May 02, 2016

The Existential Adman

Before we get started, let's acknowledge that "The Existential Adman" is the worst title for a blog post in the history of online jabbering. If this thing gets 5 hits it'll be a miracle. But we soldier on unafraid...

Why do we care about advertising? Is there anything in it worthy of our attention and concern? These are the existential questions that we hope to answer in today's post.

Let's start with a wide shot and then cut to the extreme close-up. The wide shot is this: Is there anything anywhere worth caring about?

To contemplate this we need to get a sense of our place in the universe. We hear a lot of awe-inspiring banalities from gasbags like Neil deGrasse Tyson about the 100's of billions of stars in a galaxy and the hundreds of billions of galaxies in the universe. This gives us the impression that the universe is teeming with stuff.

In fact, the universe is the emptiest thing you can imagine. Only 0.000000000000000000004 percent of the universe contains any matter. The universe has less actual substance to it than a social media pitch deck.

Our planet is not even a speck of dust on a galactic scale. On a universal scale it essentially doesn't exist. Still worried about whether your socks match?

The next depressing reality concerns our species. Our planet has been around for about 4 billion years. We humans have been here for only about 200,000 years. So what portion of the Earth's life have we been a part of? The answer again is a decimal point, a lot of zeroes, and a 4 -- .00004.

In other words, our stay here at the Planet Earth Inn and Suites has been quite a short one and, sadly,  promises not to last very much longer. The odds of us blowing ourselves up, melting ourselves, or poisoning ourselves seem to be shortening daily.

So the question is, if we are so insignificant and so temporary does anything really matter? This philosopher believes that no, nothing really matters. But in order to live an orderly life we have to pretend it matters. If we don't pretend things matter, we're all likely to wind up in the gutter drugged up and filthy. You remember college, right?

Next we get to advertising. In light of all this meaninglessness and nothingness how can anyone take advertising seriously?

Well first, of course, there's the money. We gotta pay for Netflix somehow.

But let's be honest. There's something fascinating about advertising that transcends payday.

Studying advertising helps us strip away some of the fanciful notions of human rectitude and more often than not exposes the depth of human vanity to those of us who are willing to recognize it.

Of course there are those in the advertising business who, despite all evidence to the contrary, believe that peoples' consuming habits are motivated by high-minded principles and not by self-interest.

But to those of us who accept humanity warts and all, advertising presents a unique lens through which we can view human behavior in a way that is not always evident in other lines of endeavor.

And now for the existential answers:

Does advertising mean anything? No.

Is it interesting? Yes.

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