So advertising doesn’t work, right?

I wonder sometimes how people survived without modern antiseptic contraptions such as the one pictured to the left, the Katadyn water filter as offered by REI. I remember reading at some point that on the Lewis and Clark expedition in the early 1800s, the men were advised to dip their cups deep into the Missouri River waters and to avoid drinking the foamy surface waters. I don’t recall anything about dysentery on that journey.

Edward Abbey hiked the water-parched deserts around Tuscon. Somewhere in his writing he talks about available water, saying that if it was there, he would drink it. If his body didn’t like it, he’d soon know. That was the extent of his water filtering … his colon.

As a kid and younger man I hiked the mountains of Montana, mostly in the Beartooth range north and east of Yellowstone National Park. I carried with me a metal cup with a crooked handled to allow me to slip it in my belt or backpack strap. When thirsty, I would grab the cup and take water directly out of streams and lakes. I never once got sick.

The Katadyn filter might have some beneficial uses, but for the most part it is a product that is purchased and used because of irrational fear. Where did that fear come from? Advertising. Imagine that the Katadyn people met with their ad agency and were told that the product would be hard to sell. It was, after all, treating an affliction so rare and hardly anyone would need it. How would they sell it?

The ad agency advised an indirect approach. See below.

Of course, the word “rare” was never used in selling Katadyns. Fear, a common advertising technique, operates on a sublime level, present in all of us. I fell for this product, and for years carried the clumsy (and heavy when the filter is water-soaked) Katadyn filter with me. We still have it in a box somewhere in the garage, but on our recent trip to Montana and Wyoming, I simply filled a small water bottle out of streams and lakes, just as when I was a kid. No harm came my way.

The “information” campaign about Giardia coincided with the release of the Katadyn in classic create-the-problem fix-the-problem advertising. I fell for it. We are never approached directly by advertisers. They always choose the indirect (and essentially dishonest) route to get us to spend our money on things we do not need. If I lived by a river in which sewage was present, parasites would be a problem. In the mountains high up, it is not. What microorganisms are present in the waters up there are easily handled by the best filters around, our bodies.


I used to belong to a Unitarian group in our former home town of Bozeman. As usual, I was asked to be the treasurer, just as years before with the Knights of Columbus. Our group was small, perhaps eighty members. As we sat around a table one night talking budget, the problem of a database of our membership came up. I suggested any old PC and Excel, as there was already such a machine in the office.

Amazingly, one of the members got his neck hairs standing up, and insisted that the group needed a Macintosh computer. In addition to that, he said that Apple had a database program that could manage our eighty members. I could not believe my ears! Far from needing anything more than a card file, a $1,500 investment in a computer that our office gal was too dumb to use was ludicrous.

I did not prevail. Our fearless leader said that her daughter was a computer consultant, and she would talk with her on the matter. Later she made what she called an “executive decision,” and a Mac was purchased along with a database program that no one ever learned how to use. I imagine it still sits there. I do hope the office gal learned how to type a letter.

What I was unknowingly witnessing was the fallout from one of the most successful ad campaigns ever. I don’t need to say anything more than the photo seen here, “I’m a PC, I’m a Mac.” The subliminal message of this campaign was that Apple desktop computers were cool, while PCs were clunky. The fallout was the creation of a legion of very annoying people who became the de facto sales force for Apple, people who swore up and down that Macs were better products than PCs. That is why that member of our group insisted that for a a bunch of people that didn’t even need a computer, that we had to have a Mac.

When I purchased a Mac in 2012 …. yes. I fell for it … I had to be retrained. For some unknown reason, Mac’s did a few things differently, like scrolling up instead of down, said to be more logical. They were said to have eliminated the wait time after booting, an annoying feature of PCs that exists to this day. What I found with a Mac was that while the screen fired up right away, the keyboard would not work until the boot process was over. They were messing with us. I use Quickbooks, an excellent program designed for PCs. There was a version for Macs that must have been assembled in Jobs’ and Wozniak’s garage, a piece of barely usable garbage. Yeah, I bought that too.

I struggled for a few months, and then gave it up. The Mac now resides in my wife’s office, and she is OK with it. She performs a few activities like internet and email, and any old computer will do. I returned to my PC because, in my opinion, PCs are better products than Macs. My wife now uses Quickbooks on this machine, a PC, because it is so much smoother.

The ad campaign worked on a sublime level, getting people to associate a clunky product with “cool,” while PCs were relegated to the nerd bin. It is true that Microsoft is not as good at marketing as Apple. If you don’t believe that, just ask Cortana. “Cortana”? Really? Cortana? Who names their kid Cortana? Bill Gates?

I’ll never forget the words of my stepson, who is in advertising, as I recounted my fight with the Mac and return to PC. He said “So advertising doesn’t work, right?”

19 thoughts on “So advertising doesn’t work, right?

  1. Off topic, today’s big news-

    What I find interesting is that there’s a narrative beat leading up to the positive test; he’s supposedly frequently tested, and never discusses “waiting for the results.” But he does on this occasion. Ostensibly bc his close aide was positive. But that’s just more narrative foreshadowing.

    No wonder people are fascinated… It unfolds with the heightened artifice of soap opera or reality TV. Semi-scripted, maybe with handlers who manage the storylines and give the actors their cues.


    1. It just keeps getting more and more ridiculous. I find myself thinking that people can’t possibly believe any of this, but then today I have
      Facebook friends posting their ‘’prayers for Trump and family.’’

      Now I’m wondering if Trump is going to ‘’die of’’ The Bug right before or after the election. That would be a new high (or low) in the ‘’Coronavirus’’ madness.


      1. Chances are Trump will be very ill indeed, probably at death’s door. ( So we’ll be told anyway ) Like our current Prime Minister here in the UK , Johnson, Trump will emerge from his self isolation weeks later hollow eyed and gaunt. More surprising still , Like Boris Johnson poor old Trump will be an absolute pushover for the opposition , unable to string a sentence together and with political views almost diametrically opposed to those he held before he became sick!!
        Yep, this Covid19 is VERY UNUSUAL phenomenon ( I refuse to dignify it with the name ‘ disease.’ ) Almost lends credence to the numerous ” truthers” now selling the idea of ‘ long term Covid’ . This holds that those who catch it and recover are never quite the same people again. Epiphanies for the sinful.
        My word the PTB move in mysterious ways.


          1. I would imagine he’d been having a great time ‘ isolating ‘ watching old movies , eating cordon bleu and supping expensive French wine . Then when it was time to show his sorry face the best make up artists in the business did their magic to verify his ‘suffering ‘ to the gullible sheep. ‘ We weren’t supposed to notice that his actual porkiness was still in evidence.
            I don’t believe a word of it and that goes for Trump’s little malady as well.
            I for one am thoroughly sick of their little games.


  2. I don’t play golf but when I saw that first pic I immediately thought of golf. The earbud canister looks like a golf bag with a club sticking out of it.



    Hope Hicks, what a name. This is a PR family. Professional sports background. I’m looking for a “Shakespearean” ending. The hero is tragic personality. A great tale of suffering ultimately leading to tragic death. The end.

    Are we seeing a Pence roll-out yet? Only possible scenario more tragic is if Biden bites the dust too? A Shakespearean twofer to keep the black-white, left-right, young-old, sectarian-non-sectarian, male-female etc. “civil war” churning us closer to the ultimate, global fascist police state.


  4. well, there you can see mark, how advertising DOES work; people are ultimately more interested in the fictional world of Trump than in the very real world of how they are being manipulated at every turn


  5. Yale research underway to “message” (propaganda prep) the Covid vaccine campaign. Source:

    Don’t like either source, don’t like YouTube, do your own research. Mass vaccine, administered voluntarily or involuntarily, is the Covid end game, as clearly stated by Gates Inc. and Co. Please prepare yourself — mind, body, spirit — for the unexpected.


    1. I think we’re all agreed on that . Regardless of whether you come from the ‘virus doesn’t exist ‘camp or ‘ it’s only flu’ or whatever your current belief is , we are united in…………………..WE WILL NOT BE VACCINATED.
      There’s NO way they’re going to pull THAT one off.


  6. I have several acquaintances who work in advertising as copywriters, video production and direction, etc. So far as I know they are just “creatives” and don’t have any great expertise in subliminal black arts of persuasion. Maybe slightly more than average from being around the industry, but nothing spectacular. They do sometimes work on big accounts. If anything is being put in their work it would have to be from the instructions they get from any specialists on staff at these ad agencies– social psychologists of some sort. Or PR experts. I tend to think that a lot of what they work on is fairly straightforward. Just exposure, name recognition, branding. Somwhat formulaic, ads for cars or banks or political campaigns that are fairly transparent hype (there’s a better word I can’t think of.) Not to say that somewhere there aren’t real heirs of Bernays coming up with subtle persuasion techniques. Where it really seems effective is in what people take as “the news.” Yes it’s in advertising too, but a lot of advertising seems banal and formulaic.


    1. The repeated use of the same symbols geometric or other types, especially in brands has always been there. They say if the model in the ad covers their eye or uses an “ok” hand sign they are communicating subliminal persuasion.

      Looks like the late breaking news changed the topic of the article again. All the interviews seem to say Trump is doing well and will recover. But since it’s a hoax they may take it all the way. His death was in the Simpsons.

      The only death dates that seem to be good ones would be 1o/4 since many people say that a lot as truckers or cb radio users, 10/10/2020 bulls eye date , or 10/23 since that equals 33.


    2. My stepson started out as a “creative,” and did some high-profile work, as with waking up with the king looking at you (Burger King), an Ikea lamp that was sitting in the rain (“what, you crazy?”), the subliminal message being not to develop attachments to furnishings. He was also part of the “subservient chicken,” a guy in a chicken costume that would do anything you asked, within propriety. Outside that, it would shake its index finger at you. I asked him if it would to the Macarena, and he said they had not thought of that.

      I mentioned to him one time a talk we had heard wherein the speaker said that Bud Light ads were aimed at juveniles, 13-18, and so had in them juvenile humor. The object was to brand them so that when they were of legal age, they would choose that swill. He was offended that I was saying that beer ads were aimed at juveniles, so he obviously was not in on the game.I’ve heard him say repeatedly that the ad has to meet the standards of the message, but he doesn’t say where the message comes from. But he said once, long ago, that “our job is to change your behavior.” (I wonder if he knows how closely I listen.)


  7. I agree. The advertising industry is powerful magic. Shouldn’t it be an ‘ology’?
    They don’t just push products of course, they push ideas and concepts as well.
    Here in the UK it’s noticeable that practically EVERY advert has a family made up of one ethnic and one white with various shades and ethnic features for the offspring. Nothing wrong with that except it certainly doesn’t reflect reality. We’re a long way from that ……….outside London anyway. Now I’d have thought that the job of advertisers was to study demographics to maximise profits. I’m beginning to wonder what their job REALLY is.
    The joke is ,it’s counter productive. We are pretty much wise to it and to a man have decided that those products advertised under those false pretences will NEVER be bought by us. Result!!


  8. The polloi I have to deal with in SF went from complacency regarding masks, not giving anyone shit for below the nose positioning, to total psychotics about noses once Trumpf went into the hospital. Maybe this playacting was designed to tighten up the slack. Many people hate Trump and were hoping he would die, but they absolutely believe they will die if you do not wear a mask. They do not make any connections. Everything stands alone without affecting anything else.


  9. Edward Abbey hiked the water-parched deserts around Tuscon. Somewhere in his writing he talks about available water, saying that if it was there, he would drink it. If his body didn’t like it, he’d soon know. That was the extent of his water filtering … his colon.

    Nice to see Edward mentioned, one of the inspirators of aSHIFT.


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