Guide To Selling Out

This Week: My bad!

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This feels like the 178th minute of a three-hour poli sci final. I've spent two hours and 58 minutes regurgitating information, scurrying this way and that with my narrative, hopefully managing to string together some complete sentences and a few worthwhile ideas along the way. And now I have two minutes to tie a neat little bow around it all: a conclusion.

Those conclusions are all alike. Although A is true, and B supports that, C complicates everything and, due to, I don't know, globalization, it's too complicated to give a definite answer.

Here's one anyway. Yes, with just a few strokes of the fountain-tip pen I use to press the keys of my laptop, I will now come to a conclusion: Advertising isn't art.

But it also isn't the end of the world.

According to Citizens United vs. FEC, companies are people. This means two things for the world: Firstly, the corruption of our electoral system. Secondly, I can legally equate corporations to humans for the remainder of this column.

People, like businesses, are locked in a perennial battle to advertise themselves. Be it through a personal statement, a job application or a Facebook profile, we are all trying to build a brand for ourselves and prove we have something unique to offer in a relationship. We probably don't.

But we're all waving our arms around anyway, like parents gesticulating to their kids at a graduation ceremony. We'd be noticed just fine if we were alone, but we're lost in a sea of others, hoping to get noticed. We probably won't.

But if we use art, we have a better shot. If those parents are blasting Radiohead from a boombox, or holding up a Van Gogh, they're more likely to get some attention. Whether it would be positive is another matter.

Businesses need to get their message out one way or another. By veiling it in art, it becomes less garish, more palatable and more effective. It's an odd coupling, advertising and art. The one is desperate to catch eyes at any cost, the other is usually more concerned with nuance. For instance, if you took every 500th word of this (highly artistic) series of columns, it would read:

"Hey Emily, here's the secret message you wanted." (Ah, my very last digression. For now.)

Advertising makes the world reek of desperation and greed, sleaze and the smell of colognes printed in magazines.

But my point is, good sirs, that it's not the end of the world.

I first came up with the theme of this column on a long drive down one of Lebanon's ad-strewn roads, each billboard uglier than the last, as I dreaded that the road to the apocalypse, like the road to Syria, would be one lined in hair replacement advertisements. I wondered if the world could maintain its soul amidst so much blitz.

And I continued to wonder, over these 15 weeks, whether there was still room for soul in a world with dickish Twix ads, a band devoted to a bogus financial website, miserable girls selling apparel with their scowls, and so on.

The answer is yes. Many things might be on the way to destroying our souls, but advertising isn't the first among them - and more to the point, it won't be what puts a stop to the creation and enjoyment of art. Every year I see a more obnoxious ad, a more repugnant campaign, a brand that has sneaked its way further into a movie or a band or a show than ever before.

But every year I also watch a better film, hear a better song and see a better work of art. Maybe it's just because I'm getting older and seeing more of what the world has to offer. Maybe it's globalization or something. Whatever it is, I'm not worried anymore.

Thanks for reading this semester, and for the (mostly) nice comments and emails. It was all for you, my timid cucumbers. It was always for you.


Nostalgic? Tell Hannah at [email protected]

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