Mean Madison Avenue – Why we need a Global Kindness Revolution

[This is the first of occasional blogs commenting on various aspects of our culture.  I’m calling them: “Earth Musings”]

Perhaps the young geniuses on Madison Avenue are products of the violent video generation. The tone of recent television ads makes me wonder—are they selling products or promoting meanness and an even greater lack of civility than already exists? Here are several examples:

Capitol One credit card ads star Vikings whose violence and roughness would never make me want to sign up for anything they’re selling. Swinging guillotines? Pouring hot tar over people? I don’t think so. Does this reflect the caveman mentality that permeates our male culture, exemplified by the recent effort of some politicians to take women back to the fifties and earlier?

Then there’s the ad for the Infiniti automaker where a guy in a white car with a smirk on his face makes a giant snowball that sweeps his neighbor’s blue car away in its downhill tumble. The perpetrator congratulates himself and pulls into the now vacant parking space. This is supposed to make me want to buy an Infiniti?

It reminds me of recent Volkswagen ads – whenever someone saw a VW, they yelled “punch buggy” and struck another person in the arm – usually quite painfully. How does this meanness sell cars?

The latest ad that arouses my ire is one for Staples, promoting their service while lauding the new Windows 8 computer program. A man timidly knocks on his teenage son’s door with his laptop in hand and asks the son – who is obviously on the computer that the father bought for him – if he could help him with a computer problem. The lad, without even glancing up, just says a dismissive “No.”

The father, his shoulders slumped in resignation, closes the door and goes to the waiting-to-be-helpful Staples people. The reason this ad really angers me is that it promotes the attitude that disrespecting one’s parents is to be expected and accepted. It also legitimizes a reason not to expect help from our entitled, more technologically adept children. This promotes Staples?

One of the most baffling of all is the Cialis ads.  A couple, after chastely kissing, end up in two bathtubs. This one puzzled me for the longest time. I could see the happy couple together in one bathtub, but holding hands in two adjacent tubs? Then it hit me. They are soaking away soreness after those four hour erections!

How to explain four hour erections to children who might happen to come into the room during commercial breaks?

Other ads are equally bewildering or tasteless.  Do we really need to know about catheters, erectile dysfunction, enlarged prostates and constipation? Or what we’re looking for in a toilet paper? How do we explain these things to curious children? After viewing some ads, we’re not even sure exactly what they are selling.

And these are items that should be personally and privately researched, not up for viewing on the family TV – or worse, the kids’ TVs in their rooms.

My favorite ad is the one for Etrade where a cute baby gives trading advice from his crib or high chair. If I ever decide to get into the stock market online, my first stop will be Etrade (I say, tongue-in-cheek).

In response to increasing global violence and the epidemic of lack of good taste and common courtesy, we’ve started the Global Kindness Revolution as an antidote to violence and lack of civility. We’ve created and distributed 70,000 Kindness Cards so far, including a Spanish version in Ecuador, El Salvador and Belize. We are facilitating Community Kindness Circles in communities, churches, organizations and schools.

Our motto is “Be Kind All the Time!”not just randomly.

If you’d like to join us and help distribute Kindness Cards (which are $.20 each or whatever you can afford) go to or write to us at or Box 215, Swarthmore, PA 19081 USA. We’d like to help you set up Kindness Circles wherever you are. And please join us every Saturday at 4:00 pm ET for our brief Global Kindness Meditation.

Tell us your reactions to mean ads and above all, contact the corporations using these kinds of ads that are tearing at the root of our society, largely ineffective (or are they?) and only encourage cultural meanness.

Judith Trustone, Sagewriters and the Global Kindness Revolution

Global Kindness Revolution - Judith Trustone, Founder


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