My junior and senior year in college marked my entrance into the world of zealous creativity and unfettered wordplay. I quit basketball, penned monstrously outrageous boy band parodies, and dived into an ocean of adage and slogan writing. I was a Communications major with an emphasis in Professional Writing and PR & Advertising.
One day in class as I lazily swiveled 30 degrees from left to right in my luxuriously padded rolly chair, I heard my teacher nonchalantly make a point that set off my conscience’s alarm like a smoke detector after I’ve burned the frozen pizza. “Advertising is about creating a need,” is all that she said, but in my world of black and whites, this grey area seemed a little too black. “Creating a need” was too close of a relative to lying for me to embrace it.
Since then I’ve rarely struggled with the ethics of advertising because I decided that despite my affection for catchy slogans and product lines, I would never work for an ad agency. Why? I never wanted to create a need for things that aren’t needed. It seems like a soul-killing endeavor for both the creators and consumers of full-page spreads and Super Bowl- style television spots.
Advertisers have effectively convinced many of us in recent years that we need the most asinine of products. Carbonated sugar water, credit cards, chia pets, the Abflex, alcoholic energy drinks, and 60 inch plasma televisions – just to name a few. Many of the products named promise fulfillment to our taste buds or to our out of control craving for entertainment. They definitely deliver some temporary satisfaction, but often leave us fatter and lazier than before.
I’m going somewhere with this, and it’s not the typical “the average American spends this ungodly amount of time in front of the tv” talk. Even though I agree with the sentiment behind those motivational speeches, I’ve rarely seen any real fruit grow in my own life as a result.
Instead of aiming the proverbial microscope at your life, let me place it over mine…
Why I stopped buying pre-ripped jeans:
In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, I was the college kid who strutted around campus sporting the factory-shredded jeans from American Eagle. After spending five too many years in “bro-mode,” I read an article about “buying the experience.” The brilliant piece shed light on the theory that the holey jeans fashion trend was born out of a desire to look like a “working man” without actually doing any hard work. Instead of purchasing life experience with blood, sweat, and tears, most young men and women were content to buy the counterfeit from a trendy store in the mall.
After reading the article and hearing songs like “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?,” I decided I’d rather be a cowboy than look like one.
Why I never sold sugar water:
After college, as I became more and more intrigued with Apple Products, I read a story about how Steve Jobs recruited one of the main guys at Pepsi to step over to Apple. His game-changing question went something like this: “Do you want to spend your life selling sugar water, or do you want to change the world?”
The man’s answer was a no brainer. To me, that story was like the ray of sunlight that finally makes a flower bloom. After reading up to the little black dot that signaled the article’s ending, I paused and thought, “I’ll only work for businesses and causes that better the world.”
These are only two examples of why I do what I do. Tonight, I don’t have time to explain all of the reasons for why I live how I live, but I can point to almost anything I do or don’t do and tell you why. I’m not issuing a challenge for you to agree with me. I’m simply inviting to shovel through the clutter and find the roots of your habits, your personality traits, and your character flaws. In the finite space of these paragraphs, I can only scratch the surface, but you have the opportunity dig the depths.
The point of my thoughtful rambling goes something like this: I don’t want you or I to wake up some day and find out that we’ve been selling sugar water.