The mood in the boardroom is jovial, with the exception of the two of us. We've been reviewing worldwide advertising campaigns for the last three hours. There are 12 of us in all - an eclectic mix of highly preened advertising professionals in our late 20s to mid-30s. The walls are oozing awe, feigned inspiration and humour. A Viagra ad featuring Queen's classic song We Are The Champions runs on the big screen. It's the first notable hit in our lengthy review. The resulting laughter dances atop newly whitened teeth and floats high above the halogens.
Below the surface, however, a hint of discord can be detected. It grows during the meeting as highly paid mass-media manipulators not only drool over but become entranced by the very same subconscious spells they dedicate their lives to casting.
The pungent, apparently unnoticed odour of hypocrisy peaks as we review increasingly bizarre campaigns: Luke Mitrani, a 13-year-old snowboarder riding for Mountain Dew; six-year-old Mitchie Brusco, now skateboarding for Jones Soda and Lego. The response in the room seems unanimous. Discussion blossoms around what appears to be the successful purchasing of the ever-elusive bastion of cool: skateboarding and snowboarding.
My art director and I, though, are silent, scarcely able to contain our rage and sadness. This is the zenith of unnecessary manipulation, as highly incompetent advertisers hell bent on making a mockery of sport and culture exploit the naíveté of those too young to understand the grassroots, anti-corporate culture they're selling out.
Like the use of rock-and-rollers in advertising, extreme sports marketing draws on activities rooted in defiance of corporate values. But what advertisers don't get is the paradox of cool in celebrity culture: if you can buy it, it isn't cool any more. They can be successful in tapping it market-wise, of course, creating a pool of buyers who want to own this coolness.
But then real cool goes deeper underground, growing subtler, getting smarter, still elusive and unobtainable, with even greater allure. So fashion and culture are on an endless trendmill.
Music, sport and fashion must keep changing so authenticity can fight to preserve itself. This is the true nature of over-commercialization. It's not hard to see why we're exactly where we are today, participants in an ethos every non-Western culture views as virtual insanity.
At such brave new levels of commercialization, where toddlers make six figures and teenagers made double-digit millions, we all lose spiritually. And at the end of the day, the only result is the transformation of our treasured art and sport into high-priced, low-rent three-ring sales pitches. We keep on rolling. The marketers keep upping the ante, the celebrities keep selling out, and millions upon millions of consumers keep buying. A culture of armchair Internet-surfing warriors, we cynically whinge about it all. Then we scurry like rats down to Nike Town and fork over $200 for a pair of skateboarding shoes. As an advertiser, I keep waiting for the day when my job will get harder.
Jake Dudas is an award-winning advertising copywriter and creative director. He has also worked as assistant editor at Snowboard Canada Magazine.