The Power of Advertising
Are we all such easy marks???
I’ll cop to having been a user of Smith Bros. Cough Drops as a teenager, thinking that those hirsute brothers’ glorious growths of facial hair would surely help me be the first in my class to have a big, thick beard. No such luck, as it happened, but it was my introduction to the influence of advertising. Other products for men have brought no relief, or as usually promised, enhancement. Not that I’ve used any of them, of course. By now I’m fairly resistant to being ensnared by the enticements that will “guarantee” a certain result (or your money back), but there’s no cure I know that will tame a low- resistance person’s imagination gone wild. We still want to believe, no matter how outrageous the promised result. I ought to write a book and call it “Gullible’s Travels.” It would surely become an operating manual for the used car business.
People of my folks’ generation, back in the War years, fully bought into the tobacco companies’ mythology that smoking would calm their nerves, bring that “cooling” feeling to the throat, and by the strongest implication, be sexy as hell. It took many years and great numbers of lawsuits before the FDA finally announced that smoking was injurious to one’s health, and was a major cause of various cancers. In the meantime, Big Tobacco unashamedly promoted the “big lie” of the time that there was no causal relationship to those “unsupported” claims. They bought off the medical community with counter-claims from disreputable physicians, the same as they did with politicians from tobacco-producing states.
My favorite uncle, a World War II combat infantryman in the Pacific, contracted emphysema in his early fifties, and ultimately died a very painful death from its effects. In his final days, when I visited him for the last time, he asked me, “Georgie, why didn’t they every tell us about the dangers of this stuff?” I wanted to tell him that the science had always been available, but that it had been suppressed by the power of the tobacco industry’s unrelenting campaign. I didn’t say that to him, though. I just wanted him to be at peace by then, so I fed him the Big Lie one last time, and told him that maybe nobody knew until long after the War was over. By the way, his wife died of emphysema a few years later.
My own father, likewise, died in his late forties from throat and laryngeal cancer. Just like his brother, he had been a paratrooper during the War, and he remembered that the government used to provide the troops with a four-pack of unfiltered cigarettes with every packet of C-rations. For me, it was like losing my whole family when my mother succumbed to a heart condition that had been exacerbated by her long-time smoking habit. She was only 60, God rest her soul.
And what about those of us who, despite all the warnings and the visible proof that no one who has smoked a long time will escape its effects? Yes, you’ll give me examples of Uncle Harry, who lived into his 90s and never lost a day’s work, despite smoking three packs a day, along with cigars when he drank. I can’t give any reason why there are “outliers” in every statistical population, but these are few and far between. To pursue the above premise, why DO people continue to get hooked on tobacco, and the evidence be damned? I can’t explain why some people are so unwilling or unable to put the smokes behind them. One scientific fact that continues to surface is that nicotine is far more addictive than alcohol, cocaine, or even heroin, when measured gram-for-gram. Some people, unfortunately, have more addictive natures than others, and taking the cure from nicotine addiction is much more difficult for them than for others. Some addicts – and this may hold true for any substances that “hook” them – are simply unable to summon the necessary will to shake their habits.
On that theme, I had a close friend who was hooked on a certain high-caffeine soft drink. He drank a case of the stuff every day. He was a borderline-genius, and he was compulsive- obsessive. When he went on his cola-binges, he would be up for days at a time, then crash for several more. He was my classmate in graduate school, and he actually wrote his entire dissertation in a long, sleepless weekend. I know this because I was there when he started, and I picked up his finished product for delivery when he crashed at the end. There’s no happy ending here, either. He died in agony from the effects of the caffeine on his intestines.
The Creator gave us all a brain, and you would think that we received equal rations of common sense and will power as well. But there again, God didn’t rest his hand on me for those extra seconds that it would’ve taken to make me a genius, instead of just devastatingly handsome. We all receive our gifts in unequal proportions, and that’s as close as I can come to explaining the Great Plan. And that’s also what the advertising industry counts on, when they create their oh-so seductive works of art to convince a receptive public to buy, buy, buy. They know, from constant research and from watching the bottom line of their clients, what the public will believe, what they will overlook, what they will spend their money on, despite all indicators, like flashing red lights, that tell them to resist.
Advertising has incredible power, but the honey pot that draws the greatest numbers of flies is peer pressure. It was just yesterday that we all wanted to be “like Mike,” and we buy an amazing variety of useless stuff like pet rocks because it’s the “in thing.” But we say the human race has made incredible advances since those ancient times in the caves and trees.
So what do YOU think?
George Thatcher, 2022
George is an American Bad Ass. He grew up in Jersey, flew B-52s in Vietnam, taught English, Spanish and other languages to children around the world, makes his own salsa, has been known to enjoy a beer or two and has called Lubbock home for a few years, just to entertain the locals. Welcome to Raiderland, Major. We are going to feature some of his writings going forward. Some new, some old. Some rhyme, some don’t. When it comes to George, there’s no box. So… enjoy our friend and enjoy his writings! – Hyatt