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The Seven Sins of Online Advertising that Marketers Will Burn in Hell For

According to the outstanding American economist of Russian origin Harvey Leibenstein, all the demand for goods and services is divided into functional and non-functional. Functional means 'to buy for rational, economic reasons', and non-functional means is 'to buy under social influence'.

Functional goods are, for example, salt, matches, and bread, which do not need advertising. Non-functional goods include the new iPhone, hair extensions, a fifteen-thousand-dollar watch, and a fat-burning navel patch. Most online marketers work to create non-functional demand, and it has become clear by the end of the 2010s that businesses and their employers will stop at nothing to maintain and increase it.

'Which side are you on?' was a song of the miners, but the phrase has become an aphorism, and now could be used in terms of marketing.

We'll restate it this way: 'Which side are you on, dear advertisers?' Okay, you don't have to think about what idea you are working on at the age of twenty or twenty-five. But when you get older, you start to think about what helps you to get your money.

We have been living under the common Christian humanistic tradition for several centuries — not in terms of religion, per se, but in the sense that the Christian concept of what is good and what is bad is accepted by society as truth. For a couple of millennia, Christian philosophers have very accurately formulated which feelings (mental states) are most destructive for a person and his relatives from a psychological point of view. Those feelings are pride, greed, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth (and its variation, gloom). These feelings received the name of the major sins or the seven deadly sins. Modern online advertising, diligently creating non-functional demand, is pushing consumers to commit all of these sins.

Pride is about status or demonstrative consumption. It is also called the Veblen effect in honor of the famous American economist and sociologist Dr. Thorstein Bunde Veblen.

Dr. Veblen claimed that in a market economy, consumers act under social and psychological pressure, which forces them to make irrational decisions. He introduced to us the idea of the demonstrative consumption of goods that are inaccessible to the majority because of the high price. The goal of demonstrative consumption is to emphasize the social significance of the person who can afford to buy extremely expensive goods and services. However, Dr. Veblen discovered a paradox: the higher the price of a product, the higher the level of consumption.

Hundreds of thousands of marketers work on pride. In the twenty-first century, demonstrative consumption items have become so absurd that your brain will explode: a pillow with a bear on it is equal to approximately 926 loafs of good bread.

There is also a kind of demonstrative consumption that masquerades as functional but is, in fact, very powerful, status-signifying behavior. It is especially funny to watch the process of it being introduced into the minds of the middle class. Border prices work here. Border prices are those prices that make you think, 'F*ck, of course, it's expensive. But on the other hand, if I get it on credit, it's not that expensive'.

Would you like to buy the most trendy boots for your wife? Winter has already arrived. They'll cost you just 1,052 loafs of bread!

Greed is a luxurious field for advertising games. The philosopher and writer Francois de La Rochefoucauld said, 'Parsimony is farther from frugality than even profligacy.' Greed pushes consumers who would rather die than pay to make such investments that make professionals choke on laughter.

Modern Gobsecks were buying the highly anticipated (now postponed) Gram cryptocurrency, which was not even on the retail market then: 'We were late for Bitcoin, but this time, we will catch up'.

The Internet has got tons of 'good stuff', such as Forex, binary options, the services of investment analysts, 'safe and balanced' packages of low-risk and high-risk shares. The work of marketers in these markets is to get new investors who are thirsty for a quick profit to use dubious (and even completely fraudulent) investment tools. They invest their hard-earned money, and they rapidly lose virtual deposits in the vast majority of cases.

The investors start to read the Terms of Use and other fine print only in the last act of the tragedy. They bitterly repent and look for new opportunities to lose money — for example, they go to commodity affiliates or information business.

Try to go to a party, an interview, or a business meeting with the cheap Chinese Meizu phone and wearing no-name jeans from the Vietnamese market. People will begin to talk to you through gritted teeth; they are up to their eyes in loans and keep their sad business afloat with titanic efforts. They even have an HR girl in the trendy boots from the section about pride. After all, she deserves it.

That social-psychological pressure that Veblen spoke about severely presses mass consumerism and forces people to buy things they cannot afford. It is painfully necessary for people to form the 'correct' image for those who surround him.

In recent years, TV and web commercials have merged into a total ecstasy, demonstrating unreliable and unattainable examples of 'successful' people who give birth to burning envy and social Darwinism. Few people are interested in the fact that the authorities often arrange proceedings regarding advertising that shows signs of social discrimination and causes an inferiority complex. How do you like the slogan, 'Do your children walk this way? Well, ours will walk like this!' in a commercial of a new 'luxury' compound. If you stop the usual train of thought and take a closer look, it becomes obvious: such an advertisement is cruel and cynical.

Envy predictably leads people to credit slavery and workaholism. Businesses and marketers do not consider this a problem. They have no time to even think about it because they also need money to sin rather highly.

Wrath is mainly about advertising for men who are aggressive in nature (thanks to a high level of testosterone). You can bluntly and even stupidly hint at the tendency of men to muzzle one another for any reason (and admire their anger and aggression). And it works well.

However, the adware is also talented, and they sometimes use the audience's potential anger quite elegantly.

An absolutely top-notch advert will be to pack in demonstrative consumption (pride), masculinity (anger), and sexuality (lust). This is excellently handled, for example, in Dolce & Gabbana's adverts, and it does not really care about the script.

Do not hope that this section will be the shortest. We won't show you video communication with beautiful girls, escort services at events, charming hostesses, or other beauties.

Some people believe that the internet was created not as an instrument of overseas military and special services for taking over the world more comfortable, but as the best transport system in the world for delivering pornographic content to the mass consumer.

The fact that advertising is inspired by pornography has become common since the success of the decadent book 99 Francs by Frederick Begbeder. Nowadays, progressive societies around the world are trying to adapt the phenomenon of mass porn consumption to the traditional understanding of 'normal' human behavior. For example, like the Mums Make Porn project: If you can't defeat a phenomenon, then lead it.

Humankind has learned from totalitarian societies that the suppression of sexuality neuters entire countries. However, the fact that sexualisation of everything that moves in real life and on the screens of modern devices also neuters big countries hasn't reached mass consciousness yet, and few have ever heard about the sublimation of sexual energy.

Marketers don't belong to the elite in most cases. Therefore, the first thing they do when they invent a mass creative is to look for a way to add a bit of pornography to advertising content. This practice has become mainstream. If you carelessly share your doubts that advertising pseudo-porn is a normal and decent thing, then you will be called a hypocrite and an insecure retrograde.

Cooking is one of the top topics in the content cloud of the Internet. The millions of subscribers in social network communities and the vast number of widely read culinary channels on YouTube are proof of this.

The food industry, ancient as the world, will always need the services of not-very-principled marketers because fierce competition reigns in it. Someone needs to figure out how to sell new and wonderful products in large volumes: gluten-free, dairy-free, meat-free, and taste-free for example.

The problem is really relevant right now. Incomes have been decreasing for several years in a row. In many CIS countries in economy-class shops, prices for sausages are indicated on a 'per 100 grams' basis so that they don't shock buyers. Only the workers at the production factory know for sure what exactly these sausages are made of. It seems that they are under an NDA that prohibits them from talking about it, even on their deathbeds in a whisper to their great-grandchildren.

Nowadays, ravioli marked C and D are very popular in Russia. These categories contain no more than 40% of meat and no more than 20%, respectively. It is still possible to find real whole milk on store shelves, but it will be something like 'premium' milk with a price that bites. We still can recall those great days when the milk from the carton remain fresh for only one day, and when we could make real yogurt and homemade cottage cheese from this milk after it had gone bad.

There's no need to list examples. You encounter this food hoopla every day. Cooking something near-natural and inexpensive at the same time has become more difficult. Meanwhile, marketers are rushing at people from every angle. For example, Internet users visit the thematic group on Facebook where they are taught to make ravioli, and there you will find masters of target marketing, skillfully drawing up a mental map based on pain.

Advertising remedies against the consequences of food consumption also looks hilarious in food communities with millions of subscribers.

But why is it hilarious? It is obvious. First, one business earns an income from selling fast-food and ready-made products, then another from the fight against obesity. The consumer pays twice, and everyone is happy.

Gluttony is a very lucrative sin. It feeds dozens of related industries. There are clothes for body-positive women, fitness bracelets, diets, psychotherapy, belly dancing, and God knows whatever else. A whole army of marketers is engaged in promoting all these products.

Well, sloth is generally not a sin at all. Millions of people in offices only work three to four hours a day. The rest of the time they indulge in laziness, despondency, and all other sins.

Laziness and despondency cause a thirst for entertainment, and there is plenty of such goodness advertised in any big city. The competition is hellish, and marketers have to find space to deploy their campaigns. The only thing that is needed is to have a big enough budget.

The internet was created to entertain, engage, throw sales into the sales funnel, and then drown everyone who fells into laziness. Never before in the history of humankind has there been millions of invaders sitting right in your pocket in a magic box called a smartphone. You don't have to do anything. It's enough to simply lay back and swipe, swipe, swipe. Entertainment will come to you. You won't even notice that you have already bought a subscription to TV shows, an application to fight procrastination, ordered pizza that you can't handle, and paid some streamer that teaches English on the internet. All this was paid for with a credit card, and you can't explain to yourself why you need it.

Internet marketing is the dark art of capturing the attention of not only a bored user but also the user with big personal problems and taking advantage of the imperfection of the legislation.

Sceptic Reader vs. Author

'What do you propose, moralizing author?' an irritated reader might ask me. 'Business is business. Demand creates supply. People have weaknesses, and people are willing to spend money under their influence. Business is willing to pay for advertising. If we don't create this ad, so others will. So what are you doing here?'

Obviously, I am trying to invite entrepreneurs to use civilized, transparent, and effective methods of Internet promotion. As the striped Marty from Madagascar said, 'Give the taxi driver some tips. He should feed his family.'

After many years of struggle between my conscience and my hunger, I managed to get away from the direct advertising of products in an openly manipulative business. Nevertheless, I don't know what to do with the current state of affairs in our common economy of attention.

The answer is probably about a global change of the world's capitalist structure to some new form of a more fair and democratic distribution of material wealth. This new form will, perhaps, implement the concept of unconditional income, which will save the average person from semi-slave labor for peanuts, envy, and demonstrative consumption habits.

Humankind should reconsider its approach to ecology, as well as the ecology of its nutrition. Maybe anger management courses should be made compulsory in schools. It would also be great to introduce a psychology class in middle school, which will solve the problem of the spontaneous and uncontrolled development of sexuality in adolescents. Finally, universal deanonymization on the internet seems to be so close that it will allow for the blocking porn content for users under 18 with absolute efficiency.

Everything mentioned here is a global civilization problem. I would entrust their solutions to teams of scientists and research institutes but not politicians and transnational corporations. The marketers and people of related professions still have to make a personal moral choice every day: to work for a particular business or to say no to such 'happiness'.

It is clear that this choice can be so difficult that even the brain starts to explode. But, as a cultural figure once said,

'I'm not saying that we carry a load of shrines with us, but there were things we couldn't be careless about'.
P. S. Amazing illustrations by an awesome artist Marija Tiurina.
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