The Seven Sins of Online Advertising
According to the outstanding American economist of Russian origin Harvey Leibenstein, all the demand for goods and services is divided into functional and non-functional. Functional means 'to buy for rational, economic reasons', and non-functional means is 'to buy under social influence'.
Functional goods are, for example, salt, matches, and bread, which do not need advertising. Non-functional goods include the new iPhone, hair extensions, a fifteen-thousand-dollar watch, and a fat-burning navel patch. Most online marketers work to create non-functional demand, and it has become clear by the end of 2021 that businesses and their employers will stop at nothing to maintain and increase it.
'Which side are you on?' was a song of the miners, but the phrase has become an aphorism, and now could be used in terms of marketing.
We'll restate it this way: 'Which side are you on, dear advertisers?' Okay, you don't have to think about what idea you are working on at the age of twenty or twenty-five. But when you get older, you start to think about what helps you to get your money.
We have been living under the common Christian humanistic tradition for several centuries — not in terms of religion, per se, but in the sense that the Christian concept of what is good and what is bad is accepted by society as truth. For a couple of millennia, Christian philosophers have very accurately formulated which feelings (mental states) are most destructive for a person and his relatives from a psychological point of view. Those feelings are pride, greed, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth (and its variation, gloom). These feelings received the name of the major sins or the seven deadly sins. Modern online advertising, diligently creating non-functional demand, is pushing consumers to commit all of these sins.
Pride is about status or demonstrative consumption. It is also called the Veblen effect in honour of the famous American economist and sociologist Dr. Thorstein Bunde Veblen.
Dr. Veblen claimed that in a market economy, consumers act under social and psychological pressure, which forces them to make irrational decisions. He introduced to us the idea of the demonstrative consumption of goods that are inaccessible to the majority because of the high price. The goal of demonstrative consumption is to emphasise the social significance of the person who can afford to buy extremely expensive goods and services. However, Dr. Veblen discovered a paradox: the higher the price of a product, the higher the level of consumption.
Hundreds of thousands of marketers work on pride. In the twenty-first century, demonstrative consumption items have become so absurd that your brain will explode: a pillow with a bear on it is equal to approximately 926 loafs of good bread.
There is also a kind of demonstrative consumption that masquerades as functional but is, in fact, very powerful, status-signifying behaviour. It is especially funny to watch the process of it being introduced into the minds of the middle class. Border prices work here. Border prices are those prices that make you think, 'F*ck, of course, it's expensive. But on the other hand, if I get it on credit, it's not that expensive'.
Would you like to get the most trendy boots for your wife? Winter has already arrived. They'll cost you merely 1,052 loafs of bread!
Greed is a luxurious field for advertising games. The philosopher and writer Francois de La Rochefoucauld stated, 'Parsimony is farther from frugality than even profligacy.' Greed encourages consumers who would rather die than pay to make such investments that make professionals gag on laughter.
Modern Gobsecks were buying the highly anticipated (since postponed) Gram cryptocurrency, which was not even on the retail market then: 'We were late for Bitcoin, but this time, we will catch up'.
The Internet has got heaps of 'wonderful stuff', such as Forex, binary options, the services of investment analysts, 'safe and balanced' bundles of low-risk and high-risk shares. The objective of marketers in these markets is to entice new investors who are thirsty for a quick profit to use dubious (and even entirely fraudulent) investment tools. They invest their hard-earned money, and they soon lose virtual deposits in the vast majority of cases.
Try to go to a party, an interview, or a business meeting with the cheap Chinese Meizu phone and wearing no-name jeans from the Vietnamese market. People will begin to talk to you through clinched teeth; they are up to their eyes in loans and keep their pitiful business afloat with Herculean efforts. They also have an HR girl with the stylish boots from the section about pride. After all, she deserves it.
Veblen's social psychological pressure strongly urges mass consumptionism and compels individuals to buy what they can't afford. It is painfully vital for those who surround it to build the 'right' picture.
In recent years, television and web publicity have become totally frenzied, showing unreliable and unreachable examples of 'successful' people that bring about burning jealousy and social darwinism. Few people are interested in organising advertising procedures that exhibit evidence of social prejudice and generate a complex inferiority. How do you appreciate the slogan, 'Your kids walk that way? Well, our company will go this way!' in an advertisement of a new compound of 'luxury.' If you pause the regular cognitive process and examine carefully, it is clear: such an ad is harsh and sarcastic.
Envy causes people inevitably to credit for enslavement and workaholism. Companies and marketers do not see this as a problem. They don't even have time to think about it, because they also have a lot of money to sin.
Wrath focuses on advertising for males who are violent in nature (thanks to a high level of testosterone). You can even naively and openly suggest that males tend to muzzle one other for whatever cause (and admire their anger and aggression). And it works good. It works well.
But the adware is also talented, and sometimes they quite neatly leverage the potential anger of the viewer.
The best advertisement will include demonstrative consumption (pride), men (danger), and sexuality (lust). This is handled brilliantly for instance in commercials from Dolce & Gabbana and the script is not really important.
Hope this segment is not the shortest. We're not going to show you gorgeous girls communication, event escort services, appealing hosts or other beauty.
Some argue that the Internet was not designed as an instrument of the overseas military and special services to make the world more convenient, but as the best transit system in the world for pornographic content to be sent to the mass consumer.
The fact that advertising is inspired by pornography has been prevalent since the publication of Frederick Begbeder's decadent book 99 Francs. Nowadays, modern cultures worldwide are seeking to reconcile to the traditional idea of 'normal' human behaviour the problem of widespread porn use. Like the Moms Make Porn project, for example: if you can't defeat a phenomena, then lead it.
From totalitarian civilizations humanity has learned that suppressing sexuality neutralises countries as a whole. However, the idea that all that moves in real life and on modern displays likewise neutralises large countries has not yet gained general consciousness and only a few have ever heard of the sublimation of sexual energy.
In most circumstances, marketers do not belong to the elite. So when you build a mass creator, the first thing you do is search for a method of adding a little erotica to advertising content. This practise has grown commonplace. If you do not carefully convey your doubts that pseudo-porn advertising is acceptable and decent, you will be labelled a hypocrites and an insecure throwback.
Cooking is one of the themes in the Internet content cloud. This is demonstrated by the millions of subscribers to social network groups and by the large number of culinary channels on YouTube.
Food sector is as ancient as the planet and will always need the services of marketers who are not very important because there is severe rivalry. Someone has to know how to market enormous amounts of new and excellent items, such as gluten-free, milk-free, meat-free and taste-free.
Right now, the problem is highly relevant. Revenues have declined in a row for several years. The pricing for sausages in many CIS countries in economic-class shops are listed 'per 100 grammes' so that they do not shock purchasers. Only manufacturing workers know exactly what these sausages are made of. It appears that the NDA prevents them from talking about it, even on the deathbeds of their grandchildren in whisper.
C and D marked ravioli are now highly popular in Russia. These categories contain no more than 40% of meat and no more than 20%. Real whole milk can still be found on shops, but it will be like 'premium' milk at a price that bats. We can still remember those golden days when carton dairy is only fresh for one day, and when, once it was bad, we could create real yoghurt and homemade cottage cheese.
Examples need not be listed. Every day you meet this food pandemonium. Cooking something almost natural and cheap has grown harder at the same time. In the meantime, marketers rush from all angles. For instance, internet users join the Facebook topic group, which teaches them to bake and they find masters of target marketing, skilfully setting up a pain-based mental map.
Advertising cures against the impacts of food consumption also look humorous for millions of subscribers in food communities.
But why is it funny? This is evident. It is obvious. First, one company generates revenue by selling fast food and ready-made products, and then another from combating obesity. The consumer pays twice, and all are satisfied.
Gluttony is a profitable sin. It feeds dozens of industries connected with it. There are body-positive women's apparel, fitness bracelets, nutrition, counselling, belly dance and God knows everything else. All these things are promoted by a vast army of marketers.
Well, sloth isn't usually a sin. Millions of individuals work only three to four hours a day in offices. They wallow in idleness, depression and all other sins for the rest of the time.
Faintness and depression induce a thirst for entertainment, and many such nice things are announced in any major metropolis. The competition is awesome and marketers must find room to launch their efforts. The only thing we need is a large enough money.
The Internet was designed to entertain, engage, sell, and then drown everyone who fell into idleness. The Internet was created. There have never been millions of invaders right in your pockets in a magic box called a smartphone in the history of humanity. You have nothing to do. Just lay back and swipe, swipe and swipe. Entertainment will come. Entertainment will come to you. You're not even going to notice you've already bought a TV subscription, a battle programme, ordered pizza that you can't manage, and paid a streamer that teaches English in the internet. All this has been paid by credit card and you can't explain why you need it.
Internet marketing is the dark way not only to attract a bored user's attention but also to take advantage of large personal difficulties and the imperfection of legislation.
Skeptical Reader versus Author
'What are you proposing, author moralising?' Maybe an irritated reader is asking me. 'Company is business. Demand is supply-building. People are vulnerable and prepared to spend money under their influence. The company is prepared to pay for advertising. If we don't develop this ad, others are going to. So what are you here doing?'
Obviously, I strive to invite entrepreneurs to employ polite, transparent and effective techniques of promoting the Internet. As the striped Madagascar Marty suggested, 'Give the taxi driver a few tips. He ought to feed his family.'
I succeeded in getting away from direct advertising in an overtly manipulative enterprise after years of fight between my conscience and my hunger. Nevertheless, I don't know what to do with our common economy's current condition of affairs.
The answer is undoubtedly the global shift from the capitalist structure of the world to a new way of fairer and more democratic distribution of material wealth. This new form may apply the concept of unconditional income, saving the average individual from semi-slave labour, envy and demonstrative consumerism.
Human beings should reevaluate their approach to ecology and their nutritional ecology. Perhaps anger management training in schools should be required. It would also be fantastic to create a middle-school psychology lesson, which solves the spontaneous and uncontrolled growth of sexuality in teenagers. Lastly, universal deanonymisation on the Internet seems so close that it enables users under 18 to filter porn content with absolute effectiveness.
Everything discussed here is a problem of global civilisation. I would entrust their solutions to research teams, but not to politicians and global companies. Marketers and others from related professions still need to make every day a personal moral choice: to work for or say no to such 'gladness.'
This option can clearly be so difficult that the brain even starts to explode. However, as a cultural figure once said,
'I'm not saying we're wearing a lot of shrines, but we couldn't be carefree about things.'