just before it was time to go back to school, my mother would
take me to Macy's to buy new school clothes.
amazing. Until you learn what we went through to get there.
You see, Macy's wasn't just across the street. We lived in the
Bronx and the department store was way downtown in Manhattan
on 34th Street.
we had to take the subway. Again, not too amazing, until you
remember that descending the steps of the Independent Line in
August was like entering Dante's seventh level of hell.
I always asked myself as we rattled along in our mobile sauna
was why we were going to Manhattan when there were dozens of
stores only two blocks away? Why did we go through this ordeal
of fire simply to buy me some shirts, socks, and a new winter
years old I never knew the answer. Today I do.
over the years, through their endlessly persuasive advertising,
Macy's had purchased and cultivated a small part of my mother's
the local stores were good now and then, but "For back to school
the right place is Macy's!"
mind that like a fighter trying to make the weight, I sweated
out three and a half pints of water under the Grand Concourse.
The point is, "For back to school the right place is Macy's!"
reason I'm telling you this story is not to call attention to
my mother's hypersensitivity to advertising. On the contrary.
The important thing to remember is that we're all sensitive
to advertising despite our protestations to the contrary.
Many people, filled with smug self-satisfaction, claim to be
beyond it all. They tell us that they're just not influenced
by ads or commercials. This is self-delusion.
give you an example.
and I were recently at a dinner party in San Francisco. The
guy sitting across from me was a doctor who really freaked when
he heard I was a copywriter. (I guess he thought I was personally
responsible for every ring-around-the-collar commercial he ever
had to sit through).
— he went on to tell me what I've heard a million times. That
advertising doesn't touch him. That he chooses products rationally.
And so on, ad nauseam.
a guy who drinks Henry Weinhard's (not Bud), drives a Volvo
(not a Chevy) and eats Haagen-Dazs (not Lucerne). And he still
tells me that he's not affected by advertising. As I explained
to him over the pasta al pesto (not Rice-A-Roni), we all are
human. Inside of all of us is that hopeful little kid, dumping
out the Cracker Jacks, looking for the prize.
my whole number and of course got nowhere. This bothers me not
at all. You see, I know a secret. That, like soldiers wearing
their rank on their sleeves, we all go through life flashing
little messages and emblems that help define who we are or who
we want to be.
we wear Guccis, Nikes, Kinneys, or walk barefoot, we are making
a public statement about who we are.
is the mirror in which we see ourselves as we want to be.
a powerful force that can take us anywhere.