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.


Sunday School Musical: A rebuttal

Calm yourself, Sam. Jesus will make it all better in time. "There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain or Sunday School Musicals, for the old order of things has passed away" (Revelation 21:4, addition mine).

I saw this movie advertised in a catalog from Christian Book Distributors (CBD) the other day. I shook my head in disgust. Why do Christians do this?!

Turns out that they didn't. The Asylum did. The Asylum is a production company that makes "mockbusters." Basically, they listen for buzz about upcoming movies and then make low-budget DVD versions of the ones they think will hit big.

The Asylum will make anything - from clean to crass, from pretty to porn - as long as people buy it. This doesn't help consumers or marketing.

Today I'm more frustrated by CBD, the largest religious distribution company in the world who is committed to "offer customers the very best in Christian products at the best prices and with the best service around."

Note: At IMDb.com, Sunday School Musical got a 1.9 rating out of 10. How can that pass the "best in Christian products" criterion? Now go to CBD's site and you'll see that raters gave it a 9.0 out of 10! (Both ratings as of 5/8/09). Why the enormous discrepancy, I'm not exactly sure, but I can guess. For instance, one of the most common comments at CBD was, "My kids loved it!"

Guess what, kids love Twinkies, too.

So what can we do? Here are several suggestions:
1. Don't buy Sunday School Musical.
2. If your church library carries it, ask to have it removed. Talk (nicely, of course) with the volunteer librarian about art, Culture Making, the Church as leader versus poser, etc.
3. Talk with your kids about the same stuff.
4. Let CBD know what you think by

To Ray Hendrickson, President of CBD:

I am disappointed that Christian Book Distributors carries Sunday School Musical, a "mockbuster" movie produced by The Asylum (Read more about The Asylum here). As the largest religious product distributor in the world, you have tremendous influence and responsibility. But when you promote derivative products like Sunday School Musical, influence and responsibility are misused.

CBD's derivative products like Sunday School Musical, and also like God's Girlz Dolls (Bratz), Guitar Praise (Guitar Hero) and "Return of the King...of Kings" T-shirts (J.R.R. Tolkien's Return of the King), demonstrate a lack of creativity and a followership to the very cultural items so many conservative Christians critique. By carrying and promoting these faux products, you say, "We don't approve of your dealings, secular world, but do you mind if we take your money-making ideas and slap religious icing on them for our own benefit?"

I believe this is one of the reasons why people are turned off by the evangelical Church in particular. They don't enjoy associating with posers who do seemingly anything to entertain and make money.

I am sure your motives are purer than this, Ray, but whether you realize it or not, selling these products have negative consequences. Please consider removing your endorsement of Sunday School Musical, regardless of how family friendly it may be. Perhaps the profit you've earned on it so far could be used to patron an original film (and from a production company with higher standards than The Asylum.)

Sam Van Eman


Oh, so THAT's what Liquid-Plumr does

Excellent creaturefication of Liquid-Plumr. I can almost imagine renting one of these from an unmarked Chinatown pet store. (Click on the image to enjoy the detail.)

Related posts:
Rollover Minutes
Pam Helps You Pull It Off 


Palatable palette

I don't know a thing about painting. And I couldn't write poetry to save my life - unless "Roses are Red" variations count. In my world, dance looks like shifting from foot to foot and clapping, a thing altogether unfit for The Nutcracker. And photography? Well, I don't know what I'm doing but I have provided curiosities on occasion. Check out this disappearing car (Note where the tail lights end on the left. See? No car, but its shadow remains) and also this disappearing student.

So I'm not an artist. Yet I'm an artist. Ask me to design a student retreat or college wilderness trip and I can paint all day. I can dance through brainstorming sessions with energy and grace, and marvel at the endlessness of ideas. My mind moves freely then, playing off of others' thoughts, getting inspired by quotes and images and feelings, writing pages of poetry in the form of group activities and trip themes. "When I brainstorm, I feel God's pleasure," Eric Liddell might have said in my shoes.

Your digital SLR or brush or Adobe Illustrator is my national forest. The challenge is knowing how to use these mediums. Just because I can think doesn't mean I can wield wisdom. Just because I can lead a group from point A to point B, or you can persuade a product off the shelf, doesn't mean we've succeeded.

What if we were as talented in discernment as we are in idea-generation; in composition as in execution; in wisdom as in knowledge? We'd make fewer mistakes and have fewer regrets. My trip participants would be healthier. Your customers would be better consumers.

I think we'd all be better, truer, artists.

"Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold."
- Proverbs 3:13-14


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