Why advertisers make us look at animals

We miss animals. We don’t hang around with them so much any more (1). George Monbiot has written with his customary brilliant synthesis of fact and theory about the costs of this.

So, on the stepper at the gym this morning, halfway through an excellent article called “Increasing Returns, Path Dependence and the Study of Politics”, I looked up and caught three adverts on Granada TV (0823-ish).

The first had an animated koala telling people that a brand of toilet paper was something special

The next had some guy with a cold being given an anti-congestant by a big red bull that burst through the living room wall.

The final one was for various pieces of tech that help people feel good and connected. The first was a big curved TV – and what was that TV showing? A tiger lying down in some snow.

So, we miss animals. And advertisers seem to think (presumably with some market research to back this up) (2) that this will get us buyin’.

The three adverts fall into two categories. The first category is “animals are part of God’s plan to help us live the lives we do now” (where “God” might be an old white guy with a beard, or capitalist technoscience. It doesn’t matter). The koala clearly can’t bear the idea of us not having tidy anuses. The bull thinks the idea of a bad cold isnot funny.

The second category is that mournful “look at what we have left behind (last chance to see)”. (And perhaps for some a vague thought of “By watching this documentary we are expressing our solidarity with the natural world. Aren’t those dark people in Africa – those poachers- just awful? Why can’t they live in harmony with Nature like we here in Europe do.”) (3)

What is to be done? This is the bit where I am supposed to advocate for kids having unstructured play in natural settings (which, btw, is distinct from a litter-pick or two) and wring my hands about nature-deficit disorder. This is the bit where I am supposed to advocate for media literacy classes, so everyone can become a decoding advertisements ninja. This is the bit where I am supposed to advocate for a ban on advertising on TV at kids, like they have in Sweden.

But you know what? It’s too late. We’re like the psychotic monkey in the Harry Harlow experiment. Deprived of crucial mothering, its own child had to be removed because it just didn’t know what to do.

Except there’s no-one to remove anyone to anywhere. So it goes.

Footnotes

  1. Which makes the occasional getting-eaten-by-a-shark so newsworthy perhaps. We have come to see (and be) ourselves at the top of a food pyramid, rather than part of a web.

  2. As I recall, Fast Food Nation has stuff about how psychologists discovered that kids dream of animals A LOT until the age of six. And so cereals get marketed with ‘baby’ (big head to body ratio, big eyes) animals. Welcome to the free market.

  3.  I shouldn’t have to add the disclaimer, but this is the Internet – I do not advocate this position. I am adamantly opposed to it.

To (re-) read

Barbara Ehrenreich Blood Rites [Who did I lend my bloody copy to? I’d like it back, thankew]

Donna Haraway on Simians, Cyborgs and Women and all her other stuff (she’s a freaking genius)

John Berger Why Look at Animals (short excellent essay which I’ve nodded to in the title)

George Monbiot Feral Searching for enchantment on the frontiers of rewilding

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