An Ad that is Most Certainly “With the Times.”
Is there anything actually objectively better about Taco Bell’s new breakfast products, compared with McDonald’s old products? Anything of any significance, at least? No. It’s the same sort of cheap, low-quality, processed food at both restaurants. Why, then, should anyone choose one over the other? There’s pretty much no reason (except for maybe the trivial differences in taste – but even that that wouldn’t be enough to make it a complete, irreversible shift. Rather just a short-term desire – which could easily be replaced by it’s opposite the next time).
Yet, despite all of this, this commercial claims that there’s a reason to change. What is the reason? The fact that eating McDonald’s breakfast products “proves” that your thinking is stale (and not just about fast food breakfasts, but about virtually everything. That you’re a stale person). What this commercial does, essentially, is one of two things: either it exploits a person’s legitimate concern about being a stale person (by making him feel as though changing this one thing constitutes changing everything which needs to be changed, and therefore does him a disservice by undermining his motivation to change) – or it preys upon his illegitimate concerns about being stale (by making him continue to feel – and probably even more intensely – as though simply because he’s “not with the times”, he is therefore somehow wrong to have the tastes and preferences that he does).
Advertising is supposed to speak to the rationality within people. It is supposed to convey information which helps them discover and/or meet their legitimate, rational, objective needs and desires. It is not supposed to pander to their pretentiousness (about “changing” when they’re really not, in this case), or exacerbate their irrationality and confused emotions. Even though this commercial may cause a (superficial) quid pro quo transaction to occur, taken as a whole, the psychological damage done to the viewer constitutes a net loss on his part (the acquisition of some kind of breakfast item notwithstanding).
Why do modern American businesses engage in such destructive forms of commerce? Because today’s economy is a mixed economy, and therefore success must only be measured in quarters; not years or decades. The macroeconomic situation is subject not to timeless economic laws or major scientific and technological advancements, but rather the whims of politicians – and therefore the short-term is the only thing that can be considered fully real. With that in mind, it is prudent for a business to do whatever it can – no matter how nefarious – to make as much as it can, as quickly as it can.
“When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good. Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral. Do not expect them to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded. Do not ask, “Who is destroying the world?” You are.” – Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged