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Strong opinions, weakly held

Convincing people of their incapability

My favorite commercial on TV is for some kind of kitchen gadget. I don’t remember what it’s supposed to do, but it features a woman sticking a knife into an orange and wincing as citrus juice shoots into her eye. The point: performing some seemingly simple task is in fact difficult and dangerous, and you should purchase whatever gadget it is they’re selling to make your life easier.

Michael Ruhlman makes the argument that a huge portion of the food industry is built around convincing people that they’re too stupid to cook. Or that cooking is too hard to bother with.

If I had to pick one bone with the marketing and advertising professions, this would be it. I don’t have an issue with people touting the advantages and capabilities of their products, but I’m disgusted by the corrosive effort to convince people that they are helpless (or unsafe) without whatever product is being pitched. This is of course a problem that goes beyond the food industry — it’s everywhere. And if you asked me to identify the most powerful negative effect advertising has had on society, this is what I’d point toward.

2 Comments

  1. sure! the biggest place is in personal hygeine — the concept of “b.o.” was invented by advertisers to sell deoderant, dandruff by special shampoo makers, even “conditioning my hair every day” reset expectations of how often people should shampoo (previously more like monthly, then weekly)… and this is before we even get to shaving off hair from this or that part of your body. yay! feel bad about the way you’re built, how your body functions, your capacity to get through the day! a few products almost restore the modern man’s security . . .

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