Someone Somewhere Is Plotting to Sell You Something You Don’t Really Need But That You Might Want in the New Year if It’s Cheap Enough. Why? Because It Will Truly Make You More Beautiful, Happier, and Incredibly Successful When It Isn’t Making Your Life Easier!

January 6, 2010

Money, not morality, is the principle of commerce and commercial nations.
• Thomas Jefferson

For years I’ve been saving holiday hyperbole and hype. This kind of adtalk continues long after the holidays are over. After all, we’ve got gift cash and cards lurking in our wallets and merchants hope to lure us in with bargains we simply can’t resist. Students are especially vulnerable to these enticements if financial aid has just arrived. I am reminded of the marketing sea we swim in both by what I see and hear and read and by an assignment on schoolhouse commercialism I just introduced to my students.

According to the Report on Schoolhouse Commercialism produced annually by CERU (Commercialism in Education Research Unit), categories of marketing targeting students include sponsorship of programs and activities; exclusive agreements with product vendors like soft-drink manufacturers; appropriation of space (bulletin boards, posters, and such); sponsored materials such as lesson plans, study materials, and curricula; and many other things that manufacturers hope will create awareness and build brand loyalty for their products.

We see this kind of thing clearly on college campuses when a stadium is named for a commercial donor or a team’s uniforms are supplied by a particular manufacturer. Other kinds of marketing are such a familiar part of the educational landscape that we may not even recognize them as advertising. Take a look around you in class and check out how many brands you can see on clothing and bags. Who among you is unbranded? Are you? I wear a lot of anonymous clothing, much of it originating in thrift stores, but alas, my fondness for Converse makes me a walking advertisement many days.

Times are tough for education and money is hard to come by. I understand the temptations of and even the necessity for sponsorship. Just don’t imagine that it’s being done for the public good. Make your own decisions when it comes to deciding what to buy and what kinds of things deserve your customer loyalty.

Here’s some of the hype I’ve collected on 3×5 cards over the years:

Woe, Ho, Ho!
A Multimedia Found Poem from W-OZ

Holiday outlook cheerless.
He needs a new chain saw. He’ll thank you for it.
Shop The Water Store for the pure-fect gift.
If a handgun’s on your list, time is running out.
Homeless shelters burst at seams.
Bring your pooch in and have its picture taken with Santa.
Give her youth. Give her cosmetic surgery.
He’s back, he’s deadly, he’s Satan Claws.
Show your love with a diamond. Doesn’t she deserve it?
It wouldn’t be one man’s dream if it wasn’t another man’s possession.
Cease fire.
Bedspread Kingdom has what she wants in precious prints and coordinated colors.
How can you live without a French fry maker?
A potato baker?
A hot dog griller?
A football-shaped slow cooker for the Super Bowl?
Accidents claim fourteen. State patrol beefs up surveillance.
Ten percent off and more. Buy now.
Twenty percent off and more. Buy now.
Thirty percent off and more. Buy now.
Forty percent off and more. Buy now.
Half off! It’s a steal! Now is the time to buy.
Think how much you’ll save.
Singing cats with your favorite carols.
Shoot-’em-up action for the kids.
Runaways–call home.
Shop today and don’t pay until next March!
Last five days.
Only two days left to buy.
Save on pants for every occasion.
Lowest prices of the season.
Isn’t it time for a Timex?
Only 24 more hours to shop!
Fed up with give-away welfare?
Fly to Australia for the holidays. Your companion goes half-price!
Top ten reasons to shop Mattress Discounters NOW.
Give holiday dinner to a homeless person.
Holiday makeovers. A new you.
One week only.
An incredible assortment. No one sells for less.
Cruise the Caribbean.
Barbie Power Rangers Playskool Cool Tools Star Wars Tyco Batman Video
Disney Pooh Bumbleball Jibber Jabber See ‘n’ Say Fisher Price.
To wrap up big holiday savings, just use your Discover Card.
Of course, you’ll have leftovers.
Add cheer to your chicken.
Just pop ’em in your microwave–heated slippers!
Products to make your life easier and more enjoyable.
It’s a must have.
Christmas just got healthier. Low fat treats!
Kosher chocolates for seasonal gifting.
When you give a gift from here, you’re giving your child something that will last a lifetime!
No one makes Christmas magic quite the way you can with us.
Make it a Mickey Christmas!
Tree overheats. Fire claims family of seven.
Are YOU ready for the holidays?
Toys! Toys! Toys!
Be as beautiful as the season.
Go wild for the holidays–rice, that is!
For the ones you love: the incredible bacon cooker.
Great movie gifts at a merry price.
Your child’s name becomes a poem. Save $3.00.
Exclusive values. Hottest items. Bonus bucks.
No interest for one year. Exclusive values. Lowest prices guaranteed.
Redecorate for the season. Next day delivery. Easy payment plan.
Free personalized letter from Santa with your $5.00 greeting card purchase.
Enter to win holiday dough.
Lose fat now! Be fit for the holidays.
Don’t sacrifice quality for credit limitation!
Where shopping is a pleasure.
Don’t you want the best?
It’s a great gift idea–the Sunday comic strip umbrella.
It’s our biggest sales event of the year!
Quality products at phenomenal prices.
Stupendous savings! Ginormous bargains!
Save! Save! Save!
We’re serious about saving you money!
Save when you buy. The more you buy, the more you save.
‘Tis the season for negotiating benefits.
World peace?
Customer appreciation sale.
It’s over, but it’s not over here!
Our loss is your gain and it’s not too late to save.
Shop now for next year!
You’ll never see prices like these again.

Is there something you’re longing to buy? Do you really need it?

One night only on MTV—a two-hour commercial-free celebration of Nike!
• Television promo, early in the twenty-first century


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