Paypal: Romance Meets Finance (Just Buy It)

Advertising’s love affair with romance goes way back, perhaps to the birth of advertising itself.  People never seem to tire of images that portray intimacy in connection with the act of purchasing.  A recent ad by Paypal seems innocuous enough: a girl wearing a heart-shaped pendant kisses a young man in a suit.  Our eyes soon wander to the adjacent slogan: “Necklace selected.  Privacy protected.”  Another slogan beneath the Paypal logo drives the message home, subtly merging people with objects: “Go for the things you love with confidence.”

Paypal necklace ad: Girl kissing man under city lights.

What do we have here?  On the surface: technology in the hands of consumers for the benefit of their personal lives.  Just beneath: a slick appeal to fantasy and power.  At the core: capitalism packaged as romance in the service of reproduction, or, survival of the fittest.  On a subliminal level, we might say: “Mate obtained.  Risk eliminated.”

In today’s sophisticated media-saturated environment, survival becomes more ironic: being fit demands a certain amount of unawareness.  Securing a partner on behalf of one’s private desires and living in a comfortable home may be sold as the good life, but beneath this glossy advertisement exists a phenomenon neither good nor bad but merely biological: nest building.  What many call their choice is actually a program that doesn’t belong to them.

How many justifications people employ in the service of this program that requires no justification itself.  “Survive!” it commands.  “Propagate!”  But why?  No one can answer this question without evoking the absurd, yet those who do not ask it live in sustained denial: a fairyland of shallow suffering.  In this cultural climate, prosperity means: convincing others of what they need to prosper.


Paypal necklace ad: Girl kissing man under city lights.
Mate Obtained. Risk Eliminated.

Author: Todd Garlington

Urban spectator, Inner space cadet

26 thoughts

  1. Throughout history: no money, no honey. In this cultural context: keep dishing it out, then we shall see.

  2. I once fell in love with an online service, but it died in the great fall of the dot com bubble.

    At least Paypal’s advertisement suggests romance between people, versus Swiffer that suggests romance between mops, brooms, and moms. Also, between miniature women and swiffer pads. While misleading, it’s also less quickly.

  3. I esp. like the notion of: “Mate obtained. Risk eliminated.”. So true. These ads seemingly come from a sweet heartfelt place, but ultimately are fear based campaigns designed to remind us what we don’t have. Most people (I would say 80%) are not in a “romance situation”, whether in a relationship or otherwise. This reminds the user , that there is a lack. And you accurately point out that the element of human survival is spun into a whole new context of transitory purchasing power. -Brilliant article!

  4. That’s very neat, I’ve had a hard time in the past with consumer debt, now I just see through the lies. All the things I bought because ‘we’re led to believe they’ll make us happy’ I ended up hating, they represented the debt I owed to my credit card. I like to think I put up blinders to those sorts of ads 😀

  5. brilliant. seriously! it’s a very talented person that can make such a heavy impact with so few words. “”How many justifications people employ in the service of this program that requires no justification itself. “Survive!” it commands. “Propagate!” But why?”” – very, very good.

  6. The creative brains inside Advertising Agencies are very clever.
    Here, they’ve summed it up with a simple image (girl + boy + a sample sale item), which is tagged to a few key words (privacy + pay + confidence).
    The viewer’s mind takes it all in within 2 seconds and fully understands the message the Ad is transmitting.
    Good and simple advertising.
    I use cartoons (see my blog) in a similar manner, not for Ads, but for humor.
    A simple picture and a few words can be powerful.

  7. You bring up good points concerning what our society tells us, and one must admit that Paypal is quite clever in their advertising scheme; however, there are those of us who believe that there are more to these “feelings” than mere biological impulses. No benefit comes from reducing the human experience to animal-istic drives, as we can see from many aspects of society today.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Had to think about this one. By describing part of intimacy as biological, my aim was not to reduce the human experience but to offer a perspective that might mitigate egoism.

  8. No different than any other company like them. Visa, MasterCard, AMEX all present the same good life and happiness type ads that actually are great.

  9. “What many call their choice is actually a program that doesn’t belong to them. . .
    ‘Survive!’ it commands. ‘Propagate!’ But why?”
    Very well stated and totally agree.

  10. I think this kind of advertising especially works on my age group (15-18) because this is the age when, well, the hormones in the body are working full time and we itch to get ahead in this ridiculous race to find ‘The One’ (also an interesting concept, on a whole different level). Brilliant post! 🙂

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