Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Are You Worth It? OR How Advertising Impacts Our Values

Are you worth it? Do you worry that you won't amount to anything? Or instead, do you feel like a winner, like a million?

Our commercial, consuming society is obsessed with numbers, commodities, contests, and celebrities. After a hundred years or so of intense consumerism, expressions and values that reflect this have become part of our thinking, so much so we hardly notice.

People say things like, "I've got too much invested in my marriage to give it up." Some educators have even gone so far as to say, "Children are our most precious commodity."

These are, of course, all metaphors. But why only imagery that deals with dollar values and stardom? There are plenty of other expressions such as, "our marriage is on the rocks" which invokes a nautical metaphor or "a person has a sunny disposition" that refers to the weather. And while these sayings are still used and understood, the imagery of money seems to be taking over: "The cost of loving her was too high" for example.

Advertising, naturally, appeals to this modern way of thinking. Ads often say things like "buy this product because you're worth it;" the implication being that if you are a loser and believe you have less value, you won't buy it. Talk about manipulation! Ads that use this approach often sell more expensive stuff and use the 'worth it' pitch as a way of justifying a higher price.

But what's wrong with this? Do these expressions really make a difference? I believe so. They are an indication of what the society thinks is important. And today money is important.

There are plenty of other metaphors such as those about nurturing, growth and growing, steadfastness, commitment, pleasure in simple things, friendship and closeness. Oddly many of these disappearing values are now used in advertisements as a nostalgic appeal to the 'good old days'. So if you still want a taste of this 'old fashioned lifestyle', there are now products you can buy that will evoke days gone bye. Ain't the consumer culture great!

So let me ask: do you really count? Do you think you'll make it to the top? If you've read my article to this point, you know the score. What I've written here is as good as gold. And you can take that to the bank.


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