatred, acts of war, suffering and so forth.
We need some balance here. We need some change- and not the kind you get at McDonald's.
So flip it around. Can you imagine if every ad you read, saw, heard...made you smile or laugh? Can you imagine turning on the news and having the feature story be one of a great act of humanity- not just a 15 second segment thrown in at the end?
When I drive down the street and see a buildboard saying, "Got Faith?"....I smile. Not just because it means something to me on a personal level, but it shows me the beginnings of an outreach. People are hungry for good. They are hungry for change in the right direction. Humans are starving for something that speaks to their inner goodness and the goodness of others. We need to believe all is not lost and through media, we can do it. We have the power to make people think- just like the media has the power to make a child want a particular toy no matter what.
I remember the influence television had on me as a child. I'll never forget the year I saw a commercial for "Baby Alive". This doll could eat, drink, poop and wet itself. Her diaper needed to be changed. She came with her own food in little packets. Times were tight, but my parents gave in to our persistant requests. On Christmas morning our wish came true. Our dolls were under the tree from Santa. Oh, the delight! I'd carefully mix her food with water in a special bowl. My sister and I, both having the same doll, would feed our babies together.
And then the sometimes cold, unexpected harshness of reality, not what a TV ad wanted us to believe, set in. Within a couple of months, my doll developed 'worms'. Imagine the horror of a young girl going to change her baby's diaper, only to run, yelling to her mother, "Look! My baby has worms in her diaper!"
Not pleasant, I know.
Because I was a child I believed in the ad- in what the media presented- as if it were gospel.
As adults, we do the same thing. Think about all those "As Seen On TV" advertorials and infomercials! You can get anything to fix everything- from a leaky faucet to car scratches to a body shaper that'll take off weight to a slicer/dicer/mincer/mixer -and if you order now, you'll get two plus a bonus! The phones ring, people order. They want more and they believe, (in general). Billions of dollars are spent on things that rarely hold up to their promise. I say this because I'm guilty of buying into so much of what I've seen! I'll admit it. In the end, I was usually disappointed in whatever product I thought would 'solve it all'. Sometimes, I was pleasantly surprised.
The media is that powerful. Always has been.
I'll wrap it up by saying: If an advertisement can influence people to buy, do, wear and want things- there is tremendous power within that form of communication. It can be, and in some instances is, harnessed and used for the good of all humanity. Words are merely words, but the message lies within the meaning.
Let's do something with that power. Something real, good, and full of light. Something that will change the world for the better. "You can do it. We can help."