Practical Products Produce Powerful Purpose

Casey Miller, Editor in Chief

There is nothing more potentially powerful these days than advertising. A well packaged message can reach a vast audience, altering personal perspectives and changing lives.

It’s election season, meaning disparaging attacks against candidates are repeated on local TV networks and my phone ringings off the hook with robocalls from political groups. But these are not the types of advertisements that have stolen my heart. Corporate commercial advertising is the true object of my affinity.

With so many platforms for brand broadcasting — Internet, mobile, television — nearly anyone in a developed country can be targeted with carefully planned marketing. Entire companies are dedicated to analyzing statistics (analytics) about who sees what advertisements at a certain time of day in a certain fashion, and how they respond.

If I don’t become a journalist, I’m going to be a marketing executive. I’m obsessed with these statistics and the power of advertising to convey information and shape beliefs.

Some advertisements are beautiful conceived and exquisitely executed. Actress Charlize Theron stars as a model in a J’adore Dior perfume commercial, which has been curiously hailed as a  campaign empowering women.

I can’t help but agree with an ambassador for the brand who said that “the J’adore adverts have become synonymous with heroing a strong, powerful woman and Charlize is captivating as the face, beautifully embodying the fragrance. The theme of the new campaign is a new world where every hope is possible.”

A campaign like this is motivating. Every girl, whether she is 5 years old or 85, wants to be the gorgeous woman draped in gold, who is finally on top of the world and in charge of her future. It’s not so much about the product as it is about the social statement.

Some advertisements appeal to broader audiences. Apple’s marketing team seems to have a knack for creating inspiring, captivating commercials. Seeing a montage of home videos taken across the world (with an iPhone of course) makes me want to experience bungee jumping in New Zealand and the Holi festival in India. Yes, Apple! I want the thrill of a lifetime, and I want to record it with my iPhone!

We all shed a tear when Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” plays as an abandoned dog looks beyond the television and into your soul. Some commercials are legendary like that.

I swear, I heard “hump day!” in the hallways every Wednesday for a year after the Geico commercial featuring a camel was released. And we can’t forget Flo from Progressive. No one can forget Flo.

Not every message hits home however. While I’d give a clap on the back to whatever genius concocted such memorable commercials — seriously, the State Farm guy must be a millionaire — these aren’t inspiring.  I don’t want to crop my hair and become Flo from Progressive, and I’m not going to wear khakis and call myself the State Farm guy; more importantly I suppose, I’m not moved to purchase any type of insurance.

For that matter, I guess I really don’t need an iPhone. I am inspired to travel the world, however.

I want to be large and in charge, crafting my own destiny. I will be a CEO, editor-in-chief, the boss. Even actress Charlize Theron herself directs her own movies and travels to her home country of South Africa every year for charity work. She adopted a son without being in any sort of relationship. I want to have her empowered spirit, which is represented in that commercial.

This is what good commercials do. They may not necessarily inspire me to go buy the specific product, but they do convey a lasting idea.

Next time a commercial gives you a rush of endorphins, appreciate it. Take the time to find the advertisement on Youtube, replay it, research it, and consider the meaning beyond its practical purpose to sell you a product.

In the age of digital media, light speed social interaction, and global cultural change, a 30 second masterpiece really can be as impactful today as an album, novel or film was to generations past.