Fear and loathing in Las Vegas

January 19, 2008

In our business we play fast and loose with the Seven Deadly Sins. We call it copywriting and art directing, planning, or directing. All the skill sets used in making advertising make people want what they don’t need. We manipulate people, often on an emotional, and psychological level. Failing that, we titillate. Consider the infamous campaign for Las Vegas: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Let’s look at the proposition for what it is: a siren song. Or more like sirens blaring. In one craven sentence, every aforementioned sin is being flaunted. Daring us to live a little. Convincing men to be boys. And women to let them. Being an addictive personality, I’m overwhelmed. The ‘what happens in Vegas’ message tells me, in no particular order, to unabashedly do the following:

1) Abandon my responsibilities (AKA work, family, bills, etc), and be reckless about it!
2) Leave your moral compass at home, buried under the laundry. With your wife.
3) Be a Player. Sex it up. Because in Vegas the only cheating not allowed is at the card table.
4) Lie a little. Remember: the ‘truth’ is the thing that “stays in Vegas.” You may have to lie a lot.
5) Drink, drink and drink some more. There’s always blow to keep you upright.
6) See a show. Not some half dead crooner. Go for a lap dance. Then maybe a massage. (See rules 1, 2, 3)
7) Eat like pig but pretend you’re a gourmet. Famous chefs are the new pimps of Vegas. They’ve got pieces of meat older than you are. Steak and sizzle. Wow!
8) Oh, yeah, and don’t forget to gamble.

Greed. Lust. Envy. What deadly sin am I missing? Although your Soul takes a pounding, perhaps Wrath is not implied in the advertising. At least not above the line.

In my novel, The Happy Soul Industry, God and the Devil engage one another in a modern fable about advertising, good and evil. (I’ve posted chapters and you can view a brief synopsis at happysoulindustry.com) Needless to say, the topic interests me deeply.

Selling cigarettes, liquor and gambling has been called “dark marketing.” Well, what if everything we sell is shaded? When we build a brand are we, in a way, creating an idol?

Look, I know Las Vegas is only a vacation spot. And I’m no Red State fanatic. I get that the advertising is just a joke. Hell, I think it’s a brilliant campaign. I’m only suggesting, as human beings, we should think about exactly what it is we’re doing as marketing professionals. And then, just maybe, pray a little.

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