Putting Your Hand on the Burner When You’ve Already Learned That it’s Hot
First an explanation of the dynamics of FLO TV’s advertising strategy. Then an identification of the strategy’s psychological root, then it’s economic root, and finally the philosophical root of them all.
Evidently FLO TV, because it’s product truly is the final manisfestation of the much-aligned coming ubiquity of television, expects to be criticized, and so it is cutting it’s critics off before they have a chance to point out the obvious.
Personality – and by extension, familial – problems, which are frequently (and not without some legitimate basis) blamed on too much time watching television, will somehow alleviate FLO TV’s complicity in them simply because they pointed them out voluntarily. The message they wish to impart to the public is “yes, we realize that television does indeed lead to a lack of communication and intimacy between family members (even to the point of interfering with land mark events in a child’s life), and that that can be directly traced to the lack of personal introspection by members of the family, and that the easy escape from reality which the television offers is largely responsible for that – but because we realize this and admit it preemptively, somehow using our product won’t produce the same results.”
Bud Light uses this same marketing tactic, which has been written about here and here on this blog. The psychological root of this can be traced to the fact that the advertising of products, increasingly, does not sell the product, but the personalities of those who produce the product. The consumer, faced with virtually identical choices, makes his decision based upon a feeling of spiritual unity with the company. He feels “these are my kind of people”, and so by extension he also frequently feels “this is my kind of television/beer/cheeseburger.” The irony is that it is presicely this lack of spiritual unity which these companies exploit by pandering to in the short-term that they depend upon in the long term (excessive television and alcohol consumption is the source of their profitability).
Why are companies, whose products are technologically sophisticated, and whose business models are extremely complex, willing to risk exposing their long-term well-being to disaster (customers becoming acutely aware, through advertisements such as these, of the detriments of buying these products) for the sake of short-term gains (a result of pandering to the consumer’s unfulfilled psychological needs just discussed)? Economically, the answer is the unpredictable nature of the macroeconomic situation. The prices of raw materials, the availability of affordable labor, trade agreements with other nations, and taxation and regulatory structures are so intimately tied up in the shifting whims of the political culture of the country that to make a product which is actually good for your customers, and to sell that product using nothing but it’s objectively valuable traits, is a competitive disadvantage and a recipe for bankruptcy.
Philosophically, the immediate reason why advertising like this is expected to work on the public is that the public is cynical. Acutely aware of it’s own unhappiness, but lacking an adequate explanation for it, it seeks to have it confirmed on the widest and most detailed of scales, instead of being reminded of it let alone have it uprooted. Companies follow where the culture takes them. The root philosophical reason why obscene commercial celebrations of sociopathic or dysfunctional behavior are accepted, and why encouragements towards psychotic behavior (“keep doing what you know is bad for you”) are tolerated, is the same reason why the macroeconomic situation is tolerated – even why more of the same of what caused it is celebrated as a “solution.” That reason is the belief in the inefficacy of man and the malevolent nature of the universe at large. If one’s mind cannot be trusted – if everything is a matter of perspective, and all we encounter is a distortion induced by our fallable senses – then there is not reason not to drink too much beer, or watch too much television, or to laugh at it when we are told that we do. If the universe, even if we could trust our minds to give us correct unbiased information, is an ever-shifting network of malicious forces ultimately beyond our control to coexist with, then again, there is no reason not to lose ourselves in drinking, and fantasy, and cynical laughter at the destruction or perversion of all that is good, decent, and valuable.