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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Environment, deception and advertisisng

It always blows my mind how deceptive companies and businesses can be in their quest  to make money.  Especially through the medium of advertising.  It isn't bad enough words like biodegradable are added to product labels, which  at first sounds really good, but is only a word that makes the product sound earth friendly, when in fact in many instances the exact opposite is true.  Many things are biodegradable after all, that doesn't change the fact that they are bad for the environment.  Let's face it, advertising is specifically designed to persuade the consumer to buy a product, and it seems there are no rules that apply to advertising, with the sole exception that a company can't lie about  the performance of it's product, or it's ingredients.

Working where I do, it has come to my attention that recently many companies have taken to adding images of cute and cuddly baby animals to their product label.  Then I began to notice these images in their TV adds and on billboards, and even  their company logos.  While it is true that some companies have had images of, for example teddy bears gracing  their product labels for years, it seems recently many more companies have jumped on the bandwagon by adding images of baby ducks, polar bears, frogs, pandas and penguins etc to their company logos and product labels.

Advertising is a form of manipulation.  It is designed  to elicit an emotional response and to connect that response with the product in your mind. Best of all, unlike verbal statements, it is unlikely that an image can be considered to be a direct lie.  Images are used to imply something about a product.  If you have a soft spot for baby ducks, you are far more likely to buy the product whose label provides an image of a baby duck for example, and for that  reason you  may continue to buy that product.

What  does the image of a cute baby duck say to you?   Do you not immediately have emotional impressions that are warm, comforting, caring and protective in your mind when you see it?  Does this image not  leave the impression that the duckling will not be harmed by this product, and therefore neither will you?  Surely to god this must be a good product to buy.  The images of dogs and puppies elicit affection, companionship, protection and friendship.  Every animal on a product  label triggers a certain type of emotional response in our minds on a wholly unconscious level.

Advertising is also a form of propaganda, in that it eventually affects our belief system.  If you hear or get the impression that something is a good thing to buy, do or act on often enough, you soon begin to believe it.  How often have you heard or seen an advertisement about the use of pesticides to rid yourself of ants for example?  Ants are portrayed as an invasion force, the enemy, and the pesticide as safe and simple to use. Then of course the more people who are persuaded by the advertisement, the more readily available the product becomes, and the more people believe that it is perfectly safe to use over time.  Your children see you using the product, or take your advice in using it, trusting  in your knowledge on its safety and so the cycle continues.  Now the company has established a long term and growing customer base, as well as a guaranteed and growing income.  Remember those smoking advertisements on TV?  They  were banned for a reason.

In using images of baby animals/ wildlife the company who uses those images is sending  the message that it's products are friendly to the environment and to wildlife, when in most cases there is nothing  further from the truth.  When they use images of  wildlife that is on its way to extinction, like the polar bear, they are sending the message that what, using their product will help to save the environment as well as polar bears? Or is this  an unspoken promise by said company to save the bear?   By far the most offending use of the images of baby animals are those which grace the labels of chemical cleaners and chemical poisons.

In using such images a company continues to peddle it's particular brand of environmental poison, or destruction under the guise of deception.  Why after all would you concentrate on the written and verbal label when you have this cute image right  in front of your eyes to distract you? Considering that the population of the world is already kept mostly in ignorance in regards to the ingredients and safety of  the chemicals all  around us, often deliberately so, using these images is just another very devious slight of hand trick. When faced by the number of animals being added to the endangered species list on a daily basis however, and those already extinct,  this type of blatant exploitation of wildlife in advertising is criminal.


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