A friend once told us about how he went on a camping trip, and when he got back to civilization, one of the first things he did was stop at a convenience store. After spending three days surrounded by nature, he said, all the logos and brand names and ads in the store jumped out at him, as if he were seeing them for the first time.
Branding and corporate self-promotion are now so pervasive that it’s hard to remember that it hasn’t always been this way. It used to be that if you went to the store to buy some string, it was just string. Not 3M string, or whatever the hell it is they’re selling these days. Try finding something unbranded nowadays-even No Name is a brand.
Every once in a while the corporate world tries to push it just a little bit farther. They do it in small increments in the hopes that no one will notice. For example, although newspapers, like the one you’re reading now have been funded by advertising for more than a century, lately some have been accepting sponsorship money for individual articles. A company like Microsoft might sponsor a story in a newspaper’s business section, for example.
At university, whole schools and faculties are now being sponsored by various corporate outfits. We’ve been getting emails lately from the Faculty of Phys Ed that end with the words “Pepsi, a proud sponsor of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Physical Education and Health and Varsity Blues athletics.” It’s only a matter of time before they rename U of T to Doritos University, or some crap like that.
When that day comes, you’ll go to biology class and hear about the Monsanto-sponsored theory of evolution. Then you’ll go home for the holidays and your mom will say “Try the new low-fat Haagen Dazs ice cream. It has all the taste of regular Haagen Dazs, with only half the calories.”
Maybe advertising influences other people, but not me, people say. Some people think that if they see an ad for a chocolate bar on TV and they don’t immediately go out and buy one, that this proves advertising doesn’t work. But it doesn’t have to be that direct. If a company can subtly influence you with their advertising to buy their brand slightly more often than their competitor’s, then they’ve won. Besides, if there’s one thing corporations pay attention to, it’s their bottom line. Would they collectively throw billions of dollars into advertising and self-promotion year after year if it had absolutely no effect?
This editorial isn’t really sponsored by Pepsi. We haven’t put our editorials up for sale yet, and we have no intention of doing so anytime soon. All we’re saying is that it’s a sad day when our public institutions have to whore themselves around just to make ends meet. That said, why don’t you go enjoy a nice cool, refreshing bottle of [put your product name here!].