By Tarun Chandy
We Didn’t Make Love @TarunChandy
They say our words will change the world. Our ideas will solve problems. And our campaigns will be remembered for decades to come. It’s week six at SCA and we are only beginning to understand the immense impact our industry has on the world. The way it shaped our history and the potential it can have to bring direction to our future. It’s inspiring at this stage in our careers to speculate over the power we’ll soon have at our finger tips. But yesterday, as I looked to Don Draper for some wisdom, I heard a particularly alarming claim about the legacy of advertising that made me wonder if maybe we had a little too much power. He looked me dead in the eye, and in his authoritative, all knowing voice, proclaimed that love was a myth, created by the ad industry for purely commercial purposes. And I was so incomprehensibly shaken, I kid you not, I actually paused the TV.
I had to know the answer. How much were our creative predecessors really responsible for the modern day notion of love? Were all the hopeless romantics in the world just living a lie, that had once been concocted by some 50’s copywriter with a toothbrush to sell? To find the truth, I’d have to journey back to the very origins of advertising, and more importantly, to the origins of love.
The concept of love has evolved dramatically over the years, but many believe that the first romantic partnership was between Adam and Eve. They lived in a time when ‘the one’ was far easier to find, what with the lack of competition. But was this love, or simply codependence and mutual attraction? Can you really know you love somebody if you’ve never met anybody else? Shortly after of course, came the first recorded incident of advertising, when the devil himself devised an apple campaign so effective that it doomed the human race for all eternity. From that moment onwards, people in romantic partnerships proved they were susceptible to making stupid decisions, and thus became targets for agencies everywhere.
As humankind developed, the romantic partnership remained more of a necessity than anything else. Society was patriarchal, and men and women had corresponding roles to fill. But when the population increased and some human attributes were coveted over others, the idea of preference probably came into being, though it was the fortunate few who had the right to choose for themselves. Though love was yet to develop all of its modern day complexity, there were those whose monumental acts of romance still go down in history. Women’s faces launched thousands of ships. Men went to extreme lengths to prove their worth to the women they pursued, often risking their lives in the process. Love was dangerous, undefined, and restricted to the few who weren’t simply struggling to survive. But it existed nevertheless. Meanwhile, advertising was the goal of merchants, sophists and salesmen, who lacked the resources to influence the masses, but could still sell a product directly to a consumer, imaginably using many of the same persuasive tactics. Urging people to prove their love with their purchases still gave them an influence over the romantic relationship, but not the ability to set trends and forge narratives on a wider scale.
Then, slowly but surely, technology made its strides and advertising found its way onto every known medium. Economies flourished on the shoulders of our industry and our ability to find the core of what human beings want, and exploit the fuck out of it. It was at this point that advertising became capable of a more serious impact on the notion of love. For the first time ever, products were forging identities for their consumers. And for potential partners, everything you bought told them all they had to know about you. No wonder Don Draper got so damn cocky. At the very heart of the American dream was a husband and his wife, surrounded by all the products advertisers told them they needed to prove they were happy. Love in its most basic form, had been buried under all the expectations it now comprised of, and our industry was arguably responsible.
Today however, advertising is just one of the many mediums that has had the chance to change our notion of love. There’ve been movies, novels, music, changes in social acceptance and a gradual war against the patriarchy that has almost removed the necessity for a concrete domestic partnership. Love has taken many forms and means something different to almost anyone you ask. Advertising definitely played a role in creating a structure on which relationships could be evaluated and bars could be accurately set. But I strongly believe that our industry can’t be credited with the invention of love. Just the recognition that it was something profitable.