I would love to see the meetings where TV commercial directors make pitches. Like who thinks up these Geico commercials? Or car commercials?
Or this recent commercial I saw? Johnny Depp narrates saying how he needs to escape, drives into the desert while an ominous guitar riff plays. He buries his jewelry and watches the sunset. End scene.
How can someone sell this concept as an ad to sell cologne?
Then I started to think about it. I can understand that it’s hard to sell perfume when you only have visual and auditory communication. And a large part of what draws us to particular scents is not the actual smell but the memories associated with them. If it’s a new perfume, you don’t have any memories with it. So the pitchmen make a memory for you.
I should know how this works after watching Mad Men and specifically the amazing episode, The Wheel, where Don Draper is pitching for Kodak slideshow equipment:
But he also talked about a deeper bond with the product: nostalgia. It’s delicate… but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek, “nostalgia” literally means, “the pain from an old wound”. It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a spaceship. It’s a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the Wheel. It’s called a Carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels. Around and around, and back home again… to a place where we know we are loved.
The marketing execs are trying to tap into your nostalgia. Especially in times of stress, uncertainty, shame, vulnerability (hello 2017!) we tap into our minds to find those memories where we felt free, we felt certain, we felt beautiful and smart and strong and secure. And I can understand having trinkets or talismans – I guess we call them souvenirs when we return from a vacation – to help us remember the fun times, the good times. And marketers want their product to be your talisman. They want all their products to serve as talismen until your home is overloaded with products and fake memories.
Still, I think it’s interesting to watch advertising as an introspective exercise. These Dior perfume commercials in particular have been appealing to me and I believe it’s because they have this idea of freedom and romance.
In the Miss Dior perfume commercial, in a variety of vignettes, Natalie Portman jumps off a bridge, fights with her lover, screams, runs along a beach in a pink ballgown, recklessly drives a pink convertible and then asks “And you? What would you do for love?”
Well, I probably wouldn’t do any of those things for love. But even if they’re not necessarily all positive actions, the passion is appealing. (Also Natalie Portman looks so pretty).
So what should I do? Well, I like the Miss Dior perfume but I already have my signature scent (Chloe – Roses, if you’re curious). Watching the commercial does reinforce the idea that I feel inadequate in the lack of passion in my life. It’s something that I’ve been working on, and I still feel the yearning in my heart. I need to work on my passion for life, not buy the product.
On the other hand, these family memories commercials have no effect on me. I guess I feel ok about my relationship with my family.
I’ve heard that a big reason (not the only reason) people don’t keep their New Year’s Resolutions is because they don’t even really want them. They set a goal but it’s the wrong goal. It’s like what they tell you in the Bullet Journal Start Up video – if you keep setting the same goal every month and you never complete it, do you really want it? It may be time to reevaluate.
This may all seem silly. We all know what we really want, right? I recently read, for whatever reason, a summary of a 2013 interview with Brad Pitt for Esquire. In it, he states that he felt that he was wasting his life away during his marriage to Jennifer Aniston and that in Angelina Jolie he saw “a very adventurous person who was grabbing on to life and taking it to its nth degree.” So Brad Pitt wanted adventure and he saw adventure in Jolie. This is not to say he didn’t also want Jolie, the most beautiful woman in the world. But there was something stronger than her looks because most people don’t leave their spouses for the other person. He left Aniston because of the marketing. It was the missing adventure that touched his soul.
Of course, we know how this eventually played out because of their messy divorce. Maybe if he had learned to work out the longing for adventure within himself, instead of looking outwardly, then he could still be married to Jennifer Aniston and I wouldn’t have an irrational hatred for Angelina Jolie. #TeamAniston
So sometimes you think you know what you want (most beautiful woman in the world), but you’re actually going after your hidden desire (adventure, meaning).
The guys who make advertising are masters at drawing out your emotions. By watching commercials (or TV) that really move you, and understanding why they’re moving you, you’re letting the masters direct you to the goals you really long to achieve. What is it that resonates with you? What is the pain from an old wound that you seek to rectify?
I love this quote from Sean Brock, chef: “Suffering is suffering. It doesn’t matter if you are addicted to porn on the internet or you’re codependent or you’re addicted to gambling or if you’re addicted to ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta.’ You’re suffering, and that’s what gets us into trouble.”
We are all suffering and we are all seeking out ways to fix that suffering, consciously or not. And if we are not consciously figuring out the solution, we definitely can get into trouble trying to find solutions where there are none.
So the first step is to figure out the suffering. And watching TV is the cheapest therapy you can find (so long as you don’t buy the products they’re selling and maybe even if you do). And once you find your weakness,in the future, you’ll be able to see how advertising is manipulating you. No, I don’t want that perfume. I want passion. I want to look like Natalie Portman. I do kinda want a pink convertible.
Go create your own memories, find your passions, repair your relationships with your family. You’ll never find the solutions in a product or even outside yourself. But perhaps you can find what you’re really missing in the New Year by looking at advertising.
Have any ads exposed to you about your inner desires?