What our ads say about us

My friend Tom (aka., “The Blogfodder”) sent me a marvelous little rant this morning about the latest annoyingly-overused-in-business-parlance word. Alas, I forgot to forward it to my home email for bloggification. Since simply paraphrasing Tom won’t do, it’ll have to wait until Monday. (But it’ll be worth the wait. I promise.)

In the meantime, instead let’s explore the treasures at Bored Panda.

First up, we have some wonderfully creepy dinnerware by Israeli artist Ronit Baranga. I wonder … do you have to floss the teeth? And are the fingers dishwasher-safe?

Then, we have the predictable “Top X” lists: 20 Incredible Lego Sculptures, 20 Most Creative Ads on Buildings, 15 Facts About Dreams, 18 Cool Inventions, 20 Examples of Animal Camouflage, 15 Creative Guerrilla Marketing Ideas.

Of that last category, my favorite was this business card:

But of all the categories I browsed, the most thought-provoking was titled 25 Vintage Ads That Would Be Banned Today. (WARNING: Offensive material.)

Advertising may be one of the best ways of examining a society and its culture. After all, ads are designed to shape our thoughts and turn them into action. At a fundamental level they reflect what is important to a society—or at least the ad execs’ interpretation of what’s important. That makes ads a powerful barometer of a culture’s values and mores.

It’s difficult to appreciate that fact as you’re living it: Ads evolve in small, incremental steps, just as human society does. But let the ads sit for a decade or four, and the contrast between “then” and “now” is stark.

I was struck by the blatant sexism (and even misogyny) of many of the ads.

For the record: Yes, it’s always illegal to kill a woman. (Yes, even if you own her.) Wow.

I was also floored by the assertion that

… laboratory tests over the last few years have proven that babies who start drinking soda during the early formative period have a much higher chance of “fitting in” and gaining acceptance during those awkward pre-teen and teen years.”

That’s right: Your toothless, hyperactive kid will be the life of the party! Give your child a “lifetime of guaranteed happiness” as a morbidly obese diabetic!

I can’t help but wonder what today’s ads will say about us, with a few years’ hindsight. But I at least have hope that consumers are becoming more savvy (and maybe even a bit cynical) in realizing that what you see isn’t necessarily what you get.


    • Aren’t some of these ads simply astounding? They really do illustrate how far we’ve come. And they also make me wonder how backward and barbaric some of today’s ads will seem in 40 years’ time.

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