Tuesday, November 6, 2012


It seems only fitting on the day of the election that we would be talking about hope in advertising. After all, I think we all remember the Barack Obama “Hope” poster that was created by artist Shepard Fairey. The poster which was described by many as iconic came to be a representation of Obama’s 2008 campaign. The poster consists of a stylized stencil portrait of Obama in solid red, beige and (pastel and dark) blue, and most commonly with the words "progress", "hope", or "change" below. (Although in some versions other words were used).

What does this poster tell us about what it means to be human? It tells us something about the power of hope as a human emotion. Running for the office of President of the United States of America, the leader of one of the most powerful countries in the world, Barack Obama could have chosen any word he wanted to base his campaign on. But he chose the word hope. This just begs the question why? Why hope? The fact that this word was chosen tells us that it’s something the entire country could relate to and rally behind, it tells us that this word is something that is a part of the human experience. It is more than simply an emotion that humans can express, rather to be human means to hope. We hope for our future, we hope for prosperity, we hope for our children’s future, we hope for restoration, we hope for freedom, we hope for all the blessings of a loving God, we hope for a perfect society.

Scripture tells us that we hope for a perfect society because we were created for such a place. We have hope because whether or not we believe in the Christian faith we recognize that there is something wrong with this world. We recognize the need for something and out of our longing for the restoration of that need our hope is born. This world is not our home, it’s a temporary place that will soon be gone as creation, and God’s original plan for humanity, is restored. We long for a perfect society the way that creation longs for restoration. As Romans 8:22 says, “for we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time”. We as a Christian community, and even as a broader human community, have been groaning and hoping for a restoration that will only be brought on by the second coming of the messiah. This is the reason why hope is such a powerful motivator especially among the secular community. When we know something is wrong and we are groaning for something to make it right we will inevitably hope for something, and if we aren’t placing that hope in Christ then it only makes sense to place our hope in the leader of our country. This is why the word hope in and of itself is such a strong advertisement.


The following is a link to the Obama “Hope” Poster by Shepard Fairey,


Alex Regets

Why am I getting these ads?

Have you ever gotten those ads or catalogs in the mail and you think to yourself “I didn’t sign up for any of these?” I’ve gotten those too.  Some of those catalogs are actually from stores you shop at frequently or contain things that you may buy for yourself or if you are a parent, something you may buy for your kids. Some of them have nothing to do with anything you would ever purchase in your life, but most of the time they all end up in the same place, the trash.
Have you ever wondered how they got your address? I know I did for the longest time, as a child I thought there was some giant database of everyone in the world and they knew what they liked so that they could send them catalogs of stuff they liked. Alas I was wrong; companies do this thing called data mining. It’s where companies track purchases made with your credit card so that they can send you ads that have items similar to what you have purchased previously. They also will send these types of ads to your email. The subject line may read “If you liked (insert product here) you may also like” or “People who purchased (insert product here) also liked.” If you are like me then you just mark those messages as read and move on with reading your emails, but since being in this class I have started to think more about what I purchase and why, I am now more aware of just how influential all of those ads can be.  You know how it is; you pick up the catalog just to “see if there is anything good” and you find yourself eyeing some new kitchen appliance that you’ve been wanting, or a new bed set that you don’t really need, but that would look really nice in your house.  Sometimes you go out and buy that new kitchen appliance or bed set, and sometimes you rethink it and you decide to wait to see if it goes on sale or decide that you really don’t need it.
Marketing companies are sneaky creatures aren’t they? There are times when I really don’t appreciate opening my email and seeing 5 emails about books that I may be interested in, or getting my mail and seeing that most of it is ads and junk mail, but there are times when I am really glad that I got that piece of mail. I think that if companies are going to be allowed to data mine they need to do it in such a way that people can opt. out of getting the ads. That way if they don’t want the mail in their mailbox or the email coming their way, they are able to get rid of them without a hassle.
Next time you are looking through one of those catalogs or ads that you get in the mail, make sure you think to yourself “Do I really need this?” If the answer is no you are probably right, if the answer is yes you should probably think on it a little more. Maybe you could spend the money that you would be spending on some item that you may not use very much on something better, like tithing or giving to an organization, or sponsoring a child.  Proverbs 11:24 says “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” So if you are giving to the church or to another organization you are storing up riches in heaven, but if you store up riches here on earth you are left wanting more. 


Sorry for the long video (feel free to stop it around 3:10) but it really is a great jumping-off point for my topic.

If you go into any Wal-Mart, any Target, any K-Mart, any Sam's Club, and most malls that I know of, you'll find huge aisles full of bottled vitamins. People make big claims about vitamins and health supplements. Omega 3 fish oils will apparently make sure you never get cancer, and vitamin A will give you night vision! Who knew?! Vitamin C ensures that you never get sick and Vitamin D (when taken in conjunction with calcium, of course) will give you bones as strong as iron.

Do you see where I'm going with this? It's not as blatantly obvious as Lucy's "Are you unpopular? Vitameatavegamin!" but it gets us. Why do we hope vitamins and health supplements will take away all our concerns? There are diet pills to make us thinner; laxatives to make us regular (a regular colon is a happy colon); pills to give us energy so we're not 'pooped out at parties'; miracle pills that will do whatever we want them to do... or, rather, miracle pills that will make us do exactly what the manufacturer wants us to do.

I'm not saying vitamins are bad for you - far from it. But seriously? I take vitamins, too, little gummy vitamin C + other things. I usually take one in the morning if I feel like I'm getting sniffly, as sort of an immune booster, which is fine. The given dose is two a day, which will give me 210% of my daily vitamin C, 50% of my vitamin D, and 20% of my zinc. That's a lot! Your body can't even store vitamin C - why do you need 210% a day?! Foods you eat normally have vitamins in them; natural things like fruit and veggies have lots of vitamins because God made them that way, and processed foods are generally fortified with something or other nowadays. Fruits are a lot less expensive than vitamins, generally, too, even if they don't last as long on a shelf. The result? We pack our bodies with nutrition without bothering to figure out if it's actually nutritious.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, except that clearly someone, somewhere, launched an extremely successful campaign which capitalized on people's hope to such an extent that very little advertising is needed, now. It works. People buy bottled everything and don't realize how much money they're wasting in an attempt to force their body (which is not equipped to store most of the vitamins and minerals we give it) into being healthy. To the best of my knowledge, no one has tried to go as far as making Vitameatavegamin (which sounds very much like something which can eliminate the need to eat actual food, it's that good for you) but that doesn't matter when there are hundreds of products in any supermarket that promise to do the same thing!

So remember, friends - thanks to Vitameatavegamin, you can spoon your way to health!

Nutella: Most Unhealthy "Healthy" Snack Ever

Nutella. We all love it, especially on pretzel sticks. But a great deal of its popularity is based on a lie: Nutella is nutritious. Along with those famous 52 hazelnuts per 400g jar, there are also 60 teaspoons of sugar. One blogger refers to the stuff as "spreadable candy." In this ad, as in our reading, it talks about "energy" rather than "calories." They mean the same thing. Although it is made from "all natural ingredients" (which is also explained in the reading as not saying very much at all), the vast majority of that is natural sugar and vegetable oil. Chocolate icing is better for your kids than Nutella is. When something as delicious as Nutella claims that it is also nutritious, our "too good to be true" reflexes should kick in. There's nothing wrong with having it around as a sugary snack, but it should be more honest in its advertising.

In fact, Nutella has been involved in a number of legal battles over its false ads, and plaintiffs have won millions. Of jars of Nutella! But seriously, they've won a lot of money.

This ad is a very similar format to the first one. Nutella can be a good part of your child's balanced breakfast, and they'll gobble it up too, 'cause it's so darn tasty! Seems like our definition of "balanced breakfast" must've really gone downhill in recent years... The ingredients listed in this ad, hazelnuts, skim milk and cocoa, come after sugar and vegetable oil.
All this "hope," as we talked about in class, comes crashing down when one takes a critical eye to the claims made by Nutella. My first experience with Nutella was magical. I was with my girlfriend at the park with a picnic basket she had made up with PB&J sandwiches, drinks, pretzel sticks and Nutella. We could've been a Nutella commercial. When she pulled out the jar and told me about how Nutella was delicious AND nutritious, I was immediately spellbound. She had fallen for their ads and now, so had I. Every time I went to her house after that, I asked if they still had some that she and I could share. It was a while later that I learned the terrible truth.

We as human beings will believe anything that seems relatively plausible as long as it falls in line with what we want. When on the surface something that we want to be true seems like it is, we delve no further and accept what we are given, especially when we are given it by a beautiful girl, as in my case. We tend to ask more questions and have more reservations about things that aren't so happy. In this case, the hope of a delicious nutritious snack is too good to pass up for a large number of consumers.

I wish that we had so much faith in our Christian walks. "God is good and He will provide? But what about etc..." Faith like this in God, faith like a child, is the only object of such faith scripture identifies. We want things to be easy, and to be fun. In the case of Nutella, these criteria are met, so we let down our guard. But our walk with God isn't so easy, so we sometimes put our walls back up. The life God calls us to though, is a life of the kind of faith that sees an advertisement that says "Loving God and following His call for your life is both morally right AND will lead to fulfillment and satisfaction in life!" and believe it.


We’ve all seen those quick and impulsive ads telling us to buy something wonderful and incredibly helpful in our daily lives. In a way, these infomercials are similar to any other advertisement; they will try to sell us their products by any means necessary. Why then are infomercials any different? The answer is undoubtedly the tactic of hope. Almost every infomercial has a well-mannered spokesperson praising the incredible effects of their product. He lures us in with the thought of how much better their product is than whatever second rate product we’ve been using. In essence, infomercials give us hope for a better standard of living in such a way that most of us have caved into this billion dollar industry on more than one occasion. And that’s perfectly understandable when we see an infomercial telling us to buy some product right away because these paid actors can attest to how great it has worked in their lives. Sure, everything might be staged, but that’s a small price to pay in order to get the consumer this life changing product, right? Wrong. The problem comes in when the product isn’t actually life changing at all.

Take the ShamWow, for example. It’s one of my favorite infomercials. We all remember Vince Offer (the ShamWow Guy) telling us how these German-made towels can clean up any mess quickly and easily. The commercial itself praises the ShamWow for its durability and capacity to hold up to twenty times its weight in liquid. Not only that, but the ShamWow, as demonstrated in the commercial, seems to have a magnetic, almost “magical” effect of attracting and cleaning up liquids. This sounds great –I wish I was ordering one right now. But hold on a second. Has anyone evaluated these claims? The makers of ShamWow have, of course, but they’re the ones trying to sell us their product. Back in 2007, this infomercial was our main source of authority on the validity of these claims. Now, quite a few years later, it’s pretty obvious the ShamWow was nothing more than a “ScamWow.” Once tested a few times, it was discovered that the ShamWow doesn’t in fact hold twenty times its weight in liquids, it’s more like ten times its weight (ShamWow actually had to change their infomercials to say “ten times its weight in liquids” because their information was discovered to be so false), making it basically just another rag. Also, those wonderful testimonies in the commercial? Yeah, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if none of those people ever used a ShamWow, considering they just bought one. 

                But still, the infomercial made it look so good. Why doesn’t my ShamWow work like Vince’s? I think this video best explains why:

                So the ShamWow’s not that good. Clearly there is deception in this video. Vince and the ShamWow people are deliberately suggesting something false about their product just so they can sell it. And not only are they suggesting it with words, but they are physically manipulating the commercial so we make the connection on our own that their product can do magical things. This is more than just wrong –it’s deplorable. For nothing more than money the makers of Shamwow or any other product will construe their product in the best possible light. It makes sense for them to stretch the truth, but do they need to do it to such an extent as to flat out lie to us? 

Yet still millions of ShamWows were sold, and it’s obvious as to why. As human beings, we crave our hope of better conditions in our lives. Yes, there is probably some survival instinct linked with hope, but it’s more than that –hope is a positive emotion, and as such, people will desire it. The problem with this now is that “hope” has become equated with “convenience” thanks to our constantly bustling society. And people like Vince know this, and will flat out lie to us just to get our hopes up and to get us to buy his product. Maybe there are some good products sold in infomercials, but examples like this have convinced me to never buy from one again.

My Soldier Can Beat Up Your Soldiers

When I think of the Marines, I think of two things:  Call of Duty and my high school cafeteria where the Marines would come every few months and set up their pull-up bar in hopes of luring in some recruits. They are tough; they are strong; they are scary. Military people in general intimidate me. However, I saw a commercial for the U.S. Marine Corps that gave me another type of feeling:


After I watched this, I felt different inside—I felt proud, almost warm and fuzzy. The very first line is this:  “Your Marine Corps’ way of life is to defend the American way of life.” The advertisement proceeds with several shots of Marines doing Marine stuff—walking around tanks, flying helicopters, and sitting in some unknown countryside—but also Americans doing everyday activities, like rounding up cattle, waiting in the subway station, and enjoying coffee at a cafĂ©. One of the last shots is of a mother and her young son smiling and looking at the statue of the soldiers holding up the flag at Iwo Jima. It ends with this: “Everyday, no matter where we serve, we take a stand for our nation, for each other, for us all” followed by the Marines’ tagline. The whole while there is trumpet playing majestically in the background.

It gets to me! This advertisement makes me proud to be an American. More importantly it gives me hope. It gives me hope that our nation will be safe for now and for future generations, thanks to the Marines. If I had children, I would have no problem turning to them and telling them they are safe after watching this commercial. I think a big thing with hope is having a sense of security to go along with it, which is why the Marine Corps ad struck a cord with me. It made me feel safe and secure, giving me hope that things will continue to be that way in the future.

It’s interesting where we find our hope. David wrote Psalm 20 when he was about to go to war. My favorite two verses are 7 and 8:

 7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
8 They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.

Whereas other nations trusted in their own power (“chariots” and “horses”), David trusted in God to guide his nation and keep Israel secure; this is where his hope was. David knew that by trusting in God, Israel would be standing firm at the end of the day.  As Christians, we should have the same sense of security that David did. God provided then, He provides now, and will continue to provide for his people. This is a much greater, much more secure sense of hope than I will ever feel. Yes, knowing that my country is being guarded by very able soldiers gives me hope and security. Even more than that, however, is knowing that my God will be faithful to guard me in many more areas than just the physical, and that is all the hope I need.

Pandora's Box

            Data mining sounded creepy in the text, but it isn’t that bad until you realize that you’re a part of it, too. Leading up to election season, political ads targeting young people were blitzing the Internet, and I managed to find myself the specific target of an ad. Listening to my favorite bands on Pandora, I was shocked to suddenly hear President Obama informing me that millions of Ohioans have voted early. I wasn’t that creeped out, but going over it after reading about data mining made me ask a couple questions: How did they know that I’m from Ohio? How do they know that I’m part of a demographic that would want to vote early? It’s a bit discomforting to know that someone managed to get that information out of me.
            But can we really blame advertisers for using this tool? If they can figure out my age group and my home state, I’m sure that other advertisers have other information about me. Who knows what I’m being sold, and what I’m going to be sold, without my knowledge that it’s being targeted specifically at me? And is that even such a bad thing? In an odd way, I enjoyed the thought that the Pandora ad was made specifically for me and others like me. The ad will probably encourage many people on both sides to vote that normally would not. Ohio is going to be an intense battleground state this year, so why not use all of the tools available? Sure it’s creepy, but it works, and many people don’t even notice that it’s happening. Many websites are data mining in much more voluntary and much less creepy ways. Hulu plays ads while you watch, but it asks if you think that an ad is relevant to you while you watch. You can select yes or no, and it will determine what ads it shows in the future based on what you selected as relevant or irrelevant. It’s possible that these preferences are passed onto a shady information group, but what do you care if you’re enjoying your Hulu commercials? Looking forward, we have to weigh the pros and cons of losing our privacy.
            We shouldn’t be too afraid of losing our privacy because we are called to live in a way that exposes our lives and actions to others. We are called by the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, so what do we have to fear from others knowing more about us? We ought to live in such a way that others will look at our lives and recognize that what we have is evident and wonderful. Fighting for our privacy seems like a waste of time in contrast to our goal and our calling. We have to take care that we are in the world and not of the world as we live in a world of advertisements. Our witness is going to be put to the test if we’re being watched, in any way.