What consumers bring to the table

Consider these lyrics to Brendan Benson's "What I'm looking for." Then watch them in the commercial below.

Well I don't know what I'm looking for
But I know that I just wanna look some more
And I won't be satisfied
'Till there's nothing left that I haven't tried
For some people it's an easy choice
But for me there's a devil and an angel's voice
Well I don't know what I am looking for
But I know that I just wanna look some more

Well I don't know what I'm living for
But I know that I just wanna live some more
And you hear it from strangers
And you hear it from friends
That love never dies, love never ends
Now I don't wanna argue, no I don't wanna fight
'Cause you're always wrong and I'm always right
Well I don't know what I am living for
But I know that I just wanna live some more

I used to be involved, and I felt like a king
Now I've lost it all and I don't feel a thing
I may never grow old, I may never give in
And I'll blame this world that I live in
I visit hell on a daily basis
I see the sadness in all your faces
I've got friends who have married
And their lives seem complete
Here I am still stumbling down a darkened street

And I act like a child and I'm insecure
And I'm filled with doubt and I'm immature
Sometimes it creeps up on me and before I know it
I'm lost at sea
But no matter how far I row
I always find my way back home
But I don't know what I've been waiting for
But I know that I don't wanna wait anymore

Looking for...
What I'm looking for...
Looking for...
What I'm looking for...
Looking for...
What I'm looking for...
Looking for...
What I'm looking for...
Looking for...
What I'm looking for...

This TV spot, "Everybody Touch," plays on curiosity and information gathering and entertainment, but the rest of the consumer's story gets told in the unsung lyrics above. I'm not criticizing TBWA\ for making the ad, but the abbreviation of this song reminds me of something important:

Advertisers are in relationship with consumers. Professionally and transactionally, yes, but more than this, they're neighbors like you and me.

This human reality requires good old-fashioned hospitality. The consumer - here it happens to be Brendan - speaks first, not about his interest in iPods but about longing and hunger for Home. The advertiser, like any good neighbor, then responds. In this case, TBWA\ responds to the hunger for information and entertainment (fine things), but other times it must respond to the hunger to get out of "hell on a daily basis," or to not be "lost at sea."

Advertisers can't always meet these needs, and neither can I. But this is what it means to host. This is how we make way for healthy relationships. We listen well and respond as fittingly as we can.


M.joshua May 14, 2009 at 10:24 AM  

I've been thinking a lot about the time I met Brian J Walsh lately. He said a lot about homecoming. It was a great synopsis about the subject and it made a huge deposit in my spirit.

Home in a culture of homelessness...

How do we get there? How do we find out that our God is our home? Such simplicity is so hard to attain and comprehend!

Sam Van Eman May 14, 2009 at 10:56 AM  

Brian sparked my thinking, too, some years back. In fact, he and I talked about doing a spring break trip on the subject with college students this year, but it didn't pan out.

These are tough q's, Josh. I have a stack of books on it and chapters of an unfinished manuscript on it, and I seem to be not much further along than when I started.

As this post suggests, however, we CAN do a better job of listening, and of not taking advantage of people's longing for home. As you know, that's a difficult task for advertisers!

M.joshua May 14, 2009 at 11:34 AM  

I don't know that we advertisers have ever been good at simply listening unless it translated into profit, unfortunately.

Also, related to home and discontentment, did you see that hipster Comcast campaign: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MNafENKCvI

bradley j moore May 22, 2009 at 1:02 PM  

This is a thought-provoking one, Sam. The ongoing tension...

Every Square Inch May 30, 2009 at 5:45 AM  

I'm not an advertiser but I think the sense of searching for the Home we were made for is resident in every heart. Unless arrested by the Holy Spirit, most of us try to ignore this longing by distracting ourselves for 70-80 years until we approach death.

Perhaps a big piece of God centered marketing is not about directly answering this searching but simply awakening this?

Sam Van Eman June 3, 2009 at 1:12 PM  

ESI, I like your question and have pondered it myself. Advertising does awaken our hunger for Home. The problem is when the hunger is only awakened in order to be immediately, and only superficially, satisfied.

If we pay attention to the awakening part, however, I think advertising's effectiveness offers a constant reminder about our deeper/deepest longings. It is then our responsibility to reach out to neighbors who demonstrate those hungers.

If you're interested, I address this in an article called Prophetic Advertising at Catapult Magazine.

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