What are commercials really selling?

Evan Forester —  June 29, 2012 — 1 Comment

Depending on what study you check, humans see between 300-3,000 advertisements. That is crazy. Anytime you hear a certain message 300 times a day, you are going to start believing it, no matter how ridiculous it is.

But with 300-3000 different ads, surely we aren’t hearing the same message over and over again, right?

Actually, no. Almost all advertisements say the exact same thing: “Buy this product, and you will have the full life!” I say this for two reasons. First, it demonstrates that our entire culture craves the full life. We all want it, but few people know how to get it. If we knew how to get it, we wouldn’t need advertisement companies to tell us hundreds of times a day how to get it.

Secondly, we need to recognize this phenomenon to protect ourselves. Even if you know that a product cannot give you abundant life, when you hear that message so often it becomes very hard to not believe it. We have to remind ourselves often of the truth, or else the truth will seem to become a lie. But the unchangeable, timeless truth is this: the full life comes from only one place: following Jesus.

In order to prove this about ads, here are a few great commercials that truly demonstrate what ad companies are selling. Take a look at this first one:

While this commercial is technically selling Hondas, what they really want you to believe is that buying a Honda is an essential piece to achieving your dream. “You dream it, and Honda can get you there.” Now, Honda makes some nice cars, but it simply cannot promise you the full life!

This was one of the most successful commercials of all-time, and it is actually very good. Everyone knows that one of the biggest problems in America is how many families are falling apart. The solution is not humility or love or anything like that, but rather it is Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart! The reason Coca-Cola is so successful at marketing is that they have associated Coca-Cola with joy and happiness in our minds. “Open happiness” is one of their taglines!

But, can Coca-Cola really offer abundant life? Can it resolve our conflicts? While it may taste good, and can certainly be part of a good time, we must remember what is truly central to joy and peace.

I’m not saying that commercials are always bad. Sometimes they can be really funny or thought provoking! But, we have to remember that the true source of the full life is Jesus. He cannot be bought, he offers abundance freely. We simply have to go to him!

What is your favorite commercial?

and How many ads do you think you see per day?

Just for kicks:

Evan Forester

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This post was by Evan, an adventure enthusiast learning to #LiveFully in New Zealand. He now writes for Embracing Exile.