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A Corporate-Sponsored Will to Live: The Next Wave of Advertising?
By A.J. Dee

This post is sponsored by Spume, the classic saltwater cola designed for your complex palate.

Look. We aren’t a nation of politics, given that so many people feel like nothing they do will make a difference. And we aren’t a nation of communities, hardwired though many of us are to care about others. We are a nation of consumers. Brands are what Americans emotionally connect to the most now, those objects and ideas that are able to punch through the fatigue.

Recently, Nike signed Colin Kaepernick on to an ad campaign based on his Take a Knee movement. The ad is a close-up of Kaepernick’s face with text over it reading “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” It’s a clever move on Nike’s part. The movement is controversial, which means more free advertising than ever in the form of online debate (not to mention the free advertising from people who set fire to their already-purchased Nike gear). But this also gives us a glimpse at the potential future: brands as vehicles for social progress, and vice-versa. After all, how much more successful would this have been if Nike had sponsored Kaepernick from the beginning? I know this conversation should be about police brutality, but consider the opportunities for corporations.

I predict that it will become harder and harder for an activist effort to succeed without a corporate sponsor. And given how media-savvy young people are, traditional advertising is no longer an effective agent against them. They need, more than anything else, a belief system. They’re craving a reason to keep living, and advertisers must leverage that to really get an advantage again. Soon it won’t be enough to wait for a movement to gain steam and hop on it at the end. Kids can smell that, and can tell that you’re only there to cash in. Instead you’ll want to construct the ideology yourself: make it by hand, imbue it with the ingredients that will make it marketable later. Grow children straight from the ground. Give them reasons to live, and funnel those reasons straight into your marketing campaign, so you have them all hamster-licking your company’s sipper bottle balls.

As a nation we must invest in the lopsided relationship between trillionaire and minimum-wage worker. Nurture that dependency, not because it is better than the relationship between government and citizen, or human and human, but because it is the most reliable and viable one we have right now. Our planet is dying at a faster rate than we intended, and so is our democracy; in this climate the only thing we can rely on for sure is the commerce of minds and things. What will we have after it’s over? On Mars, maybe, we’ll have some very wealthy people, and some other people to take care of them, and some folks in the middle who can translate back and forth. We need to rally behind the commodified ideology now, so that when it all dissolves, we may each—all of us—have a tiny piece of that one percent.

All photographs creators' own.