The Reason Why People Think Marketing is Evil

I saw two commercials lately that were so over-the-top awful I couldn’t help but blog about them several days later (if I manage to come back to something days later to blog about, it must have dug into my brain). They’re not awful in a traditional poorly done sense, they’re awful in a oozing with horrid worldviews way.

Scotts Good Neighbor
The first commercial is for Scotts Turf Builder with Weed Control. I see it pretty much every time I watch NASCAR or hockey, which apparently means its targeted at sports-minded men, so let the stereotypes roll on. The commercial shows a young man talking about his inability to keep his lawn looking nice and how much he wants to please his neighbors with a green, weed-free lawn. He talks about the shame of having the worst lawn on the block and sending dandelion seeds throughout the neighborhood. Scotts comes to the rescue and the guy can hold his head high. His wife talks about how now the neighbors smile at them because their yard is so nice.

Now granted I’m pretty anti-lawn care. I’m the first to admit that I like dandelions and I don’t care how my yard looks. But is a weed-free yard really make a good neighbor? Last time I checked being a good neighbor was about helping each other out and not being the jackass on the block. It’s loaning a cup of sugar or shoveling a driveway or dog-sitting. You don’t need a perfect lawn to get your neighbors to smile at you. Try being nice.

And if it’s not your neighbors, how about your kids? Sorry honey, Daddy can’t play with you, he’s too busy killing those yellow flowers you like to pick. He’d rather have a wonderful looking yard than be a good father. Parenting FAIL. Who on their deathbed is going to say they wish their lawn looked better?

OK, so I’m taking it a little farther than Scotts does, but still. A perfect yard is not the secret to happiness. If you want a weed-free yard, that’s cool. But don’t think it makes you a good neighbor.

Just for Men Just for Jobs
Next up is Just for Men hair coloring. Now admittedly, Just for Men commercials are pretty much always shallow. But somehow taking it beyond the realm of impressing girls went too far. This commercial featured a graying father not excited about an upcoming job interview. His young daughter encourages him by handing him a box of Just for Men. You can do it, Dad. Lose the old geezer image and you’re a shoe-in. Surprisingly, it works! Apparently there’s another commercial where a high school graduate got in to the expensive school and gray-haired Dad has to go back to work to pay for it, relying on Just for Men to get him the job.

Sorry Just for Men, but gray hair isn’t what’s keeping you from getting a job. And if it is, that’s age discrimination and you can sue.

Tweaking Your Point of View
When people rant about how marketing is evil, these commercials are why. Rather than stand on the benefits of the product, these companies are trying to sell you on a way of seeing the world. And it’s a viewpoint that’s just plain false. Getting rid of the gray will not make you a better job applicant. A weed-free yard will not make you a better neighbor.

And sadly this tactic is what accounts for most commercials these days (see any beer commercial ever). Some do it more subtlely than others and some do it more insidiously than others, but the approach is the same.

The truth is few commercial products can change your life in that kind of way. Unless you think you’re one of those rare products, don’t pander to me.

6 thoughts on “The Reason Why People Think Marketing is Evil”

  1. The thing about the “Just for Men” commercial is it’s a little … creepy. Doesn’t the daughter come off as a bit wife-ish?

  2. Hmm, I guess I don’t think as strongly about the above two commercials (though have seen a few recently that been awful in the same sense.. can’t remember off the top of my head as I skip past them and instantly forget them).

    I do think that keeping some semblance of a decent yard is neighborly, since nobody wants to look at an eyesore across the street. Likewise, it can definitely decrease the property value of everyone nearby.

  3. Tim, I think there’s a big difference between what Scotts is indoctrinating as the standard and ‘some semblance of a decent yard.’ I spend as little time as I can on my yard, and I’d say it’s ‘some semblance of a decent yard.’ No over-the-top effort or expense required, and my value as a neighbor isn’t tied to how many dandelions are in my lawn.

    Am I taking it a little far? Yeah, probably. It’s not that big of a deal. It just gets under my skin when commercials so blatantly try to pitch a way of seeing the world that’s so unhealthy.

  4. Yeah, I get it – just thought it was funny that of all commercials, the Scott’s lawn one bugged you. ;-)

    I would probably pick the jewelry ones that try to shame me into spending $300 on an “inexpensive” necklace/bracelet/whatever for whatever made-up Hallmark holiday is happening this month..

    Or Lexus commercials with cars with ridiculously sized bows on them for Christmas – as if I purchase a $35K luxury car on a whim *as a surprise* for my wife.

    These indeed are targeted toward not just sports-loving men, but sports-loving yuppie men with money to burn.

    Those are what get me annoyed.. :)

  5. Yeah, those would fall in the same category. I suppose those are such staples of advertising that I’ve been desensitized to them. Though I always did think buying a car as a gift was absurd. Who spends that kind of money without consulting their spouse?

  6. Great post, Kevin.

    For much of the generation that’s currently coming into home-ownership, a lawn is actually a negative sign. My neighbor and I (two young professionals in our first owned homes — definitely not hippie types, and actually fairly conservative at that) were both quick to strip out our lawns, replacing them with a mix of landscaping, gardening and native grasses. The yards look a thousand times better now, and we’re able to give our neighbors berries along with that cup of sugar.

    As for the dye commercial, I agree with your other commenter: Creepy. I put it in the same bizarro-world category as the Folgers ad where the full-grown woman talks with her dad, only to happily find that her fiancee has essentially had a dowry discussion with him the week before. I’m proudly Methodist, pro-gun, anti-abortion and a Southerner, but half of the assumption-targeted commercials I see make even my skin crawl.

    As I said, great post.

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