The more I think about the advertising industry, the more deceptive it seems. It seems like commercials for products like Google Glass and Microsoft Outlook have become particularly manipulative and increasingly unavoidable: I can’t watch a YouTube video of Christian the Lion or a BBC clip of “Creeping ice” without being bombarded by the sounds of Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us” set to visuals of Average Joe building a hovercraft in his garage.
Most people would prefer not to watch commercials, that’s precisely the reason that they choose to watch television shows on Netflix. But while commercials are annoying, my real concern (especially with the above-mentioned ones) is that they are designed to lie to us. Propping us up and bolstering the already-existing pride in our hearts, they are designed to make us believe that we are more wonderful and more deserving than we really are. And you know, what I really need to hear and what you really need to hear is that we are not as cool as we think we are.
In this commercial for Google Glass, the camera is the main character; it acts as the first-person “I” in the narrative of the ad. Through this perspective, you and I — the audience — are now skydivers, professional ice skaters, ice sculptors, pilots, clothing designers, world travelers, and hot-air balloon enthusiasts. We are professional gymnasts, we are slim ballet dancers, we are accomplished skiers.
The problem with this, though, is that most of us are not most of these things. I’m none of them. Most of us don’t glide down a cat-walk to raucous applause; the closest we get to personally relating to any of the activities in the Glass commercial is playing fetch with our dogs.
And if you haven’t had the “pleasure” of seeing the new-ish Outlook commercials “Get Showing” and “Get Going,” you’ll find the same kind of thing there: The Average Person is building functional hovercrafts, chopping vegetables in a beautiful, pristine kitchen, and “shredding” in a room filled with like a hundred guitars.
These products, though, are not meant to be novelty ones. What Google Glass and Microsoft Outlook want more than anything is for everyone to use these products all day, every day. But most of us don’t spend our days sculpting tiger heads out of ice. And I get that it’s not cool or sexy to show someone filing papers or filling out expense reports, or cooking easy mac for dinner and watching “How I Met Your Mother,” but that’s more reflective of the average American reality. If advertisers were being honest about the lives of members of their audiences or about the reality of Western sensibilities, their commercials would look a lot different.
These companies seem to be trying to convince us that if we buy their products we will have those same adventurous, fun lives that the actors in their commercials do, but the truth is that we won’t. Most of us just aren’t that cool. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be. I mean, the CDC and Michelle Obama are spending a lot of time and money trying to convince us that we need to get out and exercise more. What I am saying, though, is that these commercials are not reflective of our reality. I’m also saying that we are not presently that cool, and that the more excuses we have to stare at our computer screen are probably not going to get us there.
Laura Creel (@Little_Utopia) is the managing editor of Little Utopia.
Previously from Laura Creel:
♦ Charles Ramsey, Amanda Berry and the Value of Human Connection
♦ A Discussion on Leaning In and Having It All, and Why It’s Maybe Not For Me
♦ What Amanda Berry Has Taught Me
♦ Zach Braff the Everyman
♦ My Facebook Recovery: Three Years Strong