‘Do you love being happy?’ asks the advertising message – in extra large letters – on the hoarding right next to where I happened to have parked my car. Do you love being happy. I’m not joking either – this is as real as you or me. It’s as real as rice pudding but it doesn’t necessarily make as much sense. Or maybe it does? You see, I’d love to get into the heads of these guys – what are they thinking when they come up with this stuff? Their motto must be ‘You can’t underestimate the intelligence of Joe Public’. You think you might be setting the bar too long? Well think again buddy. Think again buddy because you’re not… So the way these advertising lads are pitching it means that they are anticipating the following response on our part: ‘Hey yeah! I do love being happy. These guys know where I’m coming from. These guys really get me – I do love being happy. I do, I do, I do!’ So straightaway we’re putty in their hands – they’ve got us right where they want us. They’ve got us right where they want us because we are ripe and ready for the second part of their manoeuvre, the ‘Follow-up’, you could call it. Then they hit you with a product name and tell you that this is a sure and certain way of getting to be happy. A sure fire way. It works every time, in other words. This is how to go about being happy; this is the information you’ve been looking for all your life, even if you didn’t know it. Now you might say that no one is ever going to come out with an advertising message as stupid as this because it’s just too dumb, because it it’s too much of an insult to our basic intelligence as human beings. I would venture to say that you’re wrong about that though. I would venture to say that you are missing the sheer genius of this particular advertising gimmick. The guys behind this campaign have obviously had a brainwave and have realised that when you strip everything down to its absolute essentials, with no frills and no subtlety, then this doesn’t alienate the punters, which is to say ‘Joe Public in the street’, but rather it hits that magic button full on. They know what makes us tick and they are exploiting their professional knowledge in the most elegant of ways. That’s what I would say, after giving the matter due consideration. That’s my thoughts on the subject. This isn’t cheap sarcasm on my part either, let me assure you of that! I realise that it may look like sarcasm but if that’s what you think then allow me to set you right. You see, what I’m primarily interested in are the aesthetics of the situation and aesthetics has nothing to do with crass moral judgements. How the hell does morality come into it? It’s not that I’m hoping to bring about a sense of moral outrage in you so that you start thinking ‘Hey, those advertising guys are shamelessly manipulating us and that’s wrong…’ That would mean that I am manipulating you so that you will experience this feeling of moral outrage about manipulation being wrong and that would be completely and utterly ridiculous, as I’m sure you’ll agree. No – I’m simply expressing my admiration for the astonishing elegance of this particular example of the art of advertising. Although perhaps ‘admiration’ isn’t quite the right word to be using here – what I’m really talking about is that sense of appreciation one can have with regard to some mechanism that works really well, some mechanism that works with flawless perfection, in fact. We exist within an environment that is predicated upon manipulation, after all. Let’s not lose sight of that. Let’s not get lost in romantic notions regarding what society is all about. Or what humans are all about. Let’s not be stupid about this. Our environment exists for the sole purpose of conditioning us – obviously enough. It’s certainly not about inspiring us to look within for some sort of ‘inner truth’ or ‘transcendent reality’, that’s for sure! Our environment is a mechanism that acts upon us and as time goes on this mechanism has become more and more refined. It has become more and more elegant. It possesses its own beauty, in other words, just as a shark does. I find that particular simile rather apt, now that I come to think about it. Sharks don’t exist to make us happy, as I think you will have to agree, but they do possess their own type of beauty. We can’t make moral judgements about sharks and neither should we moralise like fools about the conditioning environment that we all inhabit. This is a question of aesthetics after all, not some arbitrary half-arsed notion of ‘good and bad’.