New Year, New Ads
How my promotions folder is selling me . . . a new me
It’s a new year, which means lots of things to some people, and almost nothing to others, but one thing it means for almost everyone with access to email and/or social media is a barrage of new ads promising you new skin, new adventures, new sunglasses, and new wallpaper, all of which promise to cumulate in a newer, better, happier you!
I deleted social media from my life over the holiday break (more on that in a future newsletter), so have been enjoying a respite from Care/Of ads interrupting my Insta scroll, but let’s take a look at my New Years ads and see what sort of identities they’re promoting and how much those identities will cost me, shall we?
Summersalt wants me to embrace my wanderlust by “making the most” of life’s many adventures. I can do this by buying the Ruffle Oasis Swimsuit for $95.00. Identity for sale? Cool, Fun, Glamper.
Tatcha attempts to foster a feeling of connection by telling me they’re “honored” to be part of my “skincare journey.” They toss out the word “gratitude” to make me feel special, like my $92.00 spent on their Indigo Overnight Repair Cream will do anything more substantial for my new year than provide me with an expensive face lotion. Tatcha is selling me expensive face lotion, but, like all skincare companies, they’re also selling me on the false premise that if I can just control my external appearance, my internal experience will feel less out of control.
Verishop horrifies me by suggesting my New Year needs MORE consumeristic overstimulation not less, and attempts to incite my materialistic avarice by claiming they can introduce me to “thousands” of new brands. The identity they’re selling is that of a Stylish Gal In The Know, which is not an identity I’ve ever aspired to inhabit, so sadly this ad is wasted on this particular gal’s email inbox.
True Botanicals offers a nod to my inner homebody by writing “ready, set, rest” in their subject line, making me feel like they truly understand my burnout. Naturally though, because this is a skincare brand, they don’t suggest actually addressing the structures or systems creating the conditions which lead to burnout; instead, they offer salvation by way of a Three Step Glowy Skin Reset kit which will only set me back $198.00. If I buy this Reset, I can hold onto my identity as someone who’s too cool to really care what I look like (only if I’m satisfied that what I look like more or less corresponds with western beauty ideals).
Do I want to be happy at home? ALWAYS AND FOREVER, which means this type of marketing catnip will almost always work on me, as someone who has eternally aspired towards blissed out domestic goddess goals. How to attain those goals? A $299.00 Teig Lamp in Alder Green obviously.
At first I thought this was an ad for fancy play-dough because it’s an email from a fancy kid brand, but turns out, Le Scoop is Maisonette’s blog, and the first entry when you click on “starting the year right” is . . . WHY PARIS WITH KIDS IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA. So yeah, the identity Maisonette is selling me is Rich Parent Who Pursues Simple Pleasures With Their Kid By FLYING TO PARIS.
I didn’t click on this one but lol lol lol there’s a brand called Best Dressed Child. The identity they’re selling? That of an insufferable asshole who wants their kid to be the best dressed kid.
I love wallpaper so while I don’t agree with Schoolhouse’s assessment that $245.00 a roll is necessarily effortless, I am exactly the type of person who will buy into the promise of prettiness to “set the mood” even if I know I’ll have teary meltdowns in a beautifully wallpapered room just as often as I might in a wallpaper-less room. Identity for sale? Lover And Connoisseur Of Beauty.
I honestly appreciate Lola’s complete shamelessness in claiming that a fulfilling New Year’s Resolution might be TAMPONS. 10 out of 10, no notes.
Lots of brands are still selling me cleanliness as an identity. It was a trend in 2022 and I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon. It always bears repeating that the opposite of “clean” is “dirty,” sooooooooooooo!
Gotta hand it to Ray-Ban for calling me out by name and showing that they REALLY KNOW THE REAL ME because they correctly assessed my “authenticity” as someone who values a “signature look.” Cheers to identities steeped in American individualism!
To conclude, my Promotions folder is selling me the following things.
Parental happiness by way of Paris fucking France
Thousands of previously unknown clothing brands
Gallons of skincare products
Looking at this list, it’s not clear how any of these items, or even ALL of these items delivered to my doorstop at once could give me access to a New Me, which is why I’m so interested in what sort of identities these brands are hawking. Because that’s why we’re all here, right? That’s why we’re clicking “see more,” “shop now,” and “add to cart.” We don’t care as much about wallpaper festooned with orange blossoms as we do about living lives as newer, fresher, BETTER versions of ourselves. We’re spending actual dollars on lamps, yes, but we’re spending dollars PLUS hope, desire, and aspiration on identity. And what is identity as conceptualized by capitalism and consumerism but a laundry list of attributes?
So what attributes is my Promotions folder selling me?
Physical beauty (according to western beauty standards) as equivalent to the experience of beauty. Glowing skin, glowing life.
A beautiful home (according to various cultural mores and class standards) as equivalent to inner peace and inner calm. “Celebrate the wonder found in everyday moments” by buying a LAMP.
Cleanliness as equivalent to moral goodness.
Individualism > Collectivity.
A sense of adventure which really translates to - enough disposable income to afford airfare and hotel stays.
Stylishness as equivalent to a drive to always shop and always buy.
Most of all though, each one of these ads is selling me on salvation by virtue of hyper self-optimization. My better skin, my better home, my cleaner tampon, my more unique pair of sunglasses, my better trip, my better clothes. Missing from each of these marketing promises is any consideration of what might actually contribute to less loneliness, less alienation, and less fruitless striving, and that is community.
A conversation with a loved one that makes you feel seen; laughter; your child’s facial expression when he halfheartedly does jazz hands during a school concert; someone renaming a text thread to reflect a recent inside joke and the renaming being absolutely perfectly timed; picking up a friend’s kid from basketball when she’s running late at work and knowing that you can count on her to do the same when you need her. All of these things are free and all of these things will fill you up in unquantifiable, unmarketable ways. And none of these things depend on any culturally constructed identity we’re forever being asked to conform to and/or purchase.
So Happy New Year to less money and time spent on shrinking our pores and more time and heartspace being devoted to nourishing ourselves by also nourishing those who live alongside us.
Some fun things!
Momfluenced was mentioned in one of my favorite newsletters, Brooding, written by Kathryn Jezer-Morton AND in this piece for the Washington Post by another one of my favorite writers, Helena Andrews-Dyer. I’ve featured both Helena and Kathryn on the newsletter - you can revisit our conversations here and here. And I won’t stop/can’t stop screaming about Samantha Irby, author and writer ofbeing introduced to Ballerina Farm by yours truly. I can retire happy.