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The Power of Advertising

By June 7, 2007One Comment

Have you heard about the recent surge in popularity of celery? There is a commercial on tv right now in which a bunch of children are standing around watching one kid swing at a pinata, and when he finally busts it open, a shower of celery rains down on the ground, instead of candy. The interesting part about the commercial is that instead of being disappointed in this prize, the kids all scream “CELERY!!!!” and they run toward it and start grabbing handfuls of it for themselves.

Apparently as a direct result of this commercial, a commercial that is not even for celery, a significantly increasing number of children have been asking for and eating celery. Behold the power of advertising!

Now, I personally hate celery, so I didn’t really believe this story myself until I spent the past week with my 9 year old cousin, and I saw up close and personal how much kids are shaped by what they see on tv. Thanks to products like Yoplait, she now knows all the words to “Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini”, can recount striking details concerning various commercials on tv, and she frequently asks me, “Have you seen the commercial when…?” Contrary to how it might sound, this is not a kid who spends all her time watching tv. Rather, advertising is just that effective. Even after riding in the car with me for an hour, she was able to sing the Christian radio station’s jingle by the end of the day. Kids’ brains are like little sponges soaking up whatever comes their way. And given what’s on tv these days, that is a scary thought.

The reason I think this information is important for us as adults is that we are not immune to the images that we take in through the tv and radio. We are constantly being inundated with messages, and oftentimes they are blatantly un-Christlike, though seemingly innocent. I remember watching a commercial for deodorant, and the actress said something as crazy as “My life isn’t complete without it!” I mean, soft under-arms are important and all, but are they serious??

All of that to say, the commercials we see on tv, hear on the radio, or even look at on interstate billboards are constantly competing with the truth of Christ, because at the heart of every advertisement is the attempt to convince you that your life is somehow incomplete without their product. At their core, they are communicating the message that you need something other than Christ to make you complete.

So after spending the last week with my moldable little cousin, I am again reminded of the importance of consistently reading Scripture. Not only are we constantly being inundated with these advertisements, but we have competing messages coming from friends, family, professors, co-workers, and even ourselves. And if we are that shaped by what comes into our brains, then we need to make sure the majority of what is coming into our brains is truth, not lies. We can only guarantee this happens if we are consistently reading Scripture.

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 86:11 which reads “Unite my heart in fear of you.” I think this verse sums up for us exactly what’s going on as we go through each day. From the moment we wake up each morning there are thousands of things competing for our heart and mind, pulling us in different directions, each one promising to be a fulfilling god that completes our lives in the areas in which we fall short. For this reason, we must stay in Scripture and pray to God that He will take these stray pieces of our heart that are being drawn in different directions, and unite them in worship of Him. Only then can we combat the competing messages of this world.

Keep that in mind the next time you flip on the tv and laugh at the Geico cavemen and their mango salsa, or sing along with the Yoplait commercial. Remember just how these advertisements might be shaping your mind, and whether or not it’s shaping you to be like Christ.

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