Monday, November 5, 2012

Cynicism in a Jar

I was a little disappointed – and yet, also filled with an odd sense of accomplishment with my predictions – when Lindstrom turned his focus in chapter 8 from superfruits to facial cream…because the first thing that came to my mind when he was describing the (essentially) false advertising of acai berries, goji berries, etc., was Proactiv. Even though he didn’t come out and use the example of Proactiv, I think the underlying principles are the same with anti-aging facial creams – the same hopes carried by superfruits and every other product we’re gotcha’d by through this marketing scheme.

I am a full-blown advocate against Proactiv. If they are even still around, I would like to offer you an invitation not to try it. Don’t waste your time. I’ve never had an extreme war with acne, but it has been something that has followed me for years. When it was at its worst, my dad insisted (based on a television ad) that Proactiv was the way to go.

And I mean, talk about “Hope in a Jar.” Let’s go through the countless face-models Proactiv has had: Jessica Simpson, Julianne Hough, Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson, and everyone’s favorite, Justin Bieber. (Forgive me if I’ve forgotten a few hundred.) All of them seemingly having overcome their terrible acne, thanks to Proactiv.

Lindstrom talks a lot about word and image association with products as a vessel of our hope. With the popularity of Proactiv (especially at that time), all I can say is that I didn’t live under a rock. I knew about Proactiv. I knew about – and yes, even felt – the hope that came with it. It was a hope that I, someday, might have as good of skin as a celebrity.

Not only was this celebrity status associated with Proactiv in my mind, but there was the ever-so-popular “before and after” shots (that need to accompany any good image-enhancing product advertisement). Those are what stuck in my mind the most, the number one association for me. Even if I didn’t make it to celebrity status by using Proactiv, at least I’d have my “before and after” shots on television ads. Maybe I could even do a short testimonial for them. I was in the before, and I was (hopefully) longing for that after.

It obviously didn’t work for me. And while I guess I’m not trying to make the claim that Proactiv definitely will not work for you, I do want to say that the idea that it definitely will work for you is bogus, and is, for what it’s worth, one of my biggest grievances with advertisements in general. Just as with the claim that drinking superfruits will make you healthy, there is hardly ever research presented to back claims up. Marketers get an association in your mind – whether that be rain forests or smooth, celebrity-esque skin – and they run with it.

I feel like we are so desperate as a consumer-driven society to grab on to the next big thing. It doesn’t even matter what it’s for. As long as it gives us hope in a better future (usually manifested in the form of a better self, I’m sad to say), we want to try it. It’s got to work. Our “hope” is nothing more than crafty (and deceitful) persuasion.

My Proactiv experience is one of many experiences where I’ve had false hope in something, only to have my hopes fade to cynicism. As I hinted, I have many complaints about, well, probably everything society has ever placed on a pedestal. For me, it just goes to show that we can trust in our worthless idols, or simply put our trust in God to provide us (simply) with all that we need.

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