Wednesday, July 29, 2020

advertising ... lest we forget

Slip-sliding around the television channels the other night, I came upon some historical retrospective that seemed to take place around the turn of the last century. Specifically, the comment that caught my attention was a reference to the very first recognition and use of advertising. I want to say somewhere around 1900 or something like that, but that doesn't seem quite right ... anyway ...
... The advent of advertising and the fresh-off-the-frying-pan summation of advertising as an exercise in the attempt to 
... get people to buy things they don't need.
... Imagine that -- knowing what you actually need and then going to the store and buying that thing. Period.
What would stores look like? What would rows and rows of more and more stuff become? What would anyone's life be like without the advertising assault? Just buy what you decide you need and can afford and then move on.

But, but, but ... the mind is so awash in advertising these days that imagining life without it seems ... well ... unimaginable.

My neighbor Joe once went to Kenya with his church group to help build school houses and dig wells. He took two suit cases with him. When he returned several months later, he had one. "I didn't need all that stuff," he said of the satisfying lessons he learned among those who had less than he did.

Try spending a day -- hell! half a day -- without buying anything you don't need. Imagine a day without advertising of any sort.

In the early days of advertising, I once sent a quarter to a radio ad address that offered wildflower seeds. In my youth, I thought that if I sent the quarter, they might delete the ad and stop interrupting the soap operas I liked listening to. Count me as an early sucker, obviously, though there was less followup junk mail than there is these days.

Try it ... go to the store. Buy what you need. Go home.


  1. Do your due diligence!

    A brief stint in applying for a GBA revealed that the history of advertising goes back to ancient civilizations.

    "Urk has the best stegosaurus hide tunics!"

    From Wikipedia:

    "Egyptians used papyrus to make sales messages and wall posters. Commercial messages and political campaign displays have been found in the ruins of Pompeii and Arabia. Lost and found advertising on papyrus was common in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. Wall or rock painting for commercial advertising is another manifestation of an ancient advertising form, which is present to this day in many parts of Asia, Africa, and South America. The tradition of wall painting can be traced back to Indian rock art paintings that date back to 4000 BCE."

    How about this for irony:

    "It became a major force in capitalist economies in the mid-19th century, based primarily on newspapers and magazines."

    But sure,
    "In the 20th century, advertising grew rapidly with new technologies such as direct mail, radio, television, the internet and mobile devices."

    I maintain it is normal, healthy human nature to "need" to have nice things, attractive things, useful things, etc. Need actually goes beyond ill considered notions of supposed "essentials." Often others wish to determine other people's "needs" and "essentials."

    Lifestyles such ax Spartanism, Asceticism, and Minimalism are legitimate choices but choices that should have consciously accepted limits and, perhaps, in need of a support system.

    Often the choice of minimalism is actually an symptom of an emotional condition:

    "Compulsive decluttering is a pattern of behavior that is characterized by an excessive desire to discard objects in one's home and living areas. Other terms for such behavior includes obsessive compulsive spartanism. The homes of compulsive declutterers are often empty. It is the opposite of compulsive hoarding."

    Enjoy your Empty Life.
    Enjoy your Full Life.
    Do not be deceived.
    You really should not buy stuff you don't want.
    Mind your budget.

  2. Reminds me of my dad's second favorite quotes.

    His first was in fact a soft sell advertisement,

    "Insurance pays, sympathy does not."

    He was a licensed insurance broker. He posted this like a treasured truth. I still like it.

    You post reminded me of this quote,

    "I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet. "

    I have felt differently about quote over the years. In grade school through early high school I thought it was a good, wise saying in line with my Catholic education. As I approached adulthood and became more political aware during the Viet Nam era, I began to think that the saying was meant to keep poor people in their place.

    Evidently the quote is a translation of a Persian Proverb derived from story-poem by Muslih-ud-Din, 1184-1291 CE.

    "I never lamented about the vicissitudes of time or complained of the turns of fortune except on the occasion when I was barefooted and unable to procure slippers. But when I entered the great mosque of Kufah with a sore heart and beheld a man without feet I offered thanks to the bounty of God, consoled myself for my want of shoes and recited:

    'A roast fowl is to the sight of a satiated man less valuable than a blade of fresh grass on the table And to him who has no means nor power a burnt turnip is a roasted fowl.

    - From a 1258 collection called: The Gulistan of Sa'di.

    1. I believe the translation does not capture the poetic artistry of the story-poem.

    2. Given the relativity of need, its probably best to not impose a fixed view on the issue, and is likely unwise to comment on the perceived needs of others, nor upon the perceived virtue of others who purport to "need" less.

  3. ‘Success Addicts’ Choose Being Special Over Being Happy

    And yet I can't visualize a Minimalist accomplishing much.

    1. Sorry to butt in, but...

      My primary care doctor, who knows how I dislike fiddly-fucking around with medicines, once described himself as "pharmacologicial minimalist." I loved it as I loved (relatively speaking) the implications ... fewer and fewer drugs, less and less fiddly-fucking.
      Minimalism has its upside from where I sit.

    2. Sounds like pablum for your ears.

      Every doctor should be a Pharmacological Minimalist.

      Every drug prescribed should be necessary. Prescribing questionable or unnecessary drugs is likely criminal, not prescribing necessary drugs is also likely criminal.

      With a doctor who was up front like that I would then one would of necessity have to ask not only if every drug one was prescribed was necessary AND whether the drugs one was taking was sufficient and if not why.

      In a similar vein, I've heard of doctors who only prescribe well understood drugs ie at least 5 years in use for patients over 50, and at least 10 years in use for patients over 70.

      Seems sound but also may deprive older patients of current break throughs.

      There are drugs that have both beneficial and detrimental effects. If one takes them usually one needs to be tested every three months or so.

      Upshot: "need" and "minimalism" are much fuzzier than they seem at first glance.

  4. I wonder how many items your neighbor eventually replaced from the second suitcase (including the second suitcase).

    I also wish I could visit Minimalist Marie Kando's home.