"The most significant threat to our national security is our debt," Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, August 27,2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

Madison Avenue

Can responsibility for the decline of American values and fundamentals be assigned significantly, if not completely, to Madison Avenue and the influence and impact of the combination of advertising themes and approaches with the development and pervasiveness of mass electronic media?

That is our theme; our question; our premise.

In order to analyze this question we start by displaying the list of the seven deadly sins. They are:

• Lust
• Gluttony
• Greed
• Sloth
• Wrath
• Envy
• Pride

Humans have a tendency to sin. Usually their sins fall within one or more of these seven human weaknesses.

Can we see any connection between the advertising worlds output – their ads, their appeals and this list of sinful conduct? Well, perhaps. OK. Who’s kidding whom? Advertising is built around the sins, all seven of them. Most ads incorporate at least two or three of the sins. Most really good ads will have an attractive and underdressed (lust) female or twenty; will have the theme of looking good compared (envy) with others and will appeal to your need or inclination of feeling about very good about yourself (pride.) Greed is a big seller too. Like, how much of this advertised crap do we really need? The bigger the car; the more dependable and frequent the erection; the pills that offset the problems of being obese or almost obese; gadgets or machines or appliances that do everything for you; constant promotion of silly TV programming; the list goes on and on. Sloth sells. So does gluttony. The only one we can’t directly build is the concept of wrath in an ad. But that does bring us to the electronic media:  television, movies, internet, bluray, Netflix, Hollywood and all their content.

How much of Hollywood and TV is based on anger or bad guys or people doing bad things to others? Well just about all of it, pilgrim. Unless you like movies named after animals, you can pretty well count on a bunch of murders; a bunch of sex (usually outside marriage); a bunch of car chases; a bunch of punching and karate chopping and swordplay and countless episodes of things being blown up – usually material things which, of course, leads to replacement of material things and the circle of life on Madison Avenue continues.

Are you beginning to see our theme come together?

But you say, no, no, you’re missing the point. Good wins out. Evil is overcome. Sin doesn’t win. Virtue wins. The good guys always prevail. The hero wins the heroine. Tears of joy flow at the end of each film; of each segment; of each episode. If you say so pilgrim.

And that is where we end our analysis for the day. In closing we do want to list the seven virtues:

• Chastity
• Temperance
• Charity
• Diligence
• Patience
• Kindness
• Humility

We don’t know if we should put all the blame on Madison Avenue or just split it between them and Hollywood and TV land. Essentially the bookends of America - New York and California.  Two of America's most corrupt places, most fiscally promiscuous locales; most indebted governmental entities.  We do know this. The people we admire; the people who we place on a pedestal are very human and they struggle each day to overcome their weaknesses and sinful tendencies with attention and commitment to virtue. And we know that everything that we can do to value this struggle and bring testimony to its historic consequences is worth every second of every minute of every hour so spent. We are in the struggle. We just aren’t big fans of the people who make money off it. Or the politicians who play to our weaknesses.  Should we shut them down? No. But it wouldn’t hurt for some more voices to join the discussion and bring more balance to the struggle. Sin. It’s a fundamental. Struggle is too.

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