Saturday, October 12, 2013

Chapter 4. My Life in Advertising: Riding in the cockpit of the 'FAD' culture.


Those luscious red lips that quiver sensuously at a bite, that flawless fair skin soaked in milk that just slides off it like it were made of satin, those beautiful long legs seducing you at every step, that glossy black hair that shines against the light even in darkness, what kind of gloriously divine beauty is that what you see?
Well, if that's what you have seen in print advertising, it's pretty much Photoshop, define, color nix and a variety of other photo editing softwares. If its in films and cinemas, its a little more complicated bunch of softwares ranging from color correctors to skin enhancers to downright 3D animation.
Every Advertising photoshoot, even if its for a brand that claims to be 'all natural' and 'real' - is re-touched and made to appear more 'beautiful' than it really is. Even when not re-touched, the expensive ones are often shot by pro directors with an array of pro cinematographers, make up artists, costume designers and photographers who know how to use lights and make up and colors to their advantage - to make the dark circles disappear, to cover the pores and hide the creases, to flatter those bulging curves and tuck the suits into flattering shapes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O600kDpBNj4

Having spent 8 years in advertising creating campaigns and directing ad films and doing photoshoots, I have learnt this first hand. But for the general public and the literate yet illiterate masses, this illusion of the media becomes a reality to aim for. Selling them the unattainable dream in little packaged 'half truths' makes corporations and companies with good media budgets richer - feeding off the petty insecurities of the common man.

Looks and appearances are just one part. Advertising and the commercial film industry thrive on materialising and making artificial every valuable emotion known to man - love someone? buy them something expensive. want to show you care? invest in a big ass insurance fund to show you do. want to really FEEL successful? wear a suit, buy a sedan and then a luxury home. Advertising and commercial media is all about selling you pacifiers for your own insecurities. And as the masses are, insecurities are an ocean of expanding proportions where the shores are just going further and further the more they sail towards them. The only way out of this vicious cycle, is to gain true knowlegde and then reset your priorities in life. But that's too much to ask for. so lets just settle at being atleast knowledgeable so that we can see the strings behind the magic show. Or even if not able to see the strings, but still know that's its a parlor trick. Be amazed, sure. Not fooled. There in lies the difference.
Want to look like a magazine cover model?

The AGELESS Maddonna?
for more, visit: http://thecount.com/2011/11/14/awesome-celebrity-photoshop-before-and-after-pictures/ 
I'm not saying that advertising is full of evil wizards working their magic for evil lords of corporations who suck life out of the common man. Most of the people who work in advertsing itself are victims to their own creations. Enveloped in layers of things they really do not need, sacrificing their families and relationships and health - chasing ponies and trophies that hardly compare to what they are losing in return. But that's a different story for a different day.



When I had this discussion with my mother, she was quick to retort: Ok, this may happen only in ADS and FILMS? what about press photos? and live appearances. There's no way they can cheat that? R**** (an eternally 'young' bollywood diva) looks so beautiful even today! I saw her myself!
Well, i asked : did she tell you how many plastic surgeries she has done? did she tell you how many shots of botox does she take? Has she told you about the chin tuck and tummy tuck that she got? Did she show you the paddings under those dresses she wears? Did she tell you about the pharmaceutical help she has taken in 'looking young' and staying 'thin'? Did she tell you her entire range of cosmetics and about her makeup person and stylist who's on call? 
to which my mom replies: what? I read in the paper that she just does yoga every morning and has herbal tea.
"the paper didn't mention which "brand'" of herbal tea?" i asked with a clearly faked inquiry expression on my face.
The thing is, even the press today, is not 'FREE'. The lies that are most expensive are the ones that are packaged as the most convincing truth. The NEWS is PURCHASED as advertising slots. Advertorials. And articles with vested interests. Don't you ever wonder how a down an out actress/actor suddenly pops up in a news article without reason? Well, they pay to be featured. And that is how it works.
Even when the press releases photographs of certain celebs and stars, only the best looking photos of picked and sometimes even retouched to keep the 'stars' happy to ensure further business with that star and the brands they market. Its more like a 'you keep me happy and i keep you happy' scenario. reality can go take a hike.
That brings me to another word - REALITY. Today, all reality means is 'realistic entertainment'. Reality shows are scripted. 'Live' video feeds on NEWS channels are old footages picked off from youtube. Live matches are FIXED. But everyone loves a little illusion - its a nice escape from the drudgeries of real life. So i don't blame them. But when they replace this 'reality' as the REALITY of their own lives - that is where the problem begins. 
Today historical movies are a big thing. But even these movies are BASED of true incidents - nicely spiced up with masalas to add a zing of entertainment. But ask school going kids and grownups alike and they will tell you that these all historical stories are real. When you ask them for proof, they say "didn't you see that movie?". Reminds me of those people who claim the bible as proof that evolution isn't real. (I'm open to arguing that evolution of species may not be true, but i'm not open to accepting that it just isn't because the BIBLE or a COMIC BOOK say so.)

In this scenario, two phenomenon are snowballing into eachother and creating quite and avalanche of stupidity: CONVENTIONAL WISDOM and FADS. 
Let get them one by one first: 

Today almost every opinion held by the public is based on a growing acceptance of conventional wisdom generated by the media in accordance with the pre-existing misconceptions and stupidities of the masses. And its getting more and more complicatedly stupid yet intelligent by the day. Let me explain what i mean.
Just for basics, when an opinion or idea that may or may not be true, get accepted as a fact because it sounds better, pisses fewer people off and seems to have credible looking sources and is easy to believe is accepted and passed off as the TRUTH, it is called Conventional Wisdom.
Earlier, it was only said in the commercial that biscuit X is healthy.Then, it was said that biscuit X is healthy because it has Y.In the meanwhile, all studies that prove that Y is actually not good for you are supressed and all studies that acclaim Y are marketed and fed to the media.Now, it is said biscuit Z (a bigger brand) has 2 times Y. So the public naturally now believes that THEREFORE, Z is a superior biscuit. But no one will go back to check if Y is beneficial for you at all.Let that aside, people wont even check the fine print that says "contains 2% Y". Which means X actualy contained only 1% Y. (basically a quantity that doesn't even make shit of a difference anyways. what you are having is still corn and sugar in your biscuit anyways.) 
That's how conventional wisdom works. 
The most brilliant example of this is OIL and Cholesterol and its perceived ill effects of health - especially on cardiovascular health.
For years the American heart institute propagated that cholestrol is the enemy, that cholestrol is what is causing heart attacks. They also showed loads and load of research year after year. Infact, one of the scientists who provided the research corelating high fat- high cholestrol diets to heart diseases was even featured on the cover of time magazine.
So whats the glitch here?
Despite people opting for low oil diets, low cholestrol foods and the propagated 'healthier' eating habits, the heart attacks kept going up and up and up.
The countries conveniently ignored in the research were countires with predominantly high fat and high cholestrol diets that still maintained great cardiac conditions. As soon as those counties were included into the research - the hypothesis was clearly proven false!
Despite tackling choltestrol, the heart attack and heart diesease rates in the modern world kept going up.

WHAT WAS WRONG HERE? WHY WAS THE RESEARCH BEING TAMPERED WITH? WHY WAS CHOLESTROL BEING MADE THE ENEMY?


before we go on to the answers, here's a new light on cholestrol:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8SSCNaaDcE


Well documented research has actually proven that its the high glycemic index carbs that are responsible for worsened heart conditions. And yet even today, cholestrol is touted as the villain. 
Countries that showed worsened cardiac conditions on the cholestrol research are actually the countries that have an extremely high amount of high glycemic index carbs in their foods. ie: fast foods, breads and burgers, sweets and confectionaries, caramelised foods and so on. (sound quite like the popular commercialist american way of life doesnt it?)

Then why arent people educated that its these carbs that are the enemy and not cholestrol?
Here's the answer. You put it together:
1. America's largest cash crop is corn
2. Corn, corn syrup and corn derivatives are the most widely used additives in all processed foods. no matter what packaged food you pic in the market, chances are, it will have corn in some way or another. (whereas corn is not even an ageold crop eaten by our ancestors - its a fairly recent development in the timeline of mankind)
3. The entire fast food and packaged food industry depends on corn and corn derivaties.
4. Now when your entire economy of greed depends on corn - would you let people know that it is the villian? or would you create a new villian that's easier to hate and fight and tough to know the truth about? ie: cholestrol.
5. Even if the common man wants to know about cholestrol, he would have to be quite educated to understand the differences between dietary fats and body fats, between high density lippoproteins and low density lippoproteins and about the ways in which certain dietary fats actually reduce body fat.
Kellog's can be considered the father of the 'industrialised' fad diet culture.
From cornflakes to anemas to fad diets, Kellogs has promoted everything
that is actually unhealthy as healthy. Across the ages. 
So the entire industry that funds the mass media via advertising wants CORN to be the hero and CHOLESTROL to be the villain. and presto! 50 years of advertising brain washing and its conventional wisdom today that oil is bad for health!

The same goes for equipment produced in the fitness industry. Equipment manufacturers usually go for anything that is mass producible, highly marketable and easier to sell to the people. Then that is back by fake 'scientific' sounding studies by paid professionals and 'doctors' and 'experts'. Then come in paid 'celebrity' endorsements. And that is how crap, ineffective equipment and fitness fads are sold to the public.
This list goes from equipment to training systems to shoes to 'healthy foods' to counselling programs. The whole business is a matter of what is backed by whom. Money is the greatest fitness 'professional' for the uninitiated.

A quick drive through the history of fad machines in 'fitness':

 


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How do Frauds become 'Celebrity' Professionals in the fitness industry?

I'm going to cut to the chase. I could go on and on about how 'experts' are 'engineered' in the mass media. About how 'expert' associations are created and 'super brands' are 'awarded'. Its all a matter of money games. The fact is that true journalism died the day news became a 24 hour channel subject to trps and open to advertising.

So X brand wants to make an inroad into a new market. It analyzes what social phenomena run the country - for eg: in india its bollywood and cricket. Brand X now takes its fraud marketing bozo who has good conversational skills and camera presence and throws him into the market region. He is funded to reach a few top celebrities in the country and prepare highly marketed and advertised case studies of how he/she changed their lives. The case studies are hyped and pumped and puffed into the media with funding money from the parent brand. And soon - poof! all that bullshit seems real to the people blinded by 'celebrity gaga'. Bullshit is accepted as science. And lies as the truth. People stop questioning and turn to blind belief based on the newly generated conventional wisdom. And then enters brand X, sweeps out the market, sells all its crap and the rest is history!

The truth is - only a fraud will aspire to be a celebrity trainer. If he is a honest trainer, if his methods really work, if he is a man of science, he would rather become a celebrity himself. 


-Pushkaraj Shirke
Director, Project Battleready

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