Flogging Ice Cubes to Eskimos

There are two things this world has way too many of - lawyers and advertising executives. Both of these occupations are essential cogs in the great machine of capitalism. However, the population generally loathes both because they are too often on the wrong end of their heroic battles in the service of the great machine. For the sake of brevity, let's look at advertising executives and skip the lawyers. About them, let's just say Shakespeare was right - kill them all and be done with it.

It is the job of these penultimate practitioners of the deceptive arts to convince consumers to buy things. Whether or not potential buyers actually need said things is beside the point. Ad execs work solely on behalf of businesses and their interest in consumers is limited to whatever trickery is required to dupe the poor Eskimos into buying the company's ice cubes.

Ad execs use their wiles in ways both obvious and subliminal. For example, if you buy Beer X a bevy of attractive, shapely women will surround you. If you buy Beer Y, the same women will become unbelievably pneumatic in appearance, go slack-jawed at your very presence, and quite possibly grab Mr. Beer Buyer's penis and force him into sexual congress. The same things can be said about shampoo that causes orgasmic delight, tough trucks capable of towing the Queen Mary, and cell phone calling plans that are simultaneously cheaper, provide unlimited coverage, never break down, and provide free cell phones of Swiss Army-like utility - phone, camera, music center, game console, cappuccino maker, and smoothie blender wrapped in a device so small one needs an electron microscope to use the ever-so-tiny keypad.

You can say all you want about being wise to them and not falling for their fluffery, but we're all just prey stepping between the shark's jaws. We're sure you've bought something so incredibly cool that your life would end without it. You dragged the awful thing home, with great difficulty assembled it, and placed it in the corner of your bedroom where it now makes a dandy stand on which to hang your dirty clothes. Go ahead. Admit it like the 12-step craving greedhead you are.

We fall for so many obvious things that the subtle is often lost under a tsunami of tiny, imperceptible lies. However, the subtle things are the true evil genius in advertising. Any old shlump can say, "This is a good and useful thing. You should buy it at a fair and honest price and we will deliver it as quickly possible. We hope you'll love our product, please hand over your money now, have a nice day, and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out."

The thing consumers often fail to see is how advertising flies in the face of the primary tenet of capitalistic markets - sell a superior product at a superior price and the market will beat a path to your door with money in hand and the urge to buy burning in their good-natured, though naive hearts.

As we stand there, money in hand, it's usually not until we trundle the product home that we realize we've been had. The simple truth about the American free-market system is that it doesn't reward companies that produce better products at better prices, it rewards companies that make products that suck marginally less than their competitors' and is made at sub-slave labor prices so the CEO can pocket the difference for his 15th yacht to compensate for his shriveled dangly bits.

So the next time you hear some screaming head on the Cavuto Report spouting off about free markets, deregulation, and the power of the free enterprise system remember that he's a liar and that he's probably reading from a script prepared by, who else, advertising executives.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Thursday, March 02, 2006

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