Americans buy because consumerism makes every one of us a buyer. And in order to buy anything, we need everything for sale.
Advertising, then, is the medium of communication that surround us in ways both obvious and hidden. In the case of Big Orange, Big Ideas, however, UT has made its own marketing campaign, one that, for once, isn’t trying to sell to us.
In a way, it’s actually selling us.
Before advertising ever reaches the level of inception under which Big Orange, Big Ideas operates, however, it starts in the flashy packaging and promises of low fat and high protein that we buy in the supermarket. When we do encounter food unencumbered by the wrappings of salesmen, they are served by restaurants draping themselves in marketing campaigns too.
Consider “healthy” fast food giant Subway and its darling Jared Fogle. After starring in 13 years of advertisements and growing his own empire of motivational speaking, Fogle can thank Subway’s Chicago advertisement agency for making his astonishing transition from fat guy to that guy worth an estimated $15 million. Jared may have lost more than 200 pounds, but clever advertising made his wallet much, much fatter.
Advertising also runs more insidiously than the blatant commercials and billboards around us; look at those ads that may be screaming at you even now from a computer screen or smart phone app. Video shorts and digital animations drive websites like BuzzFeed to make doing anything online a veritable clicking extravaganza.
Surfing the web is a for-profit business; more screens means more ad space.
Obvious advertisements undoubtedly carry out their missions, but it’s the hidden efforts packing the biggest punch. The Business persists into art and the news, not just alongside, by the principles of product placement and news-as-advertisement. (Anyone who’s read my column on ESPN knows my feelings on this latter model.) And sure enough, Miley Cyrus’s new “We Own the Night” video begins with a three-second close up on one of the Beats by Dre Pills, a shot which likely paid for the entire production.
Music video funding may not seem so bad, but the advertising does not stop in the world of hip-hop. Instead, intrusions into legislation abound in a world where political campaigns have multimillion dollar budgets. It’s not exactly a secret; political lobbying groups and large organizations fund our representatives’ campaigns, essentially buying advertisements in future legislation and bids for their own private interests.
Even in the wake of the brutal massacre at Sandy Hook, for example, a bill that would have expanded background checks for gun buyers died in the Senate in April. Not to point fingers, but gun rights lobbying groups in Washington boosted their financial efforts by 61 percent during January, February and March.
The pattern is nothing new; another frightening example of private sector dominance in public affairs goes by the names Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. The two mortgage claim giants – started as government enterprises but turned into private companies in the 1960s – managed to protect massive subsidies from Capitol Hill for years by lobbying their own version of product placement.
If a private company has its hands in 90 percent of American homes, who is going to buy anywhere else? When the housing bubble burst in the mid-2000s, the executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were caught using the buyers of their mortgages as leveraged advertisements to the legislators who’d protected them.
Next time you watch TV, use a computer, drive on a road, or do anything else socially expected, pay attention to these symbols of influence. Know when you’re being subconsciously attacked. See your surroundings and what surrounds them; familiarize yourself with the power money has bought.
Big Orange, Big Ideas is an advertisement and we are its product placement – that’s the Big Idea. Next time you make fun of it with your friends, remember that at least it’s one of the few advertising campaigns not aimed at you. You, instead, are a part of it.
The Big Orange, Big Idea magnanimously envelopes our lives, including us in the brand it sells. Sometimes we’re just too close to buy it.
R.J. Vogt is a rising junior in College Scholars. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.