How to Say Good Buy

I touched upon the topic of advertising and product placement in my last post, and I thought it might be interesting to return to this subject for another entry. I’m generally a pretty anti-corporate guy, but I don’t share the contempt some of my fellows have for advertising in general. I mean, all advertising really does is make you aware of a product and attempt to increase your desire for it, right? It doesn’t FORCE you to buy anything, just makes a strongly obvious plea for you to do so. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of commercials I find offensive, nonsensical, or just plain stupid. But you could say the same thing about a great many movies, and I don’t know of all that many people who are opposed to the cinema in general. And I suppose you’d need advertising of some kind even if everything were free, although it would probably be much less demanding in that case. I’m also not necessarily opposed to celebrities shilling for products.

They need to make a living just the same as everyone else, and that often includes taking jobs they don’t really believe in.

Now, if it’s a product they’re totally against, that’s another story. But, well, They Might Be Giants wrote songs for Dunkin’ Donuts commercials, and I support Dunkin’ Donuts more than I do some of the venues where I’ve seen them play live. Selling isn’t automatically selling OUT unless you’ve made a strong stand against advertising in the past, and even then it’s always possible to change your mind.

Where I think it gets tricky, not just for the people in the commercials but for us consumers as well, is trying to determine what you’re really supporting when you promote or purchase a particular product. Kraft Dinner (as they call it in Canada; I can’t really say I know why Canadians apparently have a problem with the word “macaroni”) is a pretty harmless product in and of itself, but Kraft is owned by tobacco giant Philip Morris.

So does buying your kid a box of cheese-flavored macaroni mean more money funneled into efforts to get that same kid to start smoking? It’s really a tricky issue. People call for boycotts when they hear something bad about a particular company, but I have to suspect that plenty of other companies have done equally bad things that just aren’t as well-known. And it’s incredibly difficult in our society not to buy anything tied to a corporate powerhouse, so I tend to think more in terms of the specific products than of the backgrounds. I’ll admit that this is lazy thinking, but perhaps it’s necessary to avoid a severe guilt trip every time I set foot in a grocery store. Maybe it’s not what Jesus would do, but his society was quite different from ours. To end on a question, how do you deal with such issues?

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