The ads told her it was. The ads said that you should buy make-up, and colour your hair, and drink Coke so that you will be the sort of attractive that men can’t resist
– Alyssa Brugman, Solo (Allen & Unwin, 2007)
As well as Alyssa Brugman’s amazing (if harrowing) book, I’ve been reading The Empire of Mind: Digital Piracy and the Anti-Capitalist Movement by Michael Strangelove (University of Toronto Press, 2005). In the first chapter our saturation in advertising is discussed.
I don’t think much of diamonds or diamond engagement rings. My mother never had an engagement ring and has lived her married life happily without it. I always thought they’re a waste of money. If someone proposed to me with one I’d probably say no because he obviously doesn’t know me well enough to know my views on such wasteful consumption.
What I didn’t know about diamond rings was that the phrase
A diamond is forever
is the result of the highly successful 1947 campaign of the N.W. Ayers advertising agency.  Ayers said they were
dealing with a problem in mass psychology. We seek to…strengthen the tradition of the diamond engagement ring – to make it a psychological necessity capable of competing successfully at the retail level with utility goods and services. (p.24)
Translation: a diamond ring has no utility; we’ll make it seem useful and thus necessary. Strangelove sums up,
Sixty years later, global consumer attitudes towards diamond rings remain highly engineered by the market’s propaganda system…As is often the case, the marketplace’s value system compels the consumer to act, while at the same time defining the acceptable parameters of action. (p.25)
If I ever wondered where the phrase came from (which I never did), James Bond may have come to mind. But then James Bond is just another brand, manufactured to sell product. When I was a teenager I went to the cinema to see one of the Bronson Bond movies and I was disgusted by the product placement, wondering (aloud) every time I saw it, how much each company had paid. I’m now wondering (aloud) how I ended up at a cinema watching it, but I was young.
Few individuals are willing to admit that advertising plays a substantial role in their choices or their sense of identity. In the midst of history’s most expensive and omnipresent propaganda system there remains widespread disbelief in advertising’s efficacy. (p.29)
I hate advertising, but I still get sucked in. I don’t eat fast food, but when a fast food ad comes on TV, my mouth waters. A couple of weeks ago I saw an ad for frozen oven chips on TV. I buy these, even though I wish I wasn’t so lazy, and when I saw the ad I thought, “I could eat some of them” and I put some in the oven.
Back to diamonds, I would much prefer someone give me the original tree than a diamond ring – a tree that’s been there for decades and will continue (perhaps) hundreds of years after we’re no more. On the topic of trees, the tuart tree I planted in my garden is slowing shooting upwards. With the spring rain it has lots of reddish new shoots and it’s more than a metre – onward and upward.
- Brugman, Alyssa (2007) Solo. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.
- Strangelove, Michael (2005) The Empire of Mind: Digital Piracy and the Anti-Capitalist Movement. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
When corporations and their advertising are in control (not really all that different to the world we live in)
- Feed by M.T. Anderson (Candlewick Press, 2002)
- So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld (Razorbill, 2004)
- Ads R Us by Claire Carmichael (Random House, 2006)
Privacy is an outdated concept, Barrett.