Toolbox needed for real safety and pursuit of happiness
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Sex sells. Or it used to.
Since the obnoxious and arbitrary draping of half-naked women over cars, bikes, washing machines (I’m sure there must have been one of those) and tyres has been called out for the sexism it is, marketing and advertising execs have needed new hooks.
Manipulation has always been part of the advertising game; from the deodorant that will suddenly have gorgeous people falling at your ankles, to beauty products that will turn you into a supermodel, to house cleaning sprays and creams that will effortlessly have your home sparkling and sanitised.
The latest two tools in the advertising box appear to be happiness and fear.
You will be happy if you eat this ice cream. Or shop at this home store. Or drink this beverage. Or, according to a recent study (definitely not researched on the couch), you can up your happiness quota by eating lots of fruit and vegetables and exercising.
The fear factor has ads promising supplements, cleaners and policies to keep you safe from germs and viruses, especially THE virus, or at least feeling safe.
More and more sellers are using these claims, but how desperate are people who fall for them? Do they not stop to think about exactly how this product/behaviour is going to make them happy or safe?
These are particularly odious marketing devices now, with so many people feeling fearful and miserable, many with good reason.
This idea may not be popular, but happiness and the feeling of safety are human emotions that cannot be bought or sold and will always fluctuate.
The joy of real happiness is that it is rare and often unexpected, fleeting even. Your heart soars, your tummy can flutter, you can get tears in your eyes. But it’s not a permanent state of being, and those moments should be treasured.
The mirror emotion of happiness is sadness. Your heart hurts, your tummy clenches and, yes, you can get tears in your eyes.
No one is always sad or always happy because, life.
We can only strive for, and attain, hope, contentment, gratitude for small smiles, and warm-heart moments.
As for safety, few people feel fully safe and secure, particularly in this age of Covid, but continuously being fearful is not sustainable for humans. It’s another hyper emotion and, thanks to fight-or-flight hormones, can actually harm your health.
As Saffers, we may have more to fear than people living elsewhere, and alertness is a daily requirement. If we fear something, we can analyse that specific fear, and plan to deal with it should it happen. But then it should be filed away so it’s not an hour-by-hour presence, getting in the way of any possible sudden and surprising appearance of real happiness.
For women and children, in a country in which their bodies and lives are constantly under attack, happiness and safety are even more rare and, without a societal shift, that will not change. The threat brews from the continual vehicle-hooting of boorish men as women walk anywhere, to the absence of safety in their own homes.
Advertising should dig in that toolbox to sell the idea that, long after women were used in creepy adverts, they are the people who need safety so they can aim for happy moments.
- Lindsay Slogrove is the news editor
The Independent on Saturday