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Advertising: A Visual Commentary of Psychological Positioning and Mass Manipulation

Updated on August 28, 2015
Mitch Charman profile image

Mitchell Charman is a storyteller. He loves crafting new worlds, characters, and ideas, and studying why we as humans need story to survive.


Continuing from my first Hub discussing the future Orwellian ideas, I’ve assembled (read: Photoshopped) a number of images that propose certain commentaries regarding the nature of advertising as it currently exists. I touch on

While the brands I use are certainly guilty of the visual opinions I put forward, they are not necessarily the most extreme perpetrators.

I also do not intend any negative views of the companies themselves: they are simply utilising an effective tool for selling products and/or services, generating income, and feeding thousands and even millions of families around the world: employees, employers, the charities they support, and their consumers alike. My intention is simply to highlight the absurdity of modern advertising, and this is most effectively achieved at the unfortunate expense of companies that participate in it.

Under each image is a short blurb discussing its meaning. I don’t want to explain too much for fear of diminishing their ideological impact, nor do I want to leave too much room for misinterpretation (plus I need to get my word count up to get featured).

I’d love your feedback: compliments help me know I'm on the right track, disagreement means we can enhance the idea between multiple minds.

"Advertising Is The Rattling Of A Stick Inside A Swill Bucket."

"Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket." - George Orwell, 'Keep the Aspidistra Flying'.
"Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket." - George Orwell, 'Keep the Aspidistra Flying'.

Companies have trained us to come running (or, rather, trotting) at the routine sound of their call. This image was created as a direct visual representation of George Orwell's famous quote from his book Keep the Aspidistra Flying, "Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket."

I've always loved this quote, although I'm not sure if it's because of the light in which it presents advertising—a psychological conditioning of the masses to respond to a stimulus in the way they want—or because of the way it vividly encapsulates the consumer population—a stampede of swine pushing their way for the latest product.

Apple is certainly fantastic at this. We've gone through so many generations of iPhones and iPods and iMacs and Macs, simply because we're conditioned to want the next thing they create. Frankly, cudos to them for such effective PR. They deserve every cent they make. It doesn't change the fact that, behind all the slickness, they really are simply herding the hungry masses for their products.

That's what makes it such a perfect, elegant quote: at its roots, no matter now glamorous it appears, advertising is simply a loud and unmistakable banging on a dirty bucket to feed us what we think we really need.

Virtue Versus Value

Advertising makes promises, promotes honesty, claims truth, and encourages trustworthiness and credibility.
Advertising makes promises, promotes honesty, claims truth, and encourages trustworthiness and credibility.

"Advertising soils the moral grounding on which our belief system grows yet, despite its toxicity, we still harvest its fruit." - Mitchell Charman

Its façade can be summed up in one sentence fragment: "Nine out of ten dentists recommend..."

It's a cynical commentary, yet certainly a (subjective) truth, that states advertising degrades moral value. I'm sure companies have not set out to lie, it just happens that, in the conversion of ideas from reality to the glamorous, simplified representation on television, in print, and over social media, certain products lie through omitting or concealing fairly important facts.

Fast food companies hire, as they call themselves, 'makeup artists for food'. They are responsible for literally hand-designing and crafting the burgers and mouth-watering food you see on TV. The end results are inedible.

Below is a video of a food makeup artist explaining their process: definitely worth a watch.

Futile Expectations

Companies promise mind or lifestyle alterations upon the use of their products. Looking at it from behind your computer makes it seem so blatant: obviously a new pair of shoes can't improve your life. But the expectations they set blind us to logic, and I can guarantee both you and I have fallen far it once, twice, almost regularly. Not satisfied with what you've got? It's not because you've realised the shoes you bought won't actually improve your athletic ability, it's because our new, new shoes have an improved spring-foam formula to improve your game!

We stand on our cash and credit history to reach the expectations so easily nudged higher by those controlling both.

Manchurian Candidate? Man(sugar)ian Candy-date

Brainwashing was bound to come up.

Good advertising is often known to 'implant' itself. It's no longer about convincing the consumer to purchase a product, it's about keeping the product and the brand so present in the consumer's mind a simple reminder will set off every idea constructed by previous advertisements. Just like the Queen of Hearts.

Of course, in the quest for more sales by companies producing consumer goods, like food and soft drink, advertising takes the backseat to literal addiction. As I've mentioned before, Damon Gameau's documentary That Sugar Film, and his book equivalent, That Sugar Book, discuss the 'bliss point'. The 'bliss point' is the optimum amount of sugar added to food, scientifically proven to want us to crave more without being so much we get sick of it.

To read more about it and other corruptions in the sugar industry (and why sugar is worse than fat for your health), purchase the book here (The Book Depository is extremely reasonably priced and has free shipping worldwide!). It's an incredibly good read and certainly changed my perspective of everything food related.


Look for the Golden Arches.
Look for the Golden Arches.

Lastly, some light humour to finish it off. This shouldn't need any explanation.

Which was your favourite photo?

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