I was going through some files the other day and came across a syllabus for Dean Borgman’s “Understanding Youth Culture” class at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dean has had a profound impact on my life so I took some time to read throught the 20 page syllabus to see what kind of reading Dean required back in 2008. On his list was a book I’ve never read by Hugh Rank. Published in 1982, The Pitch: How to Analyze Ads – A Simple 1-2-3-4-5 Way to Understand the Basic Pattern of Persuasion in Advertising looks to be next to impossible to find. . . but I’m looking. I think I need a copy.
The title and Dean’s annotation caught my eye. We’ve been deconstructing and talking marketing and kids here at CPYU for years. In fact, we’ve put together some tools you can use to teach students how to analyze ads. What struck me most about Rank’s book is the way he alludes to the theological realities that feed the effectiveness of marketing and consumerism.
I always tell people that marketing is so effective because we are broken people who need to be redeemed. Marketing taps into our lostness and emptiness, promising hope and healing with the acquisition of goods and services. Sure, it might work for a moment or two, but eventually we realize that we’re even more empty than we were before, so we seek out and purchase other redeemers. I call this “temporary redemptive diversion.” It’s an endless cycle. In effect, our kids pursue brands as Saviors.
Hugh Rank’s book is based on two premises. First, that human beings are benefit-seekers. That’s Rank’s theologically-uninformed way of saying that we know we need help. We’re lost. We need a redeemer. Second, Rank says that marketers are benefit-promisers. The employ “The Pitch” to position themselves as redeemers and saviors.
What is “The Pitch?” Rank lays out the five steps of “The Pitch”. . . .
Have you ever taken the time to talk to your kids and your students about these realities, strategies, and ploys? Perhaps the road to seeing and embracing the one True Redeemer runs through an ongoing discussion of lostness. . . along with the false promises and false hopes that marketing so effectively sells.