Buying Into It By Buying Out of It

advertising the recession.

Remarkable to see how quickly the current recession is surfacing in television advertising.

Perhaps it marks how much of a challenge the economic crisis is to the existing order of things. Where once advertisers urged us to spend conspicuously, since happiness was “priceless,” now ads caution us against profligacy. Turns out there is a price tag. The debt is coming due.

But, these ads insist, just because we misled you before does not mean that you should question the larger logic and system of consumerism. Instead, these ads seek to contain the new mood of thrift and anxiety within the old consumer order.

Various fast food commercials, car rebate ads, and other ephemera from the consumer spectacle interpellate us: “Quick! You, Consumer, you can buy your way out of this mess by buying into it even more!”

At this juncture, there is no space within the ads to address the deeper problems and issues we now confront. All they do is associate (brilliantly) their products with the new desires, regrets, and urges of our times. The affective economy of consumerism remains intact even as the affect changes.

Yet, it remains to be seen where these new emotions, desires, angers, loathings, and worries will carry us. Can we see glimpses of alternative worldviews and ideologies through the cracks of the consumer dream machine? Or just new ways of authorizing the same old orders and charges?

Most stunning of these ads is Fidelity’s “Turn Here” campaign, which urges us — against all other evidence — to trust our money to the very financial system that screwed things up so badly in the first place.

Addendum: “The Hard Sell: How Mad Men Spin the Recession,” Mother Jones

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *