Truth in advertising: A sojourn from reality


by Matt Morain

Take a break from reality with me.

Imagine yourself in another dimension, a world where ad agencies don’t sugarcoat, mislead or misinterpret consumer products. A world bereft of fantasy advertising to intoxicate the masses. A world where companies sell products, not images. Walk with me now…

You awaken to a man’s voice on the alarm clock that sits on your bedside table. “Come to McDonald’s and try our new McHeartAttack sandwich, now for only 99 cents. After 800 calories and 52 grams of fat, a massive coronary is just around the corner! It tastes good but make no mistake, it’s about as healthy as a pencil in the eye. Enjoy!”

You arise and shower with shampoo that does nothing to excite your loins. After toweling off, you put on clothes that don’t say anything about who you are or who you are trying to be. You lace up your new pair of Air Sweatshops and leave your bedroom.

With no time for a proper breakfast, you grab a No Fat, No Taste cereal bar and head out the door. You unlock your new Ford MPG-efficient SUV and get inside, putting on a generic pop CD that’s not too edgy or offensive, yet upbeat enough for Top 40.

Driving to the store, you pass billboards displaying products for what they are: daily face wash that cleans your pores but doesn’t make you beautiful, jeans that protect your legs but don’t make you popular and a shirt without a logo or brand name that makes it $30 cheaper but doesn’t change your image to anything better or trendy.

You pull into the grocery store and step inside. They offer no promotions to get you to come to their store: no free scarves, gas coupons for your vehicle or free checking at a local bank. They just offer lower prices, and people come.

You stroll down the aisles and select the things you need for the soirée you’re hosting tonight. Potato chips that celebrities don’t eat, soda pop that won’t make you cool, beer that won’t make you attractive and cigarettes that you know will kill you. You don’t care about any of it, because it’s just the truth.

You proceed to the checkout and place your items on the conveyor. There are no periodicals promising unbelievable results in microscopic timeframes, just exercise programs that work for some people who stay dedicated to them. You thumb through the magazines and dozens of insert card ads don’t fall out. You pass over an ad for muscle supplements that won’t make you like the model in the picture.

You suddenly realize that the checkout girl used to be a high-ranking advertising executive, forced to get a practical job when the wool was lifted from the world’s eyes.

This life exists only in dreams.

Come back to the world as we know it.

Awakening from the fantasy, you abruptly realize that advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate in an effort to buy stuff we don’t need.

Wake up.