Saturday, 20 April 2013

The Pains Of Pandering

Advertisers these days are assholes. In a way, a handful of them were back in the days when consumerism began to rear its head. Multiple companies, from Coca Cola to Malboro outright lied to you about the benefits of their products. It was clear to them that they only cared about your money, and if they had to get in any way they can, they would. Nowadays, it's easier to detect marketing bullshit and flat out ignore these ads. Not only because they're absurd, idiotic or just plain deceiving, but because they're goddamn everywhere. You can't open your email without seeing at least 20 spam messages about some hocus-pocus magic pill or walk out into the street without seeing billboard upon billboard of products that probably don't need that advertising because they're already so damn huge. I'm surprised I don't see ads playing in my dreams, but you know they're going to find a way to pull that. But let's face it, we too have to advertise ourselves to the public so that we can become prominent in whatever industry we set out on. Some of us do it by the sheer skill they exert with their occupation, others know how to network and a few even just get lucky with some big hit. And in the midst of the cesspool of the usual ads, there is something that does catch your eye and makes you interested in its cause.

See, if one isn't obnoxiously cramming into your skull "BUY MY BOOK", but rather trying to ease you into checking out the book, one is more inclined to think that perhaps its worth their time. They could get it, they could not, they may like it, they may not, it's up to them what they should do. Most trailers simply just show the product and let you decide. It feels much more natural, to take that approach. Obviously, advertisers don't want a "maybe" from potential customers, they want a "Fuck yes!", and that's fine, to a certain extent. If the product itself can engage the audience enough to want to spend money on it, that's fine by me. If the product has something that I happen to enjoy, I'll go for it even more because it appeals to me. But if that product is forced to make me enjoy it, that's when we get to something called "pandering". Pandering is what   makes people look at the advertising industry and say "I hope those scumbags choke on the cocaine they snort out of their hundred dollar bills" because it not only shows their desperation for their money, but it also has taken advantage of all of us, whether we want to admit it or not.

There are certain parts of this world that are only fit for certain people. Chocolate may be loved by many, but only a few enjoy caviar. It's all dependent on your tastes. The problem that resides there is that the amount of people that like caviar aren't enough, so making a substantial profit may be tricky. One could try to raise the price of caviar, but who's to say that everyone's going to buy it at that outrageous price? So, the people who sell caviar can do two things. One, they could try to make caviar better or two, they could sell it in a container that looks like it was a chocolate bar. The latter, is a type of pandering that deceives the customer into liking it because of the way its presented to it, but in reality it has nothing to do with what you expected. Think of it as if you edited the Shining as if it was a family comedy.

Fun for the whole family!

This sort of advertising can result in two ways. The first one is that the people who were trying to sell a product didn't have an idea how to properly capture the essence of the product so they went with the closest thing that worked. When that happens, you're either delightfully surprised or very disappointed. The other one, which is more relevant to the example I gave above is that you target a different audience so that they are convinced that your product is equal or better to what they enjoy. The key difference of these two forms comes from how complex the product is. If it's a new revolutionary device that humans are not familiar with its main function, it's understandable why the ads mix you up. If it's just some silly children's toy and it's built up like it has the ability to cure cancer, that's when outrage is 100% justified.

Another instance of pandering comes from what's inside of the product. Let's suppose you bought a box of chocolates. You're happily enjoying the white chocolate, dark chocolate, the cherry filling, the one with the almonds, the one with caramel filling, and all is fine and dandy until you sink your teeth into the coconut coffee one. All of the treats looked great and the coconut coffee especially had an appealing look, but the awful mixture of flavors ruin the experience for you. That's sort of the feeling you get when this occurs. What happens is that at some moments, a film or a video game throws at you something that seems to come off as though it didn't belong. It could perhaps be referencing something modern to give the illusion that it's "relevant", it could have a character whose only purpose is to bring in an unfitting crowd or it could simply just give an incredibly subtle indication that you should buy another product by having it conveniently in front of the camera.

How the mighty have fallen...

I don't think I need to tell you that when this happens, it not only catches you off guard, it also ruins what fun you were having before. It breaks that feeling of being entranced by the action that is going on and instead takes you out of that experience. It treats you like a child, as it dangles your keys above your head so that you enjoy yourself. We don't want to be amused by the keys, we want to be amused by the ride, so give them to us so we can drive the car, damn it. Yet, in many instances, this form of pandering creeps in. Sometimes it's worked out in a way that's really subtle and doesn't linger too much on trying to draw you in, other times, it's weaved into the narrative in a way that one doesn't see it sticking out to much. Naturally this doesn't work so well with selling a soda or anything but for the previous two, it is possibly that it doesn't have to play off on its desperation.

The oldest example of pandering is the infamous "sex sells" slogan. The idea is that if you want to buy something, all you need is to rub it against a naked lady. Now, there's only thing that can truly get away with sex sells, and that's women's clothing. Everything else just plays on an animalistic instinct that could perhaps fool us to believing that we're buying something good. Some even go so far to imply that this is going to get you laid. Let me tell you something right now, chugging down beers and smelling of Axe does not get you anywhere near sexual intercourse. If anything, it scares them away. Now, I'm not too bugged by this pandering because I grew up in a country where everything literally got that treatment. It's a twisted way of being proud of our women, I suppose. That and exploiting sex for some other gain will continue to happen until time ends. Now, with that said, it's still a cheap way to get people to buy a product. In the instance of GoDaddy though, they do it in a way that plays so tongue in cheek, it becomes really grating. Not because "oh my, they're using attractive women, how sexist" but more because "oh my, they're using attractive women, how trite".

What is this, Revenge Of The Nerds 3?

As the years have gone by, "sex sells" has lost some of its powers and a lot of different trends have been capitalized to exploit the more gullible masses. Ever since the internet came to fruition, there have been pop ups galore, annoying your computer surfing experience. Ads have been plastered at every side of sites, Twitter and Facebook have been used by companies to spew out their pitches here and there and have even been the vehicle that creates all those giveaways and contests that they enjoy to do. Hell, if you want to make a few cents from your Youtube videos, Google monetization does just that by placing ads over your videos that will undoubtedly be ignored if someone has Adblock Plus. In the midst of all these ads, what really has elevated the tediousness of pandering is the internet culture itself.

Whatever thing that has gotten popular on the net has eventually been shoved down our throats excessively by others who wish to use that for their own gains. Memes are by far the worst of this as they have weaved themselves into either something that didn't need the memetic treatment or been attached to already annoying commercials and made them worse. It's not just the big dogs though, whatever video series that has been deemed really popular on the internet by advertising agents have filled stores with their merchandise for some incomprehensible reason other than the blatant one of trying to make money out of something that's huge. What's so backwards about this is that the sort of content that gets such an excessive amount of marketing usually ends up being universally loathed by a lot of people. It's almost surprising why this happens, yet it's immensely chilling to believe that these people are at the fore-front of the future of entertainment and it's ungodly insulting that there are people out there falling for it.

This is what's wrong with the world.

Look, we all want to get out image out there, that's part of who we are. It's not necessarily bad to ask others to perhaps spread your message about and it doesn't hurt that you try to do something to attract an audience.  It's only when you start to desperately cling on people and beg them to give them every single last cent that the problem arises. You make a fool out of yourself and your product. It doesn't really have to do with how much of your product you can sell though. It simply makes it less of a great experience, it perpetuates a semblance of ignorance that the public has. I'm not going to say that I've detached myself from this and that I blame all of you for this garbage that you have dumped out to the world, because part of that mess is mine. What I simply want to say is that we shouldn't fall for it, we should be calling it out. If we're going to promote something, we should try not to use those tactics and just show our product for what it is. I've seen a great deal of people that do what I've said, and I'm sure it'll carry on. Just like the ones who create this crap.

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