sábado, 6 de octubre de 2007

On Sun-Lotion and Unwritten Rules.

Earlier today I found out about the peculiar sun lotion ‘no-ad’; named in allusion to the producer’s policy of not using advertisements as a means to sell their product, i.e. not trying to gain costumers by calling attention to aspects which are irrelevant to the product’s concrete quality and functionality. Hence, they would not show any comforting pictures of beaches on the bottle’s front, not fancy it with explosive colored fonts and so forth. The lotion apparently became rather popular, in spite of its producer’s unwillingness to publicize.It isn’t hard to gain insight into the basic paradox: by claiming that they didn’t advertise themselves they in fact did. How so? Doesn’t the claim merely call attention to the fact that nothing in the product attempts to draw an audience on the basis of trivialities? Sure it does. One might be charged with disbeliever’s paranoia in claiming that just by saying they are not advertising their product, the manufacturers already are. For what attractiveness could a bottle of sun-lotion gain by claiming they don’t advertise their own product, such that it could constitute another instance of advertising, like the ones they are trying to denounce? The answer: the fact that the claim makes it the right choice.

The paranoia starts to suddenly appear more earthly if we merely acknowledge that the extent to which the manipulative forces of advertisement can go is not restricted to affect only our senses, but also our moral decisions and actions. Again, how so? How can we accuse the sun lotion of tacitly containing a normative content of which it is guilty of advertising? The first thing to notice is that the name ‘no-ad’ does not merely stand for ‘We do not advertise’, but again tacitly and more crucially for ‘We do not advertise, because one shouldn’t’. That they do not advertise their product can only be of importance if we first accept that advertising contains an uncanny element to it, which if suppressed constitutes an improvement on the product or amends the intent of its producers. In succeeding with such suppression, the producer is thereby excused from the guilt of advertisement. By the same token, the consumer must then make a deliberate choice between choosing the product which doesn’t advertise, or one among the many who do. In calling one’s attention to the virtue of not advertising, ‘no-ad’ becomes not only one possible option amongst many, but indeed the mandatory one. Without knowing, the audience is not only led to prefer this lotion over the others in virtue of its inherent qualities and functional virtues, as it claimed to do, but rather on the basis of saying they are not advertising it, and that choosing a different product which does is to be persuaded on the basis of advertisement and to blindly surrender to a subversive authority.

The simple, apparently inoffensive normative claim ‘We do not advertise this lotion’ now appears more demanding than all the beaches, girls and fonts of the alternatives combined. For now it is not a matter of how attractive the product might be according to the costumer’s free possibility of preference, but of the inevitable guilt one surrenders to in choosing any of the alternatives. ‘We do not advertise this lotion, because one ought not to- and so if you buy a brand that advertises you are letting yourself be tricked in supporting it’. Not only can buy this lotion, but you ought to. You must buy no-ad in order to make a decision free from the guilt of gullibility. But what provides this alleged freedom stems from the unspoken injunctions in the statement itself, and its censoring of the competition. This surrender to the authority of the statement could be taken as a paradigmatic example of what Adorno has called the ‘jargon of authenticity’, in reference to Heidegger's alleged overcoming of metaphysics. The claim, in promising freedom from the available choices, becomes the only possible choice. One doesn’t plead allegiance to anything but the claim, and that which provides the claim, i.e. the product. But above all, adds quite elegantly to Zizek’s examples of how the Lacanian Big-Other operates on the background of the unwritten rules prescribed in silence. This way, the apparent tolerance and freedom avowed by the producers ultimately harbors a stronger, tacitly conveyed order which remains operating with the same subversive agenda as the alternatives they are supposed to be denouncing.

Accordingly, whether advertisement is really something condonable becomes quite secondary and is given no further thought. The shortcut in the name already provides the necessary spark to draw the masses, reminding them that next to it lays the dishonest competition, which ploys to gain their attention through their underhanded ways. At the same time, we are reminded that ‘no-ad’ does not ask for your allegiance, au contraire, it has revealed the enemy: the competition! In choosing no-ad for its represented moral integrity we do not follow the masses, but act of our own accord, with freedom! Simultaneously, whether the product is indeed better or not becomes a completely unmanageable task for the costumer; one is merely reminded that the competition is guilty of advertising, irrespective of the qualities in their product. Even more strongly, one is foolishly led to believe that we have in sight the better product of the bunch, the only one that’s respectable and trustworthy. The line separating two distinct and unrelated issues disappears: the moral implications leading the fact they presumably do not advertise the way others do, and the implications that not-advertising may have in validating the purchasing of no-ad over other the alternatives. In other words, the line separating the relation between the moral issue of advertising and the criteria one should follow in choosing a product becomes confused, and deliberately so.

Quite predictably, one suddenly stops thinking about the concrete quality of the product the moment one faces an apparent moral dilemma. No-ad becomes first and foremost an obligation and only secondly one possible choice for sun-lotion. The martyrs who, for the sake of honesty and transparency, plead allegiance to the brand and to it's moral dictum, become their very own victims. Quality has been displaced, and decisions are made on moral grounds. After all, why not name the lotion with an irrelevant, non-suggestive name, if quality is all that matters? Less catchy perhaps? But they aren't supposed to be advertising. Less important then? But is it really more important to avoid publicizing than to offer a better product than the alternatives, or is it sufficient to avoid advertising? If not, and granting them that they do not publicize, why should we base our decision on the basis of their non-advertising policy?

One may anticipate them defending that the idea is that by not spending money on advertisement they show how all of their resources get employed in the quality of the product itself and not in producing some deceptive gimmick for the masses. Yet it is plainly obvious that this is far from guaranteeing a better product. The costumer cannot make a decision on the basis of quality just knowing that. But the issue of advertisement, being taken to the name of the bottle, becomes emblematic for what the lotion is identifiable as qua product. That is, the name baptizes the object for the potential buyer: 'This is no-ad, the sun lotion that if bought, represents the obligatory moral choice to be taken, because it doesn't advertise and therefore uses all of its resources in improving the product itself.' Yet by circumscribing the object (and therefore the costumer) to that singular issue of advertisement one is taken without further reflection to the concrete predicament: ‘do I buy this lotion or another one- on the basis of what I know of this object?’ And what does the costumer know? It knows about no-ad that it doesn't advertise. It knows furthermore that in advertising there is the guilt of using resources for deceit and not quality.

Indeed, the costumer concludes that since all resources go to the lotion and not advertising, any manufacturer which advertises must have a more deficient product.Since no-ad stands innocent from these charges, it is automatically made to stand in a privileged position for the costumer. The corrupted inference solidifies: since the manufacturers devote all of their resources to the product's quality they must therefore make the better product! But this is of course absurd, as it may be the company cannot afford to beat the competition on the basis of quality, ads or not. One loyal supporter can only then reply that at this point the question about quality becomes secondary to the fact that it is not-advertising and as such there is a moral issue involved at the heart of things. These supporters become the advertisers of no advertising, the church of no religions, deconstruction or whatever. The campaign in favor of no advertisement becomes the product’s strongest asset, and works beautifully in creating a legion of followers. For it is easier to appeal to the moral intuition of the masses than to their willingness to acquire knowledge. Indeed, most simply won’t; no-ad gets acknowledged as having purged the demons of beaches and suns in all their metaphysical and non-objective pretensions, in the spirit of being transparent to the costumer.

We can freely choose no-ad and at the same time claim that if you don’t, then you’re not free, that you’re guilty for being gullible, for supporting the subversive ways of the competition, of the advertisers, of those guilty of using resources for advertising and not research. We choose no-ad freely and knowing that all of its resources went into the quality of the product and not in attracting out attention through irrelevant diversions. We support the sun-lotion to end all sun-lotions! And we can enjoy our lotion no-ad with the modest elation of having done the right thing!But in the end, who cares if the lotion was better or not?

I conclude: the enjoyment one gains from supporting ‘no-ad’ is anything but free- it can only result from the tacit injunction gained from and through the purchasing of the product. Is there really any other way? Here I return to Zizek:“How do we account for this paradox: that the absence of law universalizes prohibition. There is only one possible explanation: enjoyment itself, which we experience as a transgression, is in its innermost status something imposed, ordered- when we enjoy we never do it spontaneously, we always follow a certain injunction”.

1 comentario:

Anónimo dijo...

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