Consumer Cultures, Advertising in American Society


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Advertising in American Society and Consumer Cultures (based on Arthur Asa Berger's, Ads, Fads & Consumer Culture, chapters 1 & 2)

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Consumer Cultures, Advertising in American Society

  1. 1. Consumer Cultures Advertising in American Society
  2. 2. Consider the cost of making an advertisement versus the cost of purchasing air time Standard 30 second, nationally broadcast commercial costs between $300,000-$500,000 to produce -Got Milk ($370,000 to produce)Air time could run into the millions ofdollars
  3. 3. “Even lousy advertising works.”We like to think we can resist advertising’sinfluence on usCan’t show a given ad makes an individualbuy a product or service, or is the primaryforce shaping that person’s behavior, but wecan see advertising’s collective impact,affecting people in general.“Harry & Louise” campaign against Clintonhealthcare plan eroded support
  4. 4. Defining AdvertisingAd agencies buy space & timeAlternative ads(buses, billboards, sponsors, productplacement, place-based, pop displays)Designed to attract people with certain valuesand lifestyles (demographics &psychographics)Tries to stimulate action via desire(convince, persuade, motivate, act)
  5. 5. ClutterAgencies try to differentiate theircampaigns to break through theparalysis brought on by informationoverload and get the attention of theirtarget audience.Honda Cog commercial (6 million tomake, 606 takes, three weeks to film,three months to make, two minuteslong)
  6. 6. Consumer TrustA small percentage of consumerstrust advertisers; the majority admitto being influenced by therecommendations of people intheir social graph (family, friends)Consumer as more reflexive agentCynicism
  7. 7. Print Ads & CommercialsMessaris’ “response tendencies” in magazineads and commercials; models andspokespersons look directly at the viewer(mimic real life to evoke an emotionalresponse)The male gazeAdvertising conditions us in the same wayPavlov was able to train dogsIndustry tries to deflect criticism & gov’tregulation by citing “weak” media theories
  8. 8. Social-Psychological Model Exposure < RecallUsed by many social scientists tostudy advertising’s impactPeople are tested to see if theyrecall advertisements or changeattitudes or opinions after exposure
  9. 9. Psycho-Cultural ModelPeople’s psyches (unconscious) <exposed to advertising < Cultural behaviorof PeopleCorporations assume people are irrationaland respond to messages that avoid egodominated, traditional decision makingMessages appeal to Freud’s Id (I want itnow), and avoid the superego (You can’tafford it/don’t need it) and mediating ego(you should think about it)
  10. 10. Post hoc, ergo propter hocIndustry uses the argument todeflect criticism; just becausesomething happens aftersomething doesn’t mean it wascaused by it…Just because Y follow X does notmean that X caused Y
  11. 11. Advertising’s collective influenceCommercials for alcohol may not be the solecausative factor responsible for peopledrinking, but may play an important,contributing role.Public airways are held in “trust” andbroadcast “in the public interest” (is trustbeing abused?)Media so ubiquitous it is difficult to find acontrol group
  12. 12. PersuasionMini-dramas, works or artHeroes and Heroines (celebrities, athletes)Sexuality (beautiful women, homoerotic)Humor (establishes relationships w/others)Fun (do we feel obliged to have fun?)Success (class systems and productknowledge)Reward
  13. 13. TelecultureCulture is influenced and shaped bytelevisionReflects and affects cultureTelevision has usurped other dominantfigures in the socialization process likeparents, ministers, professors, peersTeleculture is largely commercials andplays role in creating and maintainingconsumer cultures
  14. 14. Consumer CulturesA great expansion in commodity productionhas led to societies full of consumer goodsand services and places to purchase themGame of get as much as you canLust for consumer products as demonstrationof success and worthinessThe very act of consumption is glamorizedTaste Cultures, Newman Marcus’couthification
  15. 15. Consumer Cultures and PrivatismConsumer culture is privatistic: focus onpersonal consumption; based on privatedesires and satisfaction of individual wishes,not social investment for the public good(taken to the extreme, the worse things are,the more opportunities to sell, so marketeconomy may have implicit stake in socialdisorganization and neglect of public sphere).
  16. 16. Four Consumer Cultures?hierarchical or elitist: need for hierarchy butfeel obligation to those below themindividualistic: minimal role of gov’t tomaximize possibilities for individuals inbusiness, feel little obligation to those belowEgalitarian: critics of status-quo, gov’t mustsee to basic needsfatalist: little economic or purchasing power
  17. 17. Classified AdvertisingMost important and personal aspects ofour lives dealt with in most mundaneand impersonal formatsReflect the anonymity and alienationthat pervade our cultureWhich is more important, things orpeople?
  18. 18. The Postmodern PerspectivePastiche and mixing of styles is dominantBeyond modernism (1900-1960)characterized by a sense that we could knowreality and valid rules govern societyIncredulity toward meta-narratives and lack ofacceptance of great philosophical systems oforder, capitalism in advanced societies(Jameson)
  19. 19. The Postmodern PerspectiveNo rules, create and change identity on awhimNo significant differences in elite versuspopulist art, anything goesCannot distinguish between reality andsimulations, gamesCulture mutation, schizophrenia (related tosignifiers and signifieds)Advertising in the Age of Irony