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.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

More Vintage Photos

Between my sojourn in the acapella churches of Christ and my conversion to the acapella Orthodox Church, I made a pit stop in the Episcopal Church where I could actually play a guitar in public. We did a couple fund raising dinners for the parish. We managed to put a decent band together with our multi talented choir members. This was circa 1994. This is me, the Wrong Reverend Stevie Ray, lead guitarist for "The Episcopresleyans". Our intro included among other things, "We asked ourselves, what would give this act some real class? And we thought, what do you see when you go to a symphony? MUSIC STANDS! ...." After the band member introductions I'd say in the "Cool Hand Luke" drawl, "What we have here is a failure to excommunicate."

I have to say, we tried this "schtick" at an Orthodox Church and ummmm.... Episcopalians are a whole lot more fun. We should have learned an Arabic version of "Radar Love". Oh well... WE had fun.