Opinion: Finding Meaning


How We Capitalize on Nature’s Veracity

Mankind has an inborn attraction to Nature. Humans can lose their moral footing—it happens to individuals, sometimes to societies. The Holocaust comes to mind. But the morality of Nature is a constant, a rock of stability, our guiding star. For some, being in Nature is not only restorative, it is a religious experience. Which leads, improbably, to TV commercials.

The further a product is from Nature, the more it must be advertised. Apples don’t need commercials, nor does a mother’s love, the morning sunrise, or man’s longing for freedom. Cryptocurrency does. New cars, factory foods, and things you never knew you needed do too. Thus, the rise of the advertising business.

It costs money to advertise—$6 million for 30 seconds at last week’s Super Bowl. Besides the cost, there’s the difficulty of getting our attention, making a lasting impression, moving us to part with our cash. When we watch the Super Bowl, we expect commercials that are, well, super. That’s hard to do, but it happens.

Remember Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl commercial with the grey mass of men mesmerized by the voice of Big Brother speaking onscreen? Very Orwellian. Then the vision of the young woman with a sledgehammer, pursued by guards, running, whirling, and throwing the hammer? The screen explodes in a flash, there’s light, the people awake to their true nature. Then that famous close, connecting the new Macintosh to why our 1984 won’t be Orwell’s “1984.” The commercial was radical, Apple’s directors lost their nerve at the last minute, but couldn’t get out of the commitment. They ran it and made history.

What about the GEICO commercials with the talking gecko—a clever tie to Nature. They’ve been running for a while, but the gecko is finding his groove. In my favorite, he’s talking to a big rough guy on a motorcycle, telling him he deserves to save (money on insurance). The motorcyclist wants to agree, but is unsure and responds cynically. The gecko touches the motorcyclist’s hand, lowers his voice, softly reassuring of a possible good, “You deserve to save,” he whispers. There’s an emotion, the wiping of an eye, enlightenment. TV commercials can be a vast wasteland, but I always watch the gecko.

My favorite Super Bowl LVI commercial? Frito-Lay’s ad. A birdwatcher in a tree drops two bags onto the green forest floor, the latest versions of Doritos and Cheetos. Cute animals, going from small to large, taste the chips, and sigh. The rhythm of their sighs causes the animals to break into song and dance. It’s very clever, connecting snack food to Nature.
There’s a local version of this. Laguna is as an island in Nature. On one side we have the ocean, a vast reservoir of life, our “blue belt”; on the other side, 22,000 acres of “green belt,” an acre for each of us; above we have the blue sky. There’s moral confusions these days, but we always have Nature. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach”. Email: [email protected]

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