Advertising the American Nightmare

Advertising’s apologists always claim that advertising’s essence hasn’t really changed since the days before corporate capitalism was consolidated. Ads, they claim, remain mere conveyances of information. The newest, most heavily researched and expensively produced TV commercials are merely big, colorful versions of newspaper classifieds.

This, of course, is balderdash, in the extreme.

One interesting and important example of the deep differences between ads now and ads of yore is the blitzkrieg of advertising now flowing forth from the real estate business.

As yesterday’s New York Times reported,

Mortgage companies spent nearly $409 million on ads in the third quarter of last year, the most recent period with available data, higher than the industry’s ad spending during the peak of the housing boom.

[While] the Mortgage Bankers Association is predicting this will be a down year for the industry, and on Friday it said that the total value of mortgages produced would be down 16 percent from its level last year….the National Association of Realtors is running national television ads saying there has never been a better time to buy a home. Home values nearly double every 10 years, the commercial claims, showing a young couple walk up to their white colonial-style home.

This shows exactly what modern corporate advertising is: lavish fraud designed to pitch you products you very often do not need, attempts to get your behavior to comport with the requirements of investors’ bottom lines — whether it’s good for you or not.