Reading through the last batch of student papers, one student wrote something that made me think they were asserting that the Serpent in the Garden of Eden was the first or archetypical salesman. I thought that was clever but looking back later over what I thought to be the paper, I couldn’t find a reference to the Serpent so I must have dreamed it up myself.
Whether or not I read it or dreamed it up, I decided to check out Genesis to see if the Serpent did indeed qualify as a salesperson or early advertising executive. Roughly the setup goes: God says don’t eat this or you will die. But the serpent says, Ye shall not surely die. For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
I suppose the Serpent could quality as an advertising executive because he is an outright liar. But then comes the “pitch.” A lie won’t really get buyers unless there is a pitch. It runs: if you eat this fruit you will become a god yourself. This is a pretty simple argument; but one cogent to the world of advertising today. Many advertisements do suggest that if one buys this object one will come to have god like powers.
The early ads for the Ipod, for example, showed simple images of music or representations of music, flowing and flowing into this tiny device, the Ipod. The suggestion was that this device was somehow magical since it could contain so many songs. Of course, songs are sounds and not physical objects. But the representations of the song in the ad were solid and took up space. So the Ipod was truly a magical object able to contain and hold in place many larger and fluid objects.
Of course, having a magical device is not quite the same as being a God, but I think the parallel works.
In later ads, the Ipod continued magical but different. These ads featured the featureless silhouettes, like card board cut outs, of lithe young figures moving rhythmically in an undefined or unparticularized space. As they moved, they swung their Ipod about and it illuminated, as with a tale of fire, the space of the dancer and eventually the dancer his or her self. Ultimately, the suggestion was that with an Ipod one illuminate the darkness. This too has magical overtones.
So the Serpent was onto something. And maybe his flat out lie too can be read in another way—as appealing to the grandiose self inside of everybody. He is not just saying, don’t worry you won’t die, IF you eat this. He is also saying, don’t worry, if you eat this, YOU won’t die. Admittedly this is a bit slippery, but in sum: just do it, in either case you won’t die.
Of course, there is still the question with advertising, as with the Serpent, does any of this stuff really work? Do people really respond to it? In the case of the Serpent, one has to wonder; Eve doesn’t seem to buy into the idea that she will be a God. The Bible suggests she thinks the fruit would be good eating. According to Genesis: And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat. True, the wise part is there, but first comes, good food and pleasant looking. That’s a woman for you, of course.
As for Adam, [Eve] gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. Adam, for his part, resembles those men in the Carl Jr’s ads who can’t cook and try to make guacamole by tossing a whole avocado into a blender. Idiots, in short.