We all know that the media massages the message, but these two recent incidents of audience manipulation have caused me to sit up and take notice.
First, here is a very friendly and seemingly openhanded video about why the Burger you order at McDonalds looks nothing like the one you see on the menu:
At one level, the friendly host models transparency and shows you how they create the picture you see but not the burger you eat.
It warms me to McDonalds and somehow makes me trust them more. This video has been watched 6 million times and has probably helped customers feel less hacked off with why their burgers look such a mess. But McDonalds have spent a lot of money helping me see behind the scenes – revealing the whole industry of audience manipulation. The need for beauty and perfection in advertising -the hours to create the perfect looking burger, complete with syringed in ketchup, the finessing a rogue piece of cheese in postproduction. all to create a fiction of the perfect burger that no one will ever eat.
The second incident involves a German lady apparently crying when Mario Balotelli scores a goal against Germany in the European football championships.
But the reality is – the lady was crying at an earlier incident before the game started and it was inserted into the live television stream after Balotelli scored. It definitely made exciting television and we emotionally engaged with the match at a different level. But it was not what really happened. Should we feel outraged at this – or is this par for the course in a culture when the hyper real replaces the actual. It makes for a better experience but is not what really took place.
We must develop a healthy skepticism in our relationship with the media, enjoying its beauty and the industry of those who work hard to inform and entertain us. But these incidents remind me of the need for a critical distance – the need to keep asking questions about the reality that has been presented to me. That in the bid for rating and advertising revenue – I am being manipulated.