No. 24 - 22nd January 2017
I was looking through some old copies of the London Illustrated News the other day. They’re from July 1880 and I was fascinated by the adverts. I see you can buy a wicker Bath Chair for £1 10s. or perhaps a patent revolving bed-table, adjustable to any height or inclination for just £2 5s. And I like the style of advertising as well. It’s completely different from what you get today. They’re actually selling the product itself, rather than a dream or an unobtainable image of yourself. I mean, listen to this. It’s selling a piece of kitchen equipment. “The Lady Help which is acknowledged by all who have used it, to alone possess all the qualities required in a perfect household knife cleaner. The most inexperienced servant can use it easily.” Or what about this one? “I wonder which is the best way to make it distinctly understood that I have the largest and most complete collection of Florist Flowers and their seeds in England, and supply them at the lowest price consistent with quality and correctness.”
Advertising today is entirely different. They’re selling far more than just the product. They sell values, image, success, popularity and worth, and I thought I was just buying a few razor blades. Suddenly it’s became an issue of my personal significance. I am being made to feel inadequate if I don’t buy this item. I mean, what is it that gives me significance? Is it really the car I drive, or what my house looks like or the way I dress? I don’t think so.
One of the Old Testament prophets pleads with his reader, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what doesn’t satisfy?”
If you want some bread, then buy a loaf, but don’t imagine it’s going to change your life. The new car isn’t going to make you any more significant as a person, whatever the advert implies. When Jesus said “I am the bread of life,” what he meant was that when you eat a loaf of bread, you’re going to want another one tomorrow and the next day, and the next. He then goes on to say, “Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”. If I want significance, I have to go to the right place for it. Because I won’t find it in a pair of jeans.