Friday, 29 January 2010

"Dear Advertising, from Science" (No. 6)

One for the weekend. "When will it end?!?", I hear you shout. As soon as people stop reading it, I reply.

"Dear Advertising

I'm writing to you on the advice of my lawyers (I have about three). Please pass this message on to Marketing too, as almost all of this applies to him too. To be completely truthful, it wouldn't surprise me if you guys were the same person. I would say "I've never seen the two of you together" to support my argument, but seeing as you're both abstract concepts that's not surprising. But then so am I, so I can write to you and you'd better bloody read it or I'll come and find you.

Rest assured, I'll work out how, what with being Science and all.

Stop mentioning me in your work! Seriously, cut that crap out. We don't work together, I don't endorse you, if anything I wish you'd just piss off and die in a ditch, or some other filth-filled location, I'm not fussy. You make the money for all of Businesses evil henchmen, and they tempt my lot to go work with them on projects which are utterly meaningless. and generally detrimental to society. So to then claim I'm endorsing or somehow involved in the crap your flogging is just like a massive kick in the nether regions. Using my own leg. That you ripped off without asking.

I'll make this even simpler; I don't like you! I have to spend countless hours (on a shoestring budget) explaining to people the fundamental discoveries I've made, and they barely listen. You, however, get millions to spend and all the media exposure you want, and look what you do with it! And what's worse, it ends up making my lot look stupid!

Just to clarify, here's a brief list of things that, despite your claims, scientists don't spend any time researching;
  • "What brand of cat-food cats prefer", especially when given a choice of '2'. A non-reasoning animal making an arbitrary choice between 2 options does not provide useful information. No, not even if it was a double blind. Anyway, aren't cats arrogant enough without extensive study into what particular type of reconstituted offal they will deign to consume? This is not a valid use of research funding.
  • The design of the toothbrush is pretty much fixed now. A tweak here or there is fine, but one of us could do that on a Sunday morning while waiting for the centrifuge cycle to finish. It's not a series of monumental breakthroughs, as you seem to imply. And electric toothbrushes aren't much better. If you're the sort of person who can't be bothered to move your arm for a minute when cleaning your own teeth then they're screwed anyway, might as well glue a brush to a sex toy and call it good. And don't try the whole '4 out of 5 dentists recommend...' approach either. Dentists are overworked individuals who have to spend all their working lives fiddling about in the mouths of people who probably don't brush; they'd recommend daily bleach gargling if it made their lives easier.
  • On a similar note, there aren't armies of scientists and technicians working on the next big development in disposable razor blade technology. It's a simple system, just add 1 more blade to the existing number then triple the price. Then wait until every posing vain idiot has bought one, then claim that, actually, 'the best number of blades on a razor is one more than we thought'. Repeat until disposable blades are bigger than the human face, then say 'oh no, wait, just the one blade is better'. Cycle repeats.
Just a few examples there of things I'm not involved with in any great way. But you also need to stop criticising the stuff I am involved with.

I've spent decades working with the food industry to make food more commercially viable, better tasting and long lasting, and then you imply that I'm basically pissing in it? Oh no, now you go and really emphasise 'natural' ingredients. Like what? Arsenic? Sulphur? Magma? Mmm, natural! And everything is natural at some point, before it undergoes processing, as I've not yet cracked the process of creating fresh matter from sunbeams or happy thoughts. Have you? I notice you never stipulate how 'natural' something is in relative terms, which isn't even slightly suspicious, of course.

I genuinely saw a bag of crisps the other day which boasted the claim 'Made of REAL ingredients'. I was reassured, those holographic crisps are never as good, and it's nice to have the possibility that we are all part of the Matrix ruled out by a fried potato snack.

And another thing, stop using my words when you clearly have no idea what they mean! 'High in polyunsaturates'? 'Contains Omega 3'? 'Rich in antioxidants'? You don't have a clue, do you? Why are these good things? Are they, in fact, good things? The phrase 'if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all' has never been one that I've adhered to, so I use my own.

"If you don't have any idea what you're saying, shut your stupid face!"

It's potentially dangerous, too. How many things do you say 'help boost the immune system'? 'Boost'? That must be a good thing, of course. What harm could an artificially increased immune system do? Tell me, are you familiar with the term Anaphylactic shock? I doubt it. But if I'm wrong, and you have discovered a manner to quickly and easily improve someones immune system, could you at least do the decent thing and let me know how? I have some AIDS sufferers who'd love to hear about it, and it would save a lot of time looking for bone marrow.

Speaking of discoveries, isn't it illegal to claim to have discovered something when you haven't? Case in point, that Oil of Olay crap where the secret ingredient is pentapeptides? A string of 5 amino-acids? If this is such an incredible achievement, can you point me in the direction of an organic compound that doesn't have any pentapeptides? Take your time. What does the next miracle cream contain? Revolutionary new 'atoms'? Ooh, wizz-bang!

But seriously, stop it. Stop telling people we're in agreement, stop using my words to confuse them and stop telling them that my work is bad for them.

There is some science to advertising, admittedly. You know how almost every system or process can be boiled down to a series of equations? Here's the equation for advertising.

N = n+1

N = Necessary number of things/services for an individual
n = Number they already posses.

There. That's it. All of advertising rests on this equation. Everyone needs one more of something, be it shoes, computers or level of whiteness provided by a washing powder.Of course, if they obtain one more of whatever it is, N become n. And so it goes on.

If this equation stops, you will cease to exist. I'm working with Maths to try and figure out how to make that happen.

Love and kisses

Science (BA hons)

P.S. That equation also seems to calculate the required number of films about 'Shrek', but I think this is a coincidence

email: humourology (at)
Twitter: @garwboy

N.B. After writing this, was reminded of several instances where advertising has been used as a force for good, such as the Atheist Bus Campaign. I really should have titled it a letter to 'advertising which incorrectly uses science for comemrcial gain', but that would have been quite unwieldy


Armands said...

Hilarious! Thank you very much for these.

Anna Martelli Ravenscroft said...

Love these letters!

Just a small suggestion in the sentence: "So to then claim I'm endorsing or somehow involved in the crap your flogging is just like a massive kick in the nether regions. "
Please change "your" to "you're". Thanks.
Your fan and bff,

Chris said...

Nice piece. Good point about "naturalness". Hallucinogenic mushrooms are natural. Limestone is natural. Doesn't mean you'd want them in your Cheerios. Ever had Fentimans Cola? The bottles are covered in text about how it uses a "traditional family recipe" but the ingredients are basically sugar, water and flavouring. Mmm ... nobody made Flavouring like my Mom made Flavouring.

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