Fighting Cynicism

I often want to be hip and in the know.  I don’t think I’m the only one.  And frequently this urge manifests itself in sarcasm, cynicism or being snide.

Are we living in a time where this urge is perhaps more prevalent than others? So much so that we’re beginning to see a backlash?

Some see the Obama phenoma as evidence of such a backlash.  I’ll abstain from that debate.  Besides, I’ve got a better piece of evidence.

In Advertising Age —‘of all places,’ I’m tempted to say—we find Snide Advertising is Bad for Business and Society,  by Richard Rapaport. He dissects some of the snarkier, hipper ads on TV today—ads by FedEx, Budweiser,

I don’t think of advertising as a bastion of expansive social thinking; much less of a philosophy linking social well-being and business profits. I think of it as a center of cynicism, actually. And yet, read these few snippets (and remember, this writing appears in Advertising Age):

There are few barometers so reflective of modern life as TV advertising. It makes sense. Take the culture’s most facile minds, challenge them to pry cash from an increasingly tapped-out audience, and what do you get? Commercials built on sadism, on derision, on one-upsmanship — in a word, "snide."

If you look up "snide," you find synonyms such as "sarcastic" and "malicious." Snide advertising possesses a governing syntax that demands, to begin with, sacrificial victims…

Another building block of snide advertising is physical aggression…

Snideness is the leitmotif of sexy slapstick that predominates in ads for domestic beer bottlers, the bottom feeders of American advertising…

The bottom line of snide advertising is a kind of Darwinian "survival of the snappiest," requiring that you get the last word in any exchange and that it be a "gotcha."

… the crux of snide advertising [is] the ability to communicate that you and your product are too hip to so much as work up a spit to actually sell the merch; that the very process of making the ad, like most other human endeavors these days, is barely worth the effort.

…It behooves marketing professionals to understand the difference between subtle irony and idiot snideness and aim for an advertising denominator cognizant of the maxim that expansive, confident consumers part with their cash far more readily than do angry, fearful ones.

When the purveyors of pitch are telling us not to foul the nest—maybe there’s something going on?