Self-Worth in a Can

Came across these cute and telling illustrations by Mikey Burton in the January Real Simple.

They were featured in an article about debt, but I think they also serve as a commentary about advertising, marketing and the promises attached to products.

All ads appeal to needs of some sort — emotional needs or physiological needs, etc. And that's not a bad thing. Products can fulfill a lot of our needs. But they'll never provide a lasting or healthy sense of self-worth, happiness or accomplishment.

Sometimes I get surprised looks when I tell people I'm studying advertising. [I'm studying strategic communication officially, but that takes a lot longer to explain (especially because my actual degree is in journalism). It's confusing, so sometimes I just say advertising.] People have this idea that advertisers as a whole are engaged in deception and manipulation. But I think that good advertising, like good writing, is always focused on conveying truth.

I turned on the radio yesterday during a McDonald's commercial. The narrator, waxing poetic about the merits of the Big Mac, ended with the line, "The simple joy of complete fulfillment."

I was reminded of these illustrations. I can imagine a fourth, a paper bag with all-caps sans-serif text proclaiming its contents will provide COMPLETE FULFILLMENT. I'd like to give the writers of that McDonald's commercial the benefit of the doubt. I'd like to believe they simply mixed up the words "fullness" and "fulfillment." A Big Mac can most certainly provide complete fullness, but complete fulfillment doesn't come with special sauce and a side of fries (either way you read it).

If I ever end up working as a copywriter, I hope you never come across one of my pieces and find I've suggested a product will provide what only Jesus can. I wish I could add an asterisk to all my copy: *Everyone who drinks this water [or eats this Big Mac or wears these shoes or owns this phone] will be thirsty again.

"...but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” — John 4:13