Advertising Non-consumption

January 13, 2000

Inspired at least partially by the Viridians and AdBusters and them sorts of folks, I thought it'd be fun, and possibly even productive, to speculate about what would result if someone seriously tried to use all available advertising and media tricks to produce non-consumption behavior of various kinds. This is a result of that sort of woolgathering.

I beg the indulgence of anyone who is actually familiar with the language of advertisings and camera-jockeying. I'm obviously just faking it here, but I hope it gets the ideas across. Feedback is more than welcome: chess@theogeny.com.

Phase One of the campaign consists of two related themes: "Nothing but the Good Stuff" emphasizes not buying things you don't need; "Lose the Junk" emphasizes disposing of things you already have and don't want. Both themes are communicated using positive messages tailored for the target audience. Messages targetted at youth will be edgy, sophisticated, wryly humorous. Messages for mature audience will be warm, comforting, and emphasize values of stability and safety.

In both cases, the aim is to build images of non-consumption that will fit easily into the current advertising-created image of the desirable lifestyle. Further phases of the campaign will be designed based on the results of focus groups and polling evaluation of Phase One.

TV Spot - youth audience

Luscious (but realistic) green outdoor scene, by a stream and a pool (perhaps a waterfall; Creative's call). Bright sun; a hot but lovely day. To one side, a soda vending machine, realistic but slightly shadowed; unattractive.

Audio: bird song, running water.

Pause with audio playing, water running, long enough to build tension.

Two young people (with which the Target Audience will identify; attractive but not offputting, trendily dressed) saunter in-shot, smiling, having a good time, wiping brows or otherwise tokening thirst.

Talking or otherwise occupied, they walk to the vending machine. One puts in a dollar, and reaches toward the button (perhaps a close shot here).

Sudden quiet, concentration. The two look at each other, at the vending machine, at the pool. Laughter (edgy, knowing, with-it laughter; not innocent childish wholesome laughter). Shot of outer clothing tossed into the air.

Cut to two young people in T-shirts (underwear?), splashing and clowning in the water. One cups her hands full of water, raises them above her head, tilts her face back, lets the water splash on her open mouth.

Cut to original far shot, youths in water, vending machine now in deeper shadow.

Logo appears: "Nothing But the Good Stuff".

Vending machine falls over with a muffled crash.

TV Spot - child audience

Close-shots and blur on a game of tag, interior. Cut to interior shot, three or four children playing in a spacious but cluttered playroom. Punchy score.

Flash of a foot hitting a large plastic toy on the floor. One child yells, flips forward, twists in the air, lands splayed on the ground. Yelling and applause, faces of other children, whistles and shouts of "nice one!".

Child who tripped sitting on floor, grabs handfuls of toys from the floor, sneers theatrically. "What a bunch of junk!"

Children's faces, considering.

Quick shots, children shoving toys into trash bags, carrying bags into Salvation Army type thrift shop (or church bazaar, or local charity tag sale, whatever's handy), more bags piled at the curb by the trash cans.

Same children, same room, no clutter. Looks of satisfaction, game of tag. Shot of foot tripping over corner of a rug, shouts, laughter, zoom out.

Logo appears: "Too much junk?" followed by rubber-stamp effect "Lose It!".

Small letters below w/ "www.LoseTheJunk.com" or other followup tag.

TV Series - youth audience

Series sponsors:

  • Political parties / candidates
  • Charities / foundations / issue ads
  • Service / information companies

Premise: group of young friends and their adventures. No character is ever shown shopping, except for food. Living areas are uncluttered, but modern, trendy, luxurious, "live". No preaching; episodes revolve around the characters and their interactions.

One episode, late in the season: a new friend appears, (exchange student?) from some primitive place, not used to advertising. Gets a TV, begins wild irrational consumption. Friends worry about odd behavior (many opportunities here for showing overconsumption as stupid, naive, undesirable, funny), visit new friend's living quarters, find incredible clutter (funny scenes trying simply to move among all the junk). Semi-serious talk about how buying stuff is dumb, eventually they leave without resolution. Visit next day, find stuff gone, and TV amusingly destroyed (ceremonial spear from the new friend's native culture?).

(Series can be targetted at any group from junior high school to young adult, as needed.)

Note: while the key episode could be made as a single short film, this would largely defeat the purpose; non-consumption must be seen as a natural part of the lifestyle of a group with which the viewer has come to identify. It would be much less effective as a standalone statement.

TV Spot - soccer-mon audience
(Concept by Steven Feldberg, words by Steven Feldberg and David Chess; January 22, 2000)

Opening: quick cuts and angles: Suburban mom driving suburban minivan with suburban children, multi-lane state expressway, tandem tractor trailer passing on left. Cut to side-view mirror showing oncoming truck.

More cuts: mom's eyes checking out the side-view, looking ahead; cars (mostly SUVs) stacked up at the upcoming exit back onto the expressway's margin; she signals then moves to the tail of the queued cars. (Building negative tension here, appropriate music.)

Shots of hectic shopping, crowded toy stores, getting to the counter to hear "sorry, we just ran out." (Target audience should be grinding teeth in sympathy about here.) Dashing to the next toy vendor, finally scoring the container of "goop" the kids just had to have (goop package should be convincing, but garish, cheap).

The drive home (kids bickering in the back seat), suburban driveway.

Shot from above, looking down at minivan: back door opening and goop falling out, package breaking, stuff spilling onto driveway, slithering down the slope, ruined. An instant's silent statis.

Fade in: suburban mom with suburban children in suburban kitchen, pouring water, Borax, other back-of-the-cabinet ingredients into a bowl and mixing. Laughing, fun, family alchemy. (Music relaxing tension here, of course, but not too obviously; avoid schmaltz.) Scooping out home-made goop all together, playing, sunshine.

Voiceover: Nothing but the good stuff.

Fade out to sound of cute little giggle.