Advertising and promotion, for the most part, has long ceased to be a source of valuable information for the consumer. Critic Mike Starkey notes that in the 1970′s consumerism and North American gluttony were coming under scrutiny. The counter-cultural movement of the 60′s and 70′s reacted against the materialism and environmental degradation which resulted from America’s exorbitant consumption. It was at this point that advertising and promotion took an idolatrous turn for the worst: psychographical marketing was born. This type of promotion divides people into homogeneous groups based on age, gender, income, number of kids, and so on. Starkey writes, “With the arrival of psychographics it became possible to present goods to target consumer groups, not simply as a luxury items to enhance their life, but as an extension of themselves. The product becomes an essential part of who they are, or rather, what they could be.” David Lyon, in a similar vein writes, “… individuals seek to express themselves in “free” consumer choices, guided by lifestyle packages of the advertisers. Thus ‘the project of self becomes translated into one of the possession of desired goods and the pursuit of artificially framed styles of life’.” Advertising and promotion was, and is no longer concerned with promotion that competes on the basis of price or quality, but on image. Christopher Lasch in his book, The Culture of Narcissism, documents this development: “In a simpler time, advertising merely called attention to the product and extolled its advantages. Now it manufactures a product of its own: the consumer, perpetually unsatisfied, restless, anxious, and bored. Advertising serves not so much to advertise products as to promote consumption as a way of life.”
Furthermore, contemporary marketing is scandolous in that it wastes scarce resources while providing irrelevant information and selling secular worldviews. Critic Onimode, from a Nigerian university, asserts that “the barrage of advertisements for baby-food, detergent, cement, textiles, tooth-paste and the like merely waste scarce resources without providing any useful information or service – rather, they mislead consumers and cultivate wrong tastes through this psychological suggestiveness.” Vast amounts of resources, both material and monetary, are expended to create products which are identical, except in name and branding. Take for example Coke and Pepsi; both colas are almost identical in flavour, yet most people have a strong preference for one or the other. This preference is not due to the taste, but to the product associations. The same can be said about running-shoe companies, chewing gum, fabric softener, shampoo, and the list goes on. Hordes of money are wasted on advertising the sole purpose of which is to psychologically differentiate a product which is no different from the next.
Advertising and promotion, in tandem with the idolatry of self interest and profit motive (as and end), has been instrumental in perpetuating a consumerist society. Not only is it idolatrous in many respects, but it has expanded beyond what many consider a legitimate boundary. Starkey comments something to that effect that ‘nowadays, we can market anything from popcorn to prime ministers.’ Hans Bertens, in his book The Idea of the Postmodern, quoting Fredric Jameson, notes the “unprecedented ‘expansion of capital into hitherto uncommodified areas’” We have allowed economic practices, of which advertising and promotion is a chief perpetrator, to intrude into spheres in which they don’t belong. Education is not a product to be packaged, branded, and sold. Church vitality cannot be measured by the number of BOS (bums-on-seats) brought in by savy marketing schemes. Political success should not be based on the amount of dollars poured into the campaigning process. And so on.