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February 28, 2011 | by  | in Online Only | [ssba]

REAL TALK – Shooting Up With The Joneses

Everywhere you go, it’s there: window-sized murals asking if you’re looking for a chocolate fix; store fronts appealing to the ‘shopaholic’ in all of us; and travel packages calling all adrenaline junkies for whatever poverty tourism deal they have lately. Why all of this addiction language? Why would companies and businesses want to associate themselves with weeping track marks, four-day sleepless benders and destroyed relationships? And it’s not just marketing execs throwing out crackhead lingo willy-nilly: during the course of a single day, you can be sure someone will nonchalantly describe themselves as a news junkie, or addicted to love (if they happen to be Robert Palmer).

The most ludicrous use of addiction language in marketing must be otherwise square dairies and supermarkets claiming that when you pop down to the corner store for some milk, you’re chasing some sort of elusive grocery high. You’re a desperate junkie – for bottled water! They’ll really get on some meta-shit when they all but accuse you of being a dope fiend for buying some ibuprofen for a stubbed toe.

Where addiction language can really zing is when one talks about something legitimately addictive. I’ll give you a pass if you’re a edgy, Macbook’ed-up coffee house, because caffeine is the wage-slave equivalent of trucker speed and thus addictive as shit. Testing of junk food has tentatively shown that it interacts with the brain in the same way as many habit-forming illicit drugs, and most everyone has had a smack-esque craving for some truly grody eats. Fast food joints are allowed to take this angle in their advertising, because everybody gotta eat, but booze companies cannot. Rotgut RTDs would be making a definite misstep if they told people to ease their delirium tremens with a calming swig of their rum and coke. Instead, you get crazy obvious ‘wink wink’ phrases about hard-earned thirsts, or ‘starting the night off right’. But never ‘ending the night in a well of self-loathing/The Bristol’.

On the flip side, noted rap-metal poet laureates Limp Bizkit used the language of addiction to devastatin’ effect in their single “Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle)”, with the line ‘jonesin’ for your fix of the Limp Bizkit mix’. I’m going to let Fred Durst away with this one, because he’s Fred Durst.

I realise that this may read as a pedantic rant against the changing English language, and the shifting context and meaning of words that pass into common usage. It’s not my intention to be a curmudgeonly dickface and say our language should stay immobile and dead, but I think it’s pretty amusing that advertising and language is using terms that carry deep associations of broken homes, death and societal decay to describe bungeeing or wanting to buy a chocolate bar.

If any of you marketing majors reading this are getting a solid Idea Boner, then allow me to present you with some vivid imagery. Beat-era junkies passed out under a boardwalk, clutching Monster energy drinks in their palsied hands. 70s Death Wish New York speed freaks shivving a housewife and using her supermarket receipt for a Country Road shopping spree. A high-flying Auckland businessman smokes meth out of a light bulb in a Port-a-loo then joins his kids on their first para-glide. And finally, looping footage of Jared Leto shooting up into an abscess dissolves into a couple buying stir fry vegetables at a greengrocer’s.

REAL TALK is a weekly show on the VBC 88.3 FM (Saturday 8-10pm) and a podcast which can be found on iTunes or at


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