Oh Advertisers, Part 2

Originally posted on LinkedIn, here. And here's Part 1.

Advertising turned us into consumers, reshaping the world.

We were citizens before. The difference matters.

Yes, we bought things before — as customers, guests and patrons.

But the volume and anonymity of consumer mass marketing changed things.

Advertisers could now carpet-bomb the world with messages.

The messages got more abstract and psychological:

More "you are not enough" and "this product will complete you."

Open loops of desire.

Convincing us to buy things we don't need with money we can't spare.

Mad Men ate the world.

Advertising changed us in ways few understood at the time.

Being treated as consumers shifts our expectations and attitudes.

Consumers are dumber than citizens. More passive. Less demanding.

Citizens share responsibilities in communities; consumers want great deals.

Consumerism is a downward spiral: consumers act dumber, so are treated as dumber.

Our only job as consumers is to buy more stuff.

"Consumerization" of everything

It's not just packaged-goods retailers who treat us as consumers.

We are now mere consumers of health care. Education. Elections. Art. Entertainment. Natural resources. Government services.

Preventative care? Chronic conditions are more profitable. (Wincing.)

Colleges compete on amenities and sports teams, as their costs spiral upward.

Candidates plead for our money to pay for ads to show us.

The same people who sell us cereal sell us candidates.

Consumers of government services don't perform those services for others. They rely on agencies.

Civic participation? Citizenship? Quaint terms, replaced by voter turnout.

And we wonder why there's an epidemic of loneliness and alienation.

We "consumerized" most spheres of human activity.

In so doing, we separated ourselves from one another.

We abandoned our mutual responsibilities, the ties that bind.

We're rugged individuals now, distinguished by the brands we choose!

We measured ourselves by stuff and fun, instead of virtue and generosity.

Our sense of self-worth diminished as we bought those brands to keep up.

(Funny that one can never really keep up. The goalposts keep moving.)

We shredded the social fabric that binds us and offers meaning.

Advertising didn't do all of this. But it sure bears the major responsibility.

How often are you addressed as a consumer?

I promise there's a happy ending. We're not done with the descent yet, though.

Keep your arms inside the car!

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