Commercials are now more moral than people


This article first appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail

SINCE when do adverts have better morals than real living, breathing people?

Those bright little assaults on our senses that claim they’re no louder than the show we’re watching, but clearly are louder.

On YouTube it used to be that anyone who got around a million subscribers could make a meagre living, mainly by entertaining teenagers with jokes rejected from Christmas crackers, but no longer.

Advertisers are pulling out because consumers with Twitter accounts and Facebook pages (so the most self-righteous ones) have pointed out it’s a bad look to be promoting your product prior to hateful and offensive content.

Such as a three-minute rant from a privileged white male about immigrants who have fled war, starvation, and a lack of decent jobs in IT, taking up all the good parking spaces outside the local fish and chip shop.

Recently in the US, the advertisers took down a far more impressive victim – right-wing firebrand, ratings leader and human walnut, Bill O’Reilly.

The most-watched cable news network in the US is Fox News, and O’Reillyn has been the most-watched person on it for years.

Then, as a result of several sexual harassment allegations and millions in settlements being paid out, he’s finally left the airwaves.

What’s amazing here is his ratings didn’t tumble. It was advertisers, not viewers, that were turned off – and to remain viable in media you need both.

Again in the US, the ads during Super Bowl showed more moral depth and fortitude than any news program before or after.

Then, during the US election, Billy Bush got fired for laughing when Donald Trump explained how he sexually harasses women, as the network was afraid of losing advertisers. Then the voters of the US reacted, well, very differently.

Thanks to social media, advertisers are wary of any negative association, and making headlines recently have been that awful Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad, United Airlines, and still lingering in our memories like that Christmas you crashed the car, is Subway Jared the child molester.

Of far less importance is how damaging the products themselves actually are. Airlines add millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere without any thought of paying for it, and our society is suffering a multitude of chronic health problems as too many of us overindulge in sugar-packed drinks and fast food.

These days, consumers care more about the image of a product than the product itself. That’s like caring more about the glass than the beer, the quality of the wrapping paper, or the doves and not the magic trick. Actually, I always wonder about those doves.

So BP destroys an ocean, VW cheats on emissions tests, we suffer epidemics of obesity, alcoholism and gambling addiction, but as long as no brand is seen to be supporting an alleged sex offender, we’re all good.

It is wonderful that advertisers hold people to account, because we the people don’t seem to give a stuff anymore, but it does feel strange to me that the most moral people in the world are now the salesmen.

This article first appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail

Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.

His second comedy memoir ‘Going Out of My Mined’ is available now.

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