Can advertising help create psychopaths?

violenceSchool massacres have become a meme, or a contagious idea. That’s the astounding conclusion of a thought-provoking article in one of the weekend papers. The media noise – advertising, films, TV, conversations – affect our self-image from which everyone, including deeply disturbed individuals, take their cue.
The distressingly large list of similar massacres has become a genre in its own right, and one which grows in power at each retelling.
Sam Leith, the Daily Telegraph‘s young arts editor, describes the mindset that causes us to seek a target to blame:

“As a species, we are very bad indeed at coping with eruptions of meaninglessness. We like things to have causes and effects – ideally, causes and effects whose relationships to each other are simple. And this seems to be why, in the wake of any eruption of violent senselessness, we tend to comb through the wreckage looking for explanations. And it’s art that usually cops it.”

Advertising is possibly one of the least valued and most despised form of communication to which everyone is exposed. If Leith is correct, then I wonder to what degree advertising, often guilty of stereotyping and of attaching a consumer’s idea of self-worth to brands, can be blamed for having one of the loudest voices.

I’m not suggesting that endless repetitions of the latest KFC ad is going to make someone brain a waitress with a chicken wing. But maybe some people’s perception of what constitutes happiness and fulfilment could be affected by these messages. To someone with low self-esteem and affected by violence seen elsewhere in the media, how would their failure to achieve such contentment manifest itself?


4 Responses to “Can advertising help create psychopaths?”

  1. 1 doug April 30, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    wow. tracked it down. consider yourself linked (again)

    looking forward to this one!

  2. 2 oldvic April 30, 2007 at 8:33 pm

    Ha! Thanks Doug. Welcome to my more respectable online hovel.

  3. 3 doug April 30, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    … and very nice it is too.

    that’s what you get for promoting via twitter 😉

  4. 4 Will April 30, 2007 at 10:33 pm

    Yep, found you. Twitter’s a wonderful tool.

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Self-important bit

I’m Victor Houghton, a, er... something or other in one of the UK’s largest advertising agencies. My job title has a comma in it, which is embarrassing. I’m the chief finder-things-outer with a splash of trends who is lucky to work with all the major functions of the agency, even though I am most closely associated with strategic planning. Everything in this blog has most probably been stolen from other, infinitely more talented people, although the opinions are most definitely my own and not those of the agency.



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