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The start of this collective delusion

If I had to identify the moment when the collective delusion behind the economic crisis really kicked off, at least in the UK, then I would choose the first airing of the Halifax ‘Easy Like Sunday Morning’ advert, in 1987. This was at the height of the Lawson Boom, the year when I left Sixth Form to go to university.

As so often, the advert was incredibly enticing, promising ultimate fulfilment, happiness and, perhaps most importantly, hipness. Howard Brown, who is (or was) a brand representative for the Halifax writing in Campaign, calls it “an absolute classic of its time… the cool guy in the loft apartment was exactly who we all aspired to be back then in the 80s.”

David Loy, in his excellent book Money, Sex, War, Karma, quotes advertising executive Leo Burnett as saying that good advertising “penetrates the public mind with desire and belief”. So what desires and beliefs did the Halifax ad instil in us?

The two key things that the ad communicates, to my mind, are ease and freedom – that is what the hip guy in the warehouse exudes. The implication, of course, is that this ease and freedom can only come from financial independence and property-ownership – not that there is anything wrong with these things in themselves. This, though, more than anything else, is the collective delusion we have been living through this past quarter century: that we can buy real satisfaction, ease and security. And, as with all intoxicants, we are now feeling the after-effects – that queasy, empty, hungover feeling of regret and recrimination.

In the absence of alternative sources of value and meaning to sustain and fulfil us we will continue to be seduced by advertisers whose products can never fully satisfy. One way to resist is, as Loy suggests, to “challenge the pervasive role of advertising in our societySo next time you see an advert that won’t fully deliver on its promises – and they are all around us – why not complain to the Advertising Standards Authority. As you fill in the form, explain how beauty, freedom, ease – whatever the advert seems to promise you – can only really come from individual and collective spiritual practice based on reliable values. Let’s build a movement to challenge the debased, delusive images around us.Share

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One Response to “The start of this collective delusion”

  1. Stephen says:

    Great post. I may well make several complaints to Advertising Standards:)

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