Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Advertising and Theology

This is essentially the text for the newest Toyota dealer's radio ads here in the Phoenix metro area. It is lifted off of their website's "Guest Services" page:

More pampering while you wait

Our exclusive guest services area is nothing like you’ve ever seen! From a full-service nail salon, barbershop and shoeshine and massage salon, our new facility has something for everyone.

Book an appointment with a licensed cosmetologist to coincide with your vehicle service and save time out of your busy day.

Our exciting children’s play areas are equipped with a pirate ship and video games.

There are three customer lounges with large screen TVs and comfy couches so you can relax while we take care of your vehicle.

Catch up on some work in one of our wireless Internet computer stations.

We also offer shuttle bus service to and from Chandler Fashion Park so you can get some shopping in while we handle your vehicle.

This Changes Everything

In the radio spots there is a dramatic pause after all of the amenities and services are enumerated (including a massage parlor, a gourmet sandwich and fresh baked cookie shop, Edenic environments, among other things), then the announcer breathily whispers... "THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING!"

First of all, does anyone for a moment really believe that a car dealer offering a manicure and massage, a miniature Disneyland for A.D.D. kids who were dragged to their parent’s “car buying experience”, a gourmet sandwich shop, a TV set playing Dr. Phil, or a shuttle to a mall to kill time, or wi-fi for the workaholics or the internet addicted really changes EVERYTHING?... In what reality? In whose world? Is there really a planet or a universe that exists that will be radically altered because someone can now buy a car and have all of their passions, vanities, obsessions and delusions fed at the same time? The fact that someone even THOUGHT of this “tag line” and even THOUGHT that it would speak to a target market, and even THOUGHT that it sounded “punchy” or had ANY substance to it is utter insanity. It really should be the punch line to a Monty Python bit, or a wry, sarcastically delivered review of some inane and vapid reality show starring Paris Hilton (or whoever the equivalent du jour is).

But, no, someone really sold this as a serious ad to Toyota. Someone really thought it said something to a target market. And the sad and frightening reality is, it does speak to a real market.

The other sad reality is that this does not change anything, it merely AFFIRMS everything about THIS planet, universe, reality and existence. People are captivated by pleasure, ease, comfort, entertainment and the illusion of being cared for. The reality is the same reality that was presented to Eve in the garden: The fruit looked good to eat, it promised pleasure, and it was a painless shortcut to attainment of the goal of “fulfillment”. St. James calls it "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the vainglory of life". The universe revolves around me, my desires, my wants, my comfort, and I deserve it all, .... after all, McDonalds has already told you that you DO deserve a break today, remember?

Like the Serpent, Toyota appeals to the passions and our vanity and presents us with the illusion that it is all about the customer, they care about our well-being, our comfort, our desires and needs. But in reality, they care about our dollar, not us. The promise of free pleasure and pampering, providing for our every fleshly and psychological desire is a snare. The reality is, the spiritually darkened human being is manipulated to extract the dollar. There is no true “pampering”, no concern for the person. It is manipulation and lies, an illusion presented for an ulterior motive. But the “market” believes them. And the “market” flocks to the dealership and eats the fruit.

But nothing changes.

Everything stays the same.


Justinian said...

To run together to words of King Solomon and of St. John: all is vanity and vexation of the spirit, because all that is in the world is the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.

You're absolutely right that this betrays something very disgusting and dirty about our culture. This doesn't change, though, because there's nothing to change. We're as decadent as Romans eating dormice and using vomitoriums, we've just changed the means of the debauchery. Sometimes I think our whole society is chasing after Bacchus.

Ranger said...

THis may soon be an add for a new church foring, are we really that far from it. Coffee bars, family life centers, stadium seating... the list goes on.
We spent the night in Phoenix at a church on the way to Tijuana for a mission trip. I dubbed it as the church of the Recreation. It had huge basketball courts, a roller skating rink, with hockey gear, etc. There is nothing wrong with fascilitating youth ministry, etc, but at what point are we making churches more like a spa, and less like hospitals.
Trust me, we are not very far from The church of the Pampered.

Anonymous said...

Someone once invited me to her church and described all of the multi-media, music and dancing that would occur during their "worship service". Her selling point was "if nothing else, you'll be entertained." Gag me.
It is deeply tragic.

Fr. David said...

"The other sad reality is that this does not change anything, it merely AFFIRMS everything about THIS planet, universe, reality and existence."

::Stands and applauds wildly::

Amusing ourselves to death, indeed. And, lest anyone think the Church of the Pampered is not yet among us, let this Texan refer you a little ways south of where I am to a certain establishment I'm sure we're all aware of...

Pampering is not only physical...

Ranger said...

He has such a great smile though!
Must... look....a-way....

Anonymous said...

This was a really great post. I have seen a lot of this kind of baloney -- we all have -- but never one quite this egregious.

Had more thoughts on it as I listened to stichera about St. Ignatius last night, but it would go too long for a comment, so I blogged it.

Kenzy said...
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