Monday, December 10, 2007
Don't just give a gift
I shouldn't be surprised by the commercialism of Christmas. I've seen commercials for diamond jewelry for years now - complete with a starry eyed excited woman thrilled on Christmas morning. Maybe her husband surprises her across a table with the jewelry. Maybe he puts the necklace on her neck while she's sleeping. The common thread is that there's always a man (husband) giving the woman (assumed to be his wife) a piece of jewelry that she's thrilled about.
I remember talking in college about the subtle messages within ads - that if we're not conscious of what we're seeing - we start to accept things as normal. Families have two parents (male and female) who are between 25-35 with two kids (boy and girl). Older people look like they're around 50.
Typically, ads try to present an idealized reality - that if we buy the product (whatever it is), we can obtain that reality.
For some reason though, this holiday campaign has hit a thrilling new low to my mind. It's holiday commercialism at its worst.
One ad talks about a Dad who loves to fix things and had all old and worn tools. And what do the daughters do? They buy Dad a whole new garage full of brand new drills, die cast wrenches and cabinets. The tag line says "Don't just give a gift, grant a wish".
Or the mother who talks about her teenage daughter who doesn't have to wear a uniform to school anymore. They buy her a whole room full of new clothes - complete with the daughter shocked and squealing in delight on Christmas morning.
To some extent, the campaign is brilliant. It plays on our most basic feelings, our love for our families and our desire to make them happy. The insidious part is that it's claiming to sell happiness, one Christmas, thousands of dollars a pop.
And perhaps someone who just gets a loved one a single gift, a drill, a couple of outfits (what the vast majority of us can afford) - is just not cutting it.
They (we) just don't care enough about their family member to go into thousands of dollars in debt for them.
Yes, of course, there are plenty of people who can afford to spend thousands of dollars on a new garage full of tools, a new car, an expensive set of jewelry for the holidays. But I'm not sure this ad is really directed at those people.
As a Mom, it is incredibly important to me to send an alternate message to my kids during the holiday season. That gifts and money do not equal love. That the amount that I spend on a gift has nothing to do with the amount of love I have for anyone.