“That feeling of freedom, open highways of possibilities, has kind of been lost to materialism and marketing.” – Sheryl Crow
Since becoming minimalist, I watch far less television. I have learned that television rarely brings any significant value into my life. Worse than that, it often distracts me the very things that do. But, I am not entirely opposed to using television as a means for entertainment/relaxation on a limited scale.
And, just to be fair, I do appreciate entertainment as much as the next guy and often find enjoyment in sporting events and clever advertisements. But as somebody who has developed great frustration over the consumer-driven culture that we live in, I observe marketing with a skeptical eye. I often seek to determine the underlying promise of any advertisement and uncover what else, other than the product itself, marketers are trying to sell me.
Far too often, I discover their underlying message promotes foolish misconceptions about life. We would be wise to recognize and intentionally reject each of them. Consider just a few misconceptions on display in our most popular television advertisements.
7 Life Misconceptions Portrayed in Popular Television Advertisements
1. Happiness is for sale.
Marketers often seek to convince us their products will increase our happiness. From soda and alcohol to fashion and automobiles, happiness is offered to us in our very next purchase. I was surprised at the level of boldness some products used in promoting this misconception. Coca-Cola (“Open happiness”) and Volkswagen (“Get in. Get happy.”) stand out significantly. The truth of life is that happiness cannot be purchased no matter how hard we search for it in material possessions. And advertisers do a great disservice to their audience by promising it in temporal packages.
2. Self-confidence can be quickly found in the right purchase.
Every person desires to be comfortable in their skin and self-confident in their abilities. We have an ingrained desire to accomplish, succeed, and make something of our lives. But many of us are held back by a lack of self-confidence. Thus, we desire any quick advantage to find it. This again is a common theme among marketers and many will offer it to us in exchange for our dollars. Both Audi and Speed Stick (among others) employ it. But putting your confidence in an automobile or stick of deodorant is not the same as finding it in yourself. Instead, focus on your strengths, celebrate your uniqueness, and learn from past failures rather than dwelling on them if you want to learn how to be more confident.
3. Youth culture represents the pinnacle of life’s seasons.
Advertisers idolize youth culture and our society rewards them for it. For example, watch this Taco Bell commercial. Apparently, the “youth” season of life is to be among the most praised, promoted, and desired. And while I often look back on my college years with fond memories, I have come to the conclusion there are far greater things to accomplish in life than rejecting authority and staying up late. I have learned the value of family, service, contribution, mentoring, and improving the lives of those in community around me. Maturity and wisdom have taken root. And the only reason I’d want to relive my youth is to do it all differently.
4. Sex is the ultimate goal.
Sex is best enjoyed and brings the greatest fulfillment in a committed relationship. For marketers to esteem it in any other light is painful for me to watch—especially with two young children in my home. My hope is that both of them—and society—will grow to appreciate all the beauty and value and perspective that women bring into our world. Marketers that seek to sell their products using women as objects of sex to be conquered are degrading to both males and females. I am not expecting the trend to end anytime soon, but Axe Body Spray, Fiat, and GoDaddy stand out as some of the worst offenders.
5. To watch television is to experience life.
Network television advertisements often use this misconception when promoting their television shows (to be fair, movie studios do the same). In their marketing, to watch their show is to experience life at its fullest. They appear to offer the very best thing you can possibly choose to do with your next 30/60 minutes. Coupled with the subtle lie that everyone else is watching (#1 Show / #1 Network / #1 Movie), this becomes a motivating sell. We begin to believe that if everyone else is spending their evening watching… I must really be missing out. But you are not missing out. Life is not meant to be observed. Life is meant to be lived.
6. Adventure/Respect is discovered in the right automobile.
The automobile industry doesn’t sell just cars anymore, it sells respect, confidence (see above), and adventure. After all, with most cars nowadays driving well past 100,000+ miles, marketers must sell us something different than a simple mode of transportation. Some will seek to convince us their vehicle is good for the environment… some will promise us respect and envy… others will promise us adventure. But they are all wrong. A certain model/style of vehicle will not bring the promised results. It will get you from Point A to Point B. And there are far greater places to earn respect and find adventure than a car dealership.
7. A website will solve your life problems.
Cars.com promises to make buying a car simple and easy. GoDaddy.co promises wealth and luxury. They are both over exaggerating. Websites offer information and inspiration, but they do not solve your problems. They will not accomplish the truly important things in life for you. Hard work, dedication, discipline, and focus result in the type of life change many of us desire. Too often, websites and the over-delivery of information only cause us to postpone the hard work necessary to secure lasting change in our lives. Don’t look for a website to solve your problems. Look for them to provide inspiration. But then, put the computer away, and get to work doing something about it.
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Michele Engel says
I stopped watching television shows in 2006, and it was one of the most liberating decisions I ever made. I rarely feel that I’m missing anything. When I do hear about a critically acclaimed program, I know I can rent or buy it sometime when I will have time to watch it (which never seems to happen). My life is so rich and busy with my friendships, my work, my painting, my dancing, my traveling, etc. There is never enough time to do all that my heart desires, let alone add television to the mix! In fact, I find the sound of the advertisements physically unbearable–the tone, the decibel level, the content, and the images. They just grate on me.
John S Green says
I grew up in Europe and we rented a TV for 6 weeks over the Summer starting when I was 9 years old. The TV had programs from 6 pm to midnight.
When I had my daughter I got rid of the TV for 8 years.
TV is a non-necessity.
A child is much better off without one, especially in their first 8 years of life, when most of their development is occurring.
This blog addresses these essentials of life…
Markus amongus says
I like TV. I learn things on mythbusters and see great things on National Geographic. I laugh at silly religious people on Snake Salvation. I get to lose myself in entertainment in movies.
I just don’t watch commercials. By using the DVR, I don’t have to. By using Netflix I can avoid them all together. I can also avoid the disappointment of a show getting cancelled. I’m about to start burn notice and breaking bad.
Ken Stucky says
A college prof challenged me and my wife to go the first 365 days of our marriage without TV. We are not 24+ years and counting. When asked why, I say “we don’t watch TV for the same reason we don’t let our daughters drink out of the toilet”. Our entertainment budget goes to travel. We have been to amazing places first hand.
So a website is saying that it can solve my life problems, and one of its points is that a website can’t solve your life problems. Interesting.
This is like that deal where somebody says “I only tell lies.”
TB at BlueCollarWorkman says
Ha! Yes, those GoDaddy commericials are terrible. I’m a dude and I watch them and think they’re terrible. I guess sex sells, which I’m tired of hearing, it gets boring after awhile on all the commericals all the time. How about telling me what your product does instead?
bobby batson says
Maybe I am cynical but the Budweiser and Ram ads bothered me as much as the rest. They are trying to sell you something just like all the others – trying to do so with sappy content and/or content that pretends their intention is something else (e.g. they really care about farmers!) is no less distasteful to me.
While I tend to despise the GoDaddy ads generally speaking, I did like the one early in the game about all these folks with the same idea and saying the same thing, but only the one guy who bought the GoDaddy website got rich. Tongue and cheek – basically comedy. I can handle that.