The song of optimization is a capitalist evergreen that, at the latest since Gerhard Schröder’s ”Ich-AG,“ explicitly refers to products and people. After all, you can always be happier, more beautiful, more efficient, happier, and, in short, better – you just need the right products.
The backhanded compliment, which suggests that one has “just not yet” tapped into one’s own potential and is only a hair’s breadth away from the best self, opens hearts and wallets. If this motif is reversed, marketing conceives of us as flawed beings whose gaps are to be filled with consumption.
As a reminder, all claims are taken from the city’s billboard advertising from January 2021 to December 2023, which I photographed as I drove past. The first half of the images shows the extracted texts, and the second the sources.