Posted by: Rosebud | March 19, 2009

Cargo Cult – Idolatry – Advertising

Cargo Cults.

Cargo Cult with grass airplane model on airstrip mock-up.

Cargo Cult with grass airplane model on airstrip mock-up.




That quirky anthropological phenomena that the intellectually-inclined love to study.  The term “Cargo Cult” is applied to the phenomena of a primitive culture’s religious interpretation of their initial engagement with modern civilization and the accompanying material wealth.  Apparently it was rather common during World War II as substantial material was transported through the territories of primitive cultures in New Guinea.  The claim is these cultures couldn’t comprehend the complexity and technological advancement required to produce the manufactured goods they witnessed.  And, as a response, they incorporated everything they saw into their religion and began constructing icons of the material they witnessed hoping to attract its return.


I have no idea how much of that is true or poor cultural interpretation or flat-out urban legend. 


But how about this:

Beach Idol?

Beach Idol?






Here’s an icon constructed for the purposes of attracting something also.  But we all know what it is…it’s advertising!  But….what is it when an advertising campaign is based on a guess or even faulty assumptions?  Is it a tenant of the religion of secular humanism that advertising works?  What is the power of advertising? Is it a full-blown right-brain only phenomena?  So, if our Cargo-cult brothers are practicing their religion does that make the cargo-cult a right-brain phenomena? 

So, you may ask, “What’s your point?”  Basically, I think advertising is a tenant of the religion of secular humanism.  It is a broad thesis, and if I had time to explore it further, this is where I’d start: Cargo Cults!



  1. I can assure you, cargo cults are very real and existed for a long time in New guinea and throughout some of the pacific islands. My grandfather (a white man) was kidnapped by a cargo cult when he lived in New Guinea and was only freed after a witch doctor from another village came and talked the locals into freeing him!
    An incredible story, I know but they truly believed that cargo was a deity who brought food and supplies from the sky and kept demanding that my grandfather call cargo.

  2. That’s really impressive. Thanks for this high level of brainstorming, buddy.

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