Liberal mythology in advertising

Image: Diana Smykova


Mythology in the advertising of financial market products does not have the power to anesthetize our fighting spirit, with abstractions

Recently, an institution of the financial system launched an advertising piece, with a lot of aesthetic care (“End of Year”). Under a musical score, sung in English and translated with poetic license, it reflects the wish that in the current year “choices prioritize love in everything we do”. The cinematic sketches, with axiological content, express judgments about the attitudes on the scene:

(a) When the young executive holds the elevator door for the elderly person to enter, who moves with the help of a walker. “Before the rush, kindness” (Education); (b) When the black girl of crawling age dips a laptop in the water, and the father patiently embraces her. “Before reaction, breathing” (Rationality); (c) When the boy from the periphery on the soccer field, saddened by conceding a goal, turns his eyes to heaven in prayer. “Before sadness, hope” (Social Mobility); (d) When the student of Ballet, when putting on her sneakers, notices that her colleague has a mechanical prosthesis on her leg. “Before differences, similarities” (Diversity); (e) When the distracted driver shows up prostrated by an accident with material damage, and is comforted by the owner of the car that crashed. “Before anger, respect” (Empathy); (f) When the surfer, with a spirit of solidarity, collects the debris left on the beach sand, to then surf the sea waves. “Before the self, the whole” (Common Good).

The commercial ends with the question that challenges the nation, now emancipated from the cruel dystopia that undermined sociability with the liberist and fascist necropolitics. We will return to the subject later on.



Roland Barthes' semiotic analyzes of magazines and advertisements divide meaning into denotative, at the level of superficial perception, and connotative, at the level of subterranean codes transmitted by patterns called by the French thinker “mythologies”. The combination of such ideological vectors is what makes it possible to convert the means of communication into instruments for the persuasion of the masses, with a view to consuming goods, ideas and lifestyles. It is about understanding propagandistic creation, in the context of really existing capitalism.

Using the imagery of emotions, the intention is to sensitize consumers of banking services, without committing the “scholastic mistake” of projecting the institution's thinking onto the target audience. Something that happens when marketers evaluate search results (surveys) from the employer's point of view, whose purpose boils down to the basic little black dress: maximizing profits and dividends. If the banker wants money, the customer wants well-being.

Education, rationality, social mobility, diversity, empathy and the common good translate the universal values ​​between the lines of advertising. These theoretical constructs carry the denotation bequeathed by the Enlightenment in the West. The repertoire dialogues with the positivist inscription of the Brazilian flag, “order and progress”. Order to ensure that changes never undermine social structures and hierarchies. Progress towards the “big house”, not the “slave quarters”, according to Freyre's metaphor. The connotation, it should be noted, has been relativized by the expansion of ecological awareness today.

The meaning of advertising, on screen, dilutes the aftermath of capitalism in the culture shared by those who enjoy privileges and those who sell their workforce. The subtle suggestion of elements that encompass general prosperity, in a convivial environment, sounds natural as it points to the side effects of hyper-individualism in the era of “post-modernity”. Namely, the by-products raised by the frantic search for income that, tomorrow, will benefit the human community as a whole due to the dynamics of accumulation and also to technological innovations.

The inequalities that cross reality are silenced. In fact, interpreted as the engine of individual and social development, in the medium and long terms. Suffering is swept under the rug by compassion atomized in everyday life, to legitimize the universalist rhetoric. Poverty, food insecurity, hunger on street corners, exclusion from banquets, lack of urban equipment and informality are hidden from capitalist domination. Dirt is hidden.

Unlike the ruling classes, the subordinate classes face difficulties in formulating their material and symbolic interests with the universal lexicon, based on the work paradigm. If the bourgeoisie spoke in the name of the “nation” and “humanity”; on the other hand, workers are unable to hide the classist content of the demands, by proposing public policies with obvious priority to vulnerable segments. Conflicts unfold, in the game of lose and win.

At present, the same is true of multiculturalist struggles for ethnic-racial recognition and the promotion of women: they collide with colonialism (racism) and patriarchy (sexism). Sectors benefited by tradition challenge egalitarian ideals, in favor of status quo, by minimizing disparities and prejudices with execrations of “political correctness”. The universalism of the slogans that abstract the facts from the historical soil contributes to the maintenance of the unequal distribution of rights among the population. The distance between speech and practice only shortens with the outbreak of political confrontation, where it is convenient to hand over the rings to save the fingers.



In the case of the commercial, in addition to the values ​​made explicit in the circumstances staged, the liberal mythology underlies it. From education to the common good, passing through diversity, no value – subliminally hinted at – brings up the actions of “subjects in fusion”. In the country's unfinished republican formation, ethical guides are always associated with isolated conduct. As in Hollywood filmography, lavish in productions with an emphasis on the role of individuals, autonomous heroes are left; collective heroes are lacking in epic plots. Who built the triumphal arches?

The substratum of the stories is the famous “society of individuals”. The current civilizing process overvalues ​​individualities, detaching them from socially instituted controls. The dialectic between the individual and society even dissipates, implying that they are independent analytical categories. Now, there is no individual without society, nor society without individuals.

“Civil disobedience”, to evoke the concept of Henry David Thoreau, is limited to individual activities. For example, in the principled refusal to pay taxes. The intimate forum decision confers legitimacy to the act. However, if so-and-so meets with so-and-so in an association to articulate a transpersonal protest against the collection of taxes, the demonstration immediately ceases to be legitimate and becomes spurious. The individualist matrix sees in associativism a collusion, by definition, to influence the minds and hearts of particular agents of transformation. Healthy interactions between individuals and society are placed in a straitjacket.

With an undisguised pejorative tone, the corporate media reports on militants from civil society organizations (social movements, unions, community organizations, NGOs) and from political society (parties), as if organized militancy were not part of the condition of citizenship. Under this bias, the political interlocution approved by the establishment restricted to elected representatives for the exercise of parliamentary mandates. It would be up to them to deliberate on controversies of interest to municipalities, states and the Union. As a result, the new government's proposal to enhance the mobilization of citizens, within the framework of an inclusive and transparent project, to enable the construction of the Federal Participatory Budget (OPF) subverts the liberal mythology of the sketches.

The commercial ends with a question. “And for you, what comes first in 2023?” The eloquent questioning, certainly unintentional, serves to prod scammers frustrated with the putsch that did not take shape, after two months of camping with chemical toilets in front of the Army HQs. Prayers for tires and UFOs did not help, in the expectation of a military intervention contrary to the popular sovereignty expressed in the ballot boxes. nor the Leader endured the weeping of impotence.

The formidable victory was problematized in the dark intricacies of the parallel dimension, invented by Bolsoslavism. Fractions of finance, industry, retail trade, agribusiness (which produces commodities for export) and mining (illegal, in indigenous lands in the Amazon) tried in vain to ignore the feat of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, acclaimed worldwide. The groups that add a debt of R$ 20 billion, due to environmental fines, had the promise of the fleeing ruler that the inspection bodies would allow the absurd prescription of the debt. From them came a large portion of the funding for criminal acts of terrorism in Brasilia.

The democratic rule of law guaranteed the Constitution, in force, supported by the Federal Supreme Court (STF) and the Superior Electoral Court (TSE). Compatriots are left with the “four lines” of the Magna Carta, which zombies quote with a false hermeneutics. The motherland proved to be stronger than the extreme right. The people begin to throw off the shackles of class, gender and racial tyranny. Mythology in the advertising of financial market products does not have the power to anesthetize our fighting spirit, with abstractions. The fight against barbarism taught us the path to emancipation.

* Luiz Marques is a professor of political science at UFRGS. He was Rio Grande do Sul's state secretary of culture in the Olívio Dutra government.

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