By Ben Kleppinger

I recently heard about a study where children were asked to choose between foods featuring their generation’s sad excuse for Curt Cobain, Spongebob Squarepants, and foods that were just food-no absorbent cartoon characters added.When children were offered a cupcake with an image of Mr. Squarepants on it or a plain old banana, they chose the cupcake. No surprise there.

When children were offered the banana with a sticker of Mr. Squarepants on it or a plain old cupcake, they chose the banana. This choice is a little less rational, but what parent is going to complain when their kid is getting a full dose of potassium?

Finally, the children were asked which “food” they would prefer to eat for breakfast: a plain old banana, or a rock with a Spongebob sticker on it. Over half chose the rock.

I’m going to write that again, because proper style dictates I avoid underlining, bolding or italicizing: Over half chose the rock.

The Spongebob rock incident is just one example of how modern-day advertising is no longer an innocent old lady asking, “Where’s the beef?” Modern-day advertising is mind control.

If in a foolish moment of honesty the world’s biggest advertising companies were to reveal to us their number one secret strategy, I think it would be the following: make your product as much like crack cocaine as you possibly can.

Crack is technically illegal pretty much everywhere. But that doesn’t stop it from being the perfect product. It’s pretty simple and cheap to make, it sells at a much higher price, and you don’t have to worry about return business because anyone who tries it is instantly addicted.

I think advertising companies have realized just how perfect a product crack cocaine is, and they’re now in pursuit of their holy grail: legal crack.

All advertising is now designed to make us think we must have what is being advertised: Without it we will die, but with it our lives will be perfect-as long as we keep buying it.

And planned obsolescence means if you like something, you can be sure you’ll be buying it again very soon.

Manufacturers create products, and then decrease the integrity of that product so it doesn’t last as long. Ever wondered why your computer just doesn’t run as fast as it used to?

Everything is looking more and more like crack. Fast-food companies are selling bigger and bigger plates of food and telling us to satisfy our cravings.

Energy drink commercials hinge on the idea that you can’t make it through the day without one.

Lays potato chips was ahead of the curve in the 1960s when it came out with its new slogan, “Betcha can’t eat just one.”

Fast cars are advertised as being able to thrill our senses and give us an adrenaline rush.

HDTV is supposedly so amazing that once you see it you’ll never be able to watch normal TV again.

Just because advertisers try to make their product act like crack doesn’t mean their products actually are crack. No one’s huddled in a gutter shivering because they didn’t have enough for just one more double cheeseburger.

But the effects of legal crack can be seen from a broader perspective.

Much like a crack addict whose life falls apart as he spends every penny on more crack, Americans have spent themselves into massive domestic and international debt.

Much like a crack addict who cannot understand where his money has gone, we’re unwilling to accept the recent economic downturn as a natural cycle. We want government stimulation to keep our legal-crack highs soaring in the clouds.

And much like crack addicts who really cannot help themselves, we want government bailouts when our bad financial planning causes huge companies vital to the national infrastructure to go under.

We spent all our money on legal crack, and then borrowed more money we didn’t really have so we could buy more of it.

And now when the time has come to pay the piper, we still want some kind of magical solution that lets us keep buying stuff without losing any money.

And it’s all because advertisers have been overwhelmingly successful in legalizing crack for all ages and types.

If Americans were asked to choose between accountants who would help us spend less and a rock with a dollar bill stuck to it, most of us would choose the rock.