An ad promoting a trip to Glacier National Park

If you’ve spent more time in front of the TV than usual during the holidays, perhaps you’ve noticed a distinct right-brain trend in advertising — marketers are more interested in creating a subjective aura around their product than in providing useful information about it.

The theme of “love” is especially popular, as noted by Andrew Adam Newman in the New York Times. Viewers of many ads may not know any more about a product at the end of an ad, but they’re intended, at least, to have a warm and fuzzy feeling about it.

Here’s a quiz — I’ll cite the tag lines from several current commercials, while you see how many of them you can identify:

“I’m lovin’ it.”
“Love what you do.”
“Love the skin you’re in.”
“See what you love. Love what you see.”
“I [heart] shoes.”
“Quality you can love.”
“You can hate the morning less, and love running more.”

Do you love your stuff? I like the way my BlackBerry helps me stay in touch, and I enjoy my iPod. I have positive feelings about my Prius (especially the gas mileage), and I’m much happier with my aging MacBook than with any Windows laptop that I’ve owned. I can find pleasure and utility in possessions (to the extent that we can really possess anything), but I’ve always sought to avoid mixing the word “love” with any material thing.

Jesus’ teaching made it very clear that his followers should put a priority on people over things. Things can be very useful, but they’re to be used — not loved. People, in contrast, are to be loved — not used.

It’s all too easy to get those priorities backwards. Perhaps the departure of the “aughts” and the coming of a new year might inspire us to keep them straight: we use things; we love people.

[Curious about the quiz? The advertisers are: McDonald’s, BlackBerry, Oil of Olay, LensCrafters, Payless, Nissan, New Balance.]

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