Narcissist Nation

250px-michelangelo_caravaggio_065It’s a cliché in advertising that “sex sells,” but that really isn’t the driving force in our society anymore.  The motor that runs America now is narcissism: the power of our collective all-seeing eye is now firmly focused on nothing more substantial than our own navels. 

When a pioneering cosmetics campaign told us, “Because you’re worth it,” we replied with a resounding, “Darn straight!”  The majority of advertising in the last decade hasn’t enticed us to buy something because it will make attractive people want us, but because we deserve to indulge, relax, and spoil ourselves.  Watch some commercials tonight with this in mind, and you may be surprised.

Our culture, of course, has now taken the rampant hedonism of the last two generations to the next logical level: carnal solipsism.  Lower case pronouns notwithstanding, the brand names iPod, iMac, and iPhone leave no doubt as to what primitive urge they’re pandering to, that of
total self-obsession.  Nor is it a coincidence that the dominant online media forces of our Zeitgeist are called MySpace and YouTube. 

In a world where we’re being encouraged to use our incredible entertainment and communication technology as little more than a flattering funhouse mirror, someone needing to sell, say, an orthodontic device, would do well to advertise it not as a means of becoming more phyically appealing to others, but as a luxury that people have earned the right to splurge on.  Don’t picture it next to a bikini model, but show someone resting in a bubble bath and flashing a content (and perfectly even) smile, or sneaking a slice of chocolate cake from the fridge past their newly-improved teeth.