I must be the world’s worst target for advertizing. And yet I am in the prime demographic of those supposedly with high disposable income, in their mid fifties, who are empty nesters etc. And if I am the worst target, are others in my cohort becoming, like me, deaf and blind to advertizing?
Okay, here’s what I do: I skip through the daily newspaper, reading only the headlines (conditioned by Twitter, of course), pausing only at a few to read further if they interest me. I do not notice the adverts, especially the full page glossy ones that act like warning lights for me to skip to the next page. TV commercial breaks are for taking a personal break, and there are many breaks to be taken these days: checking on the cooking, laundry, e-mail, Facebook and Twitter, and that break that is increasing in frequency—the washroom. When I am online, I zero into my search results or e-mail and ignore all peripheral ads that vie for attention. These ads have become white noise to me, even the recent one that pops up dangerously close to the middle of my screen with pictures of young women who supposedly want to date me – hey, I’m married, update your profile on me through your hidden cookie! I’m dreading the day when every second line of text in my e-mail will be a subliminal ad tempting me to buy, buy, buy. At that point I will have to return to handwritten postal mail.
Why have I become like this? After years of spurious consumption and with a declining income that comes with age (due to the associated false perception of being less productive as we age), I only live for the work I have left to do. I downgraded from Cadillac to Cobalt. Guys – don’t you get it? I just need to buy what I need, not what I want anymore. No amount of advertizing can stimulate a want in me – that muscle is dead, kaput! And they haven’t yet invented a chemical to get it functioning again, although they have invented lots of other pills to get boomers’ non-functioning organs to stand and deliver. Advertizing has also failed to deliver; its sizzle is always bigger than its steak. And we have come to believe that, so why waste time on a lie?
I tried engaging the next generation on this subject—the ones who were brought up on ads and seem to need them as badly as they need TV, cell phones and the Internet. I was told that they liked ads for their entertainment value (yes, today’s ads can be quite funny, and if they are not, there is supposedly something wrong with them) and for the images of lifestyle that they create. But that does not alone create a “buy.” The buy decision is now shaped by not just advertizing, but by user experiences shared via social media, and by the skimpy money supply available to the younger generation living from one paycheque to the next. And as we globalize, that supply is becoming skimpier.
I think corporations need to recognize advertizing’s present overreach. They need to ramp back and become more integrated into the myriad of influences that lead to a purchase. The mere fact that multiple internet businesses have advertizing as their main revenue stream does not empower advertizing to intrude so overtly into our lives. Corporations could also do their bit to increase the buying power of consumers by opening their stockpiles of cash and investing again, getting people back into real work and off temporary, minimum wage jobs. Start creating wealthier suckers who are willing to succumb to their alluring messages in the future. As for me, I am a lost cause. Advertizers, take me off your mailing lists. Don’t call me, I’ll call you.