ADVERTISING: one of sex's most successful inventions

There is a sense in which everything advertises itself in a passive kind of way. A lake advertises its presence to our senses, so that if we have a desire to photograph it, swim in it, or pollute it, we know where to find it. A thunderstorm advertises its presence with flashes of lightning and the sounds of thunder. A disease reveals itself sooner or later by the range of diagnostic symptoms. In all such cases however... in order to satisfy an inherent need... there isn't the active impetus from an entity to obtain a response from a recipient.

The advertising industry, in congratulating themselves for their creativity in using sex to advertise, is self-indulgently oblivious to the natural irony, that in fact it was sex that invented advertising. The evolution of sex depended upon males and females being able to get together, so that information had to be made available by each, as to what species it was and that it needed a specific response. Thus the various devious ploys of colour, scent, sound, movement and shape variations, were devised by the various species to draw the attention of opposite sexes to one another's requirements. The sensitivity and effectiveness of such advertising strategies are often nothing short of astounding. Whatever sights and sounds and scents embody 'duckness' to ducks, it is certainly more than adequate to ensure that any randy high-flying itinerants, will drop in to the local pond to check out the receptivity of the local quacking talent.

As well as continuing to use their already established sexual advertising system of sensory stimulation, body language and cultural practices, humans have developed a supplementary system of advertising to satisfy the demands of business and propaganda. In addition to sex, this industry has creatively expanded its appeal basis to include amongst others things, greed, panic, utility, despair and whatever angle it supposes might get an adequate response.

The advertising process generates another irony that will probably remain unresolvable. Given that the fundamental core point of advertising behaviour is to realise a link between just two entities... be it a sperm and an egg, an exchange of money for some goods or services, or the acceptance by an individual of the policies of an organisation... most of the other entities in the universe will be neither interested nor concerned. When white butterflies advertise their sexual preferences and availability, the remainder of the cosmos couldn't care less. When a business tries to sell their new recently developed weeding device, they will have to advertise thruout the entire solar system in order to locate the few gardeners that might agree to trial it. If everyone wants it, there is very little need to advertise. The pragmatic reality is that one must advertise only when virtually everyone doesn't want it. This situation can induce extreme levels of irritation and frustration when numerous commercial enterprises initiate intrusive and repetitious promotions in attempting to generate artificial needs, and telecommunication spammers attempt to swamp the entire communications hyperspace with their puerile and unwelcome rubbish. To some extent, targeted advertising initiatives have the potential to alleviate the situation in a few special circumstances... like on the present form of the internet... but it will in general remain existentially unresolvable.

There are some circumstances when advertising in the form of information is highly desirable, and is relevant to an expanded pool of recipients. Signs sponsored by the local civil authority are invaluable in eliciting desired responses from the citizens and tourists. Street names, road signs, toilet facilities, information centres, maps and so on, are all initiatives designed to encourage individuals to behave in a particular and predictable manner. Labelling in all of its forms is probably more acceptable than not. Clear and informative labelling of foods, chemicals, aircraft cockpits, and natural hazards are all advertisements that allow us to act in a manner that the labelling authority deems advisable. The labelling of alzheimer's patients in a residential care institution advertises to the visitors who this person once was, and give some clues as to possible strategies of interaction.