t-b    L-d.                                   I.,                                                                         ...
TI     ~cnc~l fields of consumer behavior and marketing,     ~ by tradlt]on focused on the study of advertising’s     @ica...
FIGURE 1                                                Select Biographical Highlights4ame                                ...
what Are They Saying About                               for our entire discipline to avoid addressing questions          ...
FIGURE 2                                          Reflections on “The DistoRed Mirror”     t. BECAUSE ADVERTISING WORKS:  ...
1    ~BECAUSE    Aovsm’tsma w        ISTNXLLY :        1. Easily understandable,            using:                        ...
I         cty, the pattern of morals, and the different meanings          Advertising has influence in part because it nor...
T              .’                       tcms of expenditure . . . and quips him (o make           Stanford historian, high...
. ..            ness. Freoccupled with commercial blandishments,                  in one’s whole course of life. All these...
-——- ,..           k~p telling us over and over that if we could use              [These would be] insatiably desiring, in...
This indeed is a social revolution in our time! (Henry    quency and reverence of attention that makes ‘self-             ...
.T     i          &ibilitY, Cynicism, and Community                                ask their children to tell the truth mu...
Pollay
Pollay
Pollay
Pollay
Pollay
Pollay
Pollay
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  1. 1. t-b L-d. I., I I 1 “} I Richard W. Pollay i [ The Distorted Mirror: I Reflections on the Unintended i i Consequences of Advertising This article reviews the work of significant humanities and social science scholars for their thoughts and I theories about advertising’s social and cultural consequences. In brief, they view advertising as intrusive and environmental and its effects as inescapable and profound. They see it as reinforcing materialism, i cynicism, irrationality, selfishness, anxiety, social competitiveness, sexual preoccupation, powerlessness, I and/or a loss of self-respect. Drawing heavily on original sources, these ideas are synthesized into a framework that structures advertising’s supposed effects and causalities. Also discussed are the problems and prospects for needed research and the moral imperative for this research. I .-. I It is worth recognizing that the advertising man in somercspcch isasmuch abrainattcrcr asisthcbmin surgeon, but his toots and instruments are different. Advertising Age (1957). intelligible, to change attitudes, and to command our behavior. Clearly not every tiverti~ment accom- plishes all of these aims, but just as clearly, much of II it must-othetwi~ advertisers are financi~ly extrav- 1 w HLLE the metaphor of brain surgery may be hyperbole, the inflated, rhetoric so characteris- tic of advertising, it still con~ains an element of truth. agant fools. The applied ~havioral technologies for consumer behavior and advertising research, like most technol- I * Advertising is without doubt a formative influence ogies today, have grown incmasiig]y sophktieated and within our culture, even though we do not yet know elaborate. This gives at least the major tivertiser a large arsenal of information and the technique with 1 its exact effects. Given its pervasive and persuasive character, it is hard to argue otherwise. The txolif - which to finetune a message, aided by an army of eration ~ion ;f various tned~ experienced professionals running market reseaXh ever@ay lives of the citizenty make advertising en- surveys, focus groups, copy testing procedures, reed I vironmental i rsistently encountered, and md awareness tests, and test markets. AS Marshall involuntarily experienced by the entire population. It McLuhan (1951, p. v) once commented: “Ours is the 1. surrounds us no matter where we turn, intruding into first age in which many thousands of the best trained our communication media, our streets, and our very minds have made it a full-time business to get inside homes. It is designed to attract attention, to be readily the collective public mind . . . to get inside in order I to manipulate, exploit, and control.” Even if individ- ! ual efforts often fail, the indirect eff~ts of tie overd system deserve cimful consideration. [ qrd W. Pollay is Curator, History of Advefiising Archives, Uni= ,of British Cd.urx@. Research assistance was provided by Ca~a’s So- This consideration is aII too rardy given to ad- cial %tence and Humanities Research Council and the Acme Delivery vertising by those most sophisticated in their knoWl- Company. Constructive comments were made on preliminary versions edge of the processes of advetilng s~tegy forma- -- of tM article by Russell Balk Jim Forbes, Gerrv Gem. Hal Kassariian. tion and advertisement creation. These scholars and I Chuck Weinbe~ and anonynkus refere& - ‘ “ “ practitioners, including those of us trained in the more I 18 / Journal of Marketing April 1986 896 Journal of Markotlng Vd 50 1SSS) l ” I
  2. 2. TI ~cnc~l fields of consumer behavior and marketing, ~ by tradlt]on focused on the study of advertising’s @ical conquence, sales promotion: eve~ng that A particularly strong example is historian Daniel Boorstin. His prolific and often profound output has propelled him from a distinguished chaired profes- ~imulates the purchase act or the intermediary steps sorship at the University of Chicago, to serving as Li- tow~d that obJective. Knowledge of the u “ brarian of Congress. Author of the trilogy, The Amer- .-;,I consequences of~sin~. the social bv- . icans (1973), he has won the Bancroft prize and the e exhortations to “buy p Pulitzer Prize and, at last count, has garnered 18 hon- 1 school teaching or consuhin~ orary degrees. Some, like John Kenneth Gal~raith, +s ~ so Potentlallv far mfwe__ challenging. Advertis- Margaret Mead, and Marshall McLuhan, have been ~ed consequences are seen by many as a honored with public attention and have had broad in- fi]ution. of our psychological and social ecology, fluence, while the fame and following of others, like which rinses mod alarm and tempts a defensive re- Erich Fromm, George Katona, Clyde Kluckhohn, or action from those of us whose expertise and sense of Henry Steele Commanger, lie mainly in their own and ~Wnal worth is drawn from our knowledge of, and closely allied fields. at least implicit assistance in, the processes of per- ‘his review includes (1) psychologists who view su~ion. Thus, the concerns of nonbusiness academics advertising as a source of Tamg or condltlorung, -e ~d the general public are too often dismissed with a Wlul cognitiVE and attectwe results. (2) sociologists wave of the ideological wand. Commonly we appeal who emphasue the role modeling aspects of ad- to some alternative value, as in the claim that unregu- lng and lts lmilxi’m o n socMI bt?hNIOrS. (3) anthroDol- - lated adveti~sing is a freedom of speech or essential og~sts who see advertising m terms of ri&ls and s~m- to the efficient functioning of the economy, hardly bols-incantations to give meaning to material objects ~rceiving that this is distractive argumentation. and artifacts, (4) educators who question the influence Not all scholm assume that mass advertising of of advertising on child development, and (5) com- the ch~acter and =ale we now experience is either munications specialists who view ads as propaganda inevitable or benign. Indeed, those from a wide range and question their role within and influence upon mass of disciplines have given the matter thought, includ- media. Also represented is the work of linguists, se- ing a surprising number of individuals whose fame manticists, philosophers, theologians, political sci- and influence extend beyond their academic bound- entists, economists, and, perhaps the most integrative aries. This ~icle review this scholarly thought. A of the social scientists, historians. Information re- priori such a review has the potential for setting a re- garding the areas and distinctions of some of those search agenda, for suggesting public policy, and for surveyed appears in Figure 1, while the names and revising our ideas about the interplay between adver- works of others appear only in the references and con- tising and the social system in which it operates. This sulted sources listings. revised perspective may in turn lead to an increased Most of the criticism of advertising comes from sense of moral duty or social responsib~lity for indi those who focus on advertising’s social role, whereas viduals and organizations, professional and academic. most of its defense comes from those who emphasize its economic functions. Still, not all economists are sanguine about advertising, nor are all other social Who Are These People? scientists alarmed. This disparity of perspectives pre- This survey of the literature encompasses all North vents an effective exchange of ideas, as the two sides American authors known to have written on the cul- (if there are but two sides) talk past one another, rais- tural character of advertising. Wile this study ex- ing wholly different issues and reaching judgments on cludes the European Marxist tradition, the research wholly different criteria. It will be of no stupisc, then, process is otherwise a survey rather than a sampling, that raising serious questions about advertising’s so- with no authors knowing] y excluded. Those whose cial role is an inherent] y critical process. To ponder writings have been reviewed represent academic fields what advertising as an institution is doing to us as with diverse theoretical and methodological perspec- individuals or as a community; to wonder if it aids or tives. While few of these authors have indepth impedes rational thought; to ask how it rediits our knowledge of advertising or marketing, they are far aspirations, or channels and prompts our emotions; to from ignorant observers. Generally, they are scholars assess how it may alter our values and morality; to of stature and include many who have already influ- question any of these things is to cast doubt on the enced our culture’s intellectual history far more than social value of advertising. Thus, we should fully ex- anyone in the professional disciplines. Although the pect this inquiry to illuminate those ways in which ideas reported here are echoed in multiple sources, the advertising might be a less than ideal cultural influ- p==ges @Xted are primmily from those writers who ence. Amcki -ever. is the veri< are more famous, articulate. and influential. nce of perceived positive influence. 897
  3. 3. FIGURE 1 Select Biographical Highlights4ame Field Distinctions’ .. 3arnouw. Erik commumcauons Professional advertising exc)erience Histoty Editor, Columbia Univ~rsi~ Press Chief, Broadcasting Division, Library of Congress George Polk Award; Frank Luther Mott Award; Bancroft Prize in American History Bell, Daniel Sociology Professor, Haward University Editor, The Public Interest, Daedalus Fellow, Center for Advanced Studies in Behavioral Sciences Honora~ degrees Berman, Ronald Humanities Chair, National Endowment for the Humanities Chair, Federal Council on Arts and Humanities Gold Medal (Phi Beta Kappa) Boorstin, Daniel American History Distinguished Professor of American History, University of Chicago Librarian of Congress Chair of American History, Sorbonne Presidential Task Force of Arts and Humanities Pulitzer Prize; Dexter Prize; Bancroft Prize; Frances Parkman Prize Honorary degrees (18) Commanger, Hen~ Steele American History Bullitt Professor, University of Washington Gold Medal, American Academy of Arts and Letters Herbeti B. Adams Prize (AHA) Honorav degrees (45) Galbraith, John Kenneth Economics Paul M. Warburg Professor, Harvard University Fellow, Social Science Research Council Fellow, Academy of Arts and Sciences President, American Economic Association Ambassador to India“-” ‘4ayakawa, S. 1. Semantics President, San Francisco State College U.S. Senator Honora~ degrees (4) Heilbroner, Robert Economics Norman Thomas Professor, New School for Social Research Homey, Karen Psychoanalysis Dean, American Institute for Psychoanalysis Krutch, Joseph Wood Literature National Book Award Editor, The Nation Founder, The Literary Guild of America Honorary degrees (4) Lasch, Christopher History Watson Professor, University of Rochester MacBride, Sean Law, Politics Chair, UNESCO, Communications Problems Nobel Peace Prize Lenin Peace Prize American Medal of Justice McLuhan, Marshall Literature Albeti Schweitzer Professor of Humanities, Fordham University Chairman, Ford Foundation, Culture and Communications Governor General Award (Canada) Honora~ degrees (9) Mead, Margaret Anthropology Curator Emeritus, American Museum of Natural Histoty Numerous awards and prizes Honorary degrees (12) Potter, David History Coe Professor of American History, Stanford University President, American Historical Association President, Organization of American Historians Pulitzer Prize Silber, John Robert Philosophy Wilbur Lucas Cross Medal, Yale University Executive Board, National Humanities Institute President, Boston University / ,% of 1984. All have terminal academic degrees, and those still active continue to accumulate distinctions. Sources: American -L “-’ Men and Women of Science; Social and Behavioral Sciences; contemporary Authors; f)irectory of American !ikholars; ~ntem- tional Who’s Who; National cyclopedia of American Biography; Who’s Who in America. 20 / Journal of Marketing, April 1986 898 f
  4. 4. what Are They Saying About for our entire discipline to avoid addressing questions Advertising? merely because cettain constructs are difficult to mea- sure. Many of the most important aspects of life elude1[ is. difficult to summ~~ the Overal] critique of ad- simple measurement. Indeed, measurability y may be“efllslng s soaal role without occasionally simplify - highly correlated with triviality.~g ~ arguments of the original authors. Ftier, while Discussion of the broader social impact of adver-his summw mquhs a broad examination of pro- tising certainly continues with some vigor in allied~sd conwquences, it should be clear that every au- disciplines. In order to flesh out the arguments out-~or would not fully subscribe to each effect. Also, lined in Figure 2 and to more faithfully capture thetie ~lative importance of some issues may have tone of the original works, excerpts will be exten-~h~ged. l%ese CaVt3ats notwithstanding, the current sively used. The positions advocated by those cited~nbusineSS scholarly views about adveflising’s role do not necessarily represent the opinion of the author,in society are synthesized in Figure 2. It need not be other academics, or the marketing profession gener-~peated here, beyond a summary provided by ally. It is, however, the prevailing opinion in wider~co: circles having no vested interest in advertising. Rcg* u a fOqI of communication, it (advertis- The Subtleties of Seduction ing) has been cnucmed for playing on emotions, sim- plifying real human situations into stereotypes, ex- Advertising is seen as having profound consequences, ploiting anx]et]es, and employmg techniques of despite the fact that its intent is clearly the pedestrian intensive pcrs:@On that amount to manipulation. Mm.y socl~ cnttcs have stated that advertising is es- one of effecting sales, and despite the fact that many sentmlly concerned with exalting the materialistic of the forms of advertising are transparent in intent to virtues of consumption by exploiting achievement even quite unsophisticated subjects. The intent of ad- drives and emutative anxieties, employing tactics of hidden manipulation, playing on emotions, maximizi- vertising, especially in the aggregate, is to preoccupy ng app@ and rmnmizing mforrnation, trivializing, society with material concerns, seeing commercially eliminating objective considerations, contriving il - available goods or set-vices as the path to happiness togicai situations, and gencndly reducing men, women, and ctuldren to the role of irrational consumer. Cri- and the solution to virtually all problems and needs. ticism expressed in such a way may be overstated but In so doing, advertising makes consumption a top-of- it cannot be entirely brushed aside (MacBnde 1980, mind behavior. This state of mind seems natural or p. 1s4). rational because this persuasion also provides a world These allegations are not very different in char- view with a value scheme that rationalizes such be-acter from the listing of unintended consequences of havior and presents itself as commonplace. Commer-advertising in a major review of advertising’s effects cial persuasion appears to program not only our shop-on children (National Science Foundation 1978, pp. ping and product use behavior but a!so the larger145-146). This report listed, among others, the “pos- domain of our social roles, language, goals, values,sible outcomes” of encouragement of unsafe behav- and the sources, of meaning in our culture.ior, confused assessment of products, encouragement The potential for advenising to penetrate our con-of inappropriate standards for choice, promotion of sciousness and channel our very modes of thinking isparent-child conflict, modeling of hazardous behavior seen as highly likely, if not for individual ads, then(especially malnutrition and drug abuse), and rein- at least for advertising in the aggregate. Several rea-forcement of sex role stereotypes, cynicism, and sel- sons are offered to explain advertising’s effect: It isfishness. The only positive effect suggested was the (1) pervasive, appearing in many modes and media;development of consumer skills, but this tautologi- (2) repetitive, reinforcing the same or similar ideascally presumes the desirability of socializing citizens relentlessly; (3) professionally developed, with all ofas consumers. the attendant research sophistications to improve the The review of the evidence and arguments sub- probabilities of attention, comprehension, retention,mitted to the FT12 (Howard and Hubert 1973) say very artd/or behavioral impact; and (4) delivered to anlittle in response to these charges. Despite the volume dience that is inc “~m traditional ‘bof submissions reviewed, some 105 pages of anno- sources of cultural influence .l&@rnilies, churches,tated bibliography, the report looked only at influ- or schools.ences directly related to buying behavior. Submis- It is further argued that the more profound impactssions pertaining to broader social effects were of an intensely commercialized culture may be readilysystematically excluded, even though these effects were underestimated because, viewing the culture fromheld to be “of obvious importance. ” The criterion of within, we cannot see the forest for the trees. Asimportance, however, gave way to the criteria of man- McLuhan and Fiore (1%7) noted, “Environments areageability and measurability, a reflection of the pre- invisible. Their ground rules, pervasive structure, andvailing scientific bias. But clearly it is not acceptable overall patterns elude easy perception. ” In addition, 899
  5. 5. FIGURE 2 Reflections on “The DistoRed Mirror” t. BECAUSE ADVERTISING WORKS: IT (S A PRWESS OF: ~. To persuade and introduce A. Change for cognition, attitudes, behaviors, and values B. Within a cultural context B. Selective reinforcement of those styles, roles, and values —readily commercialized —easily linked to products —dramatically visualized —reliably responded to Il. BECAUSE ADVERTISING IS CNARACTERISTICAUY : ~ PRESUMED UNINTENDED EFFECTS ARE: REPRESEfWAITVE AUIHORSs A. Pervasive and persuasive A. 1 Profound A.1 Bell —in proliferated media —social, political, cultural Berman —penetrating everyday life —moral and spiritual Potter —relentless over time —not just personal, practical Toronto School of Theology —professionally executed A.2 Environmental A.2 Barnouw —hard to detect and measure Kuhns —impossible to avoid McLuhan i —affecting all (despite myth of personal immunity) I {I A.3 Intrusive and dominating A.3 Commanger —setting agenda and goals Hayakawa —specifying alternatives McLuhan —specifying criteria for choice —prompting passivity, “copy- Schiller I w ! B. Promoting of goods (objects) shock” B. Materialistic —belief that consumption is the B. Fromm Galbraith I route to happiness, meaning, and the solution to most personal problems Krutch Leiss Skolimowski I —reification; displacement of feeling from people to objects —displacing spiritual develop- I ment with secular hedonism I —distorted political priorities; private goods vs. public { goods; gross economic goals vs. justice, peace, etc. —ecological wastefulness and damage i i C. Advocative .l—incomplete information, C.1 Cynical C.1 Heilbroner half truths, or careful —distrust of authority Hen~ deceptions —anomie; disbelief of received Skornia cultural wisdom and norms .2—insistent, exhortative, C.2 Irrational C.2 Fromm emphatic —hypnoid, neurotic McLuhan compulsiveness to consume Schiller —indulgence vs. deferral of Skolimowski gratification —shoflsighted here and now attitudes, with reduced 1 perceived responsibility for consequences I D. Appealing to the individual D. Greedy and selfish D. Berman —loss of community ethic, Lasch.1 cooperation, charity, and Toronto School of Theolo9Y compassion 9(-)0
  6. 6. 1 ~BECAUSE Aovsm’tsma w ISTNXLLY : 1. Easily understandable, using: CnARACTER- .1 modal characterizations FIGURE 2 (continued) ~S PRESUMED UNINTENDED EFFSCTS E.1 Reinforcing social stereotypes ARE: REPRESENTATIVE AUTHORS’ E. Commanger —dehumanizing interpersonal Fromm relations Marines —encouraging simplistic social analyses —aggravating sexism, racism, ageism, etc. ,2 strong symbols, poetry E.2 Trivializing of language E.2 Boorstin —debasing currency of Hayakawa community and communion Heilbroner —degrading spiritual symbols, Nouwen e.g., secularizing of Christmas —thinning of experience F. Idealizing ‘“the good life” F. Perpetually dissatisfying F. Homey —economic treadmill, rat race Lasch —loss of self-esteem, self- Mead -respect Myers —inadequacy, marginality, powerlessness —frustration, displacement. and criminality ill. AND WMEN AOVERTIStNG EMPLOYS APPEALS TO: rr Auo PROMOTES: A. Mass markets A. Conformity A. Baran and Sweezy McLuhan B. Status B. Social competitiveness. envy, B. Barnouw false pride Krutch~ C. Fears c. Anxieties, insecurities C. Lasch MarinesI D. Newness D. Dkrespeet for experience, tradition, and history D. Leiss Reali E. Youthi, E. Reduced family authority, disrespect for age E. Fisher Marines1i F. Sexuality F. Sexual meoccuDations and F. Kuhns dissatisfaction, pornography Slateri l%is cksssification is suggestive only of those apparently influential and ignores many others. Most authors offer comprehensiveI commentary bayond indicated themes. While this identifies starting points, serious scholars should read broadly.i we like to think of ourselves as personally immune to advertising’s inducements. This is clearly a delusion respect requires a rejection of most commercials on the conscious level, atong with some ridicule. Be- for some or perhaps marsy or even most of the public. neath the ridicule the commercial does its work (Bar- nouw 1978, p. 83). This myth of personal immunity gets generalized into an attitude that advertising is of little impotl to arty- The myth of immunity from persuasion may do one, a view that seems rough] y consistent with the more to protect self-respect than accurately compre- obvious banalities of some advertising. Advertising hend the subtleties and implications of influence. operates successfully despite the cynics, virtually all . . . advertising begins to play a more subtle role in of whom feel sufficiently sophisticated so as to be im- changing habits than merely stimulating wants. . . . mune. Though at first the changes were primarily in msn- ners, dress, taste, and food habits, sooner or later l%e creators of advertising can claim that no one takes they began to affect more basic patterns: the structure it all very seriously; it is all more or less in fun. The of authority in the family, the role of children and *wCr CSIl SdOpl a SimilSr attitude. The viewer’s *if. young adults as independent consumem in the soci- 901 The Distorled Mirror/ 23
  7. 7. I cty, the pattern of morals, and the different meanings Advertising has influence in part because it nor- I! of achievement in the society (Bell 1976, p. 69). really addresses many of life’s common issues, while., I This cultural role of advertising may have pro- other institutions seem to fade in relevance. 1 I b found, pervasive dimensions, and while this might be The institutions of family, teligion, and education have ‘. overestimated, it is more commonly underestimated. grown noticeably weaker over each of the past three As Galbraith ( 1967) noted, it is hard for solemn social generations. The world itself seems to have grown ‘1 ~, scientists to take seriously anything so patently self- serving as commercials. But as Daniel Boorstin notes, more complex. In the absence of traditional author- ity, advertising has become a kind of social guide. It depicts us in all the myriad situations possible to a i! the attitude of critical but cal!ous disregard by some scholars limits their perception of the often very fun- damental impact of advertising in providing us with life of ftte choice. [t provides ideas about style, mo- ratity. behavior (Berman 1981, p. 13). [t reiterates the essential ~roblems of life—good and rl evil, life and death, happiness and misety, etc.—and the concepts and criteria with which we view our ex- simultaneously solves them. To the constant anxi-* perience. eties of life, advertising gives a simple answer. [n consuming certain products, one buys not only a Our frenetic earnestness to attack advertising, our few “thing - but also an image, an image which invokes of advertising, and our inability to tit advertising into the belief and the hope of having the good rather than old-time familiar cubbyholes of our experience-all the bad, happiness rather than misery, success rather these prevent us from seeing its all-encompassing than failure, life rather than death. And the more anx- significance as a touchstone of our changing concept ious, confused. uncertain. and bewildered modem of knowledge and of reality (Boorstin 1 %2, p. 211). society gets. the stronger will be the role played by advertising (Leymore 1975, p. x). Advertising utilizes both modes effectively—the in- formational and the mythic—as a socializing agent i Since its impact on culture may be penetrating, we I1 structuring assumptions, feelings, attitudes, and be- liefs in the intemat consciousness of contempo~ need to question the selective influence pattern of ads. individuals. . . . As a system, advertising cumula- tively conveys art integrated vatue stmctum deter- . . . I don’t think the advertisers have any rest idea mining individual and group living (Real 1977, of their power not only to reflect but to mold soci- p. 29). ety . . . . And if you reflect us incorrectly, as I be- [t is ironic that it is advertising’s very omrtipres- lieve you are doing, you are raising a generation of children with cockeyed values as to what men and 1 I women and life and family Katly are. You may be ence that contributes to its being ‘taken for gr&ed. training them as consumers, but you are certainly not j Like all environments, its impact may be profound— educating them as people (Marines 1964. p. 32). certainly beyond the obvious. To think that the effects of advertising, such a potent Consequences of Commercialism I environment in any industrialized country, could be Given the position that adve~ising, a propag~da for limited to economics, is as absurd as assuming that products, might have penetrating consequences, much the effects of a hot climate u n a culture could be of the discussion attempts to identify just what these I limited to tropicat diseases ( uhns 1970). r consequences might be. fkf~y authors, including the Giving symbolic significance to prosaic products UNESCO Commission concerned with advertising’s is what anthropologists describe as the magic of ritual. In this sense, ads are rituals, incantations to make in- impact in the Third World, readily admit that some of these consequences are potentially beneficial, such I ett objects meaningful, to convert products into “goods” and, occasionally, to convert the needs into “taboos, ” m facilitating marketplace efficiencies and helping media to be autonomous from politics, even if not au- i I elevating their social significance. tonomous from commerce. But when considering the - impact on the cultural character or the modal person . . . we see advertising actually creating and naming taboos. The most famous, B .0. and Halitosis, are ality, it is less clear to most obsewets that the effecu archaeological specimens t?om an age which we might of a highly commercialized cultute are beneficial. Them fix as either Late Iron Tonic or Early Soap. . . . Bad breath and body odor have always existed, of is no reason to presume a virtuous cultural impact, critics argue, because the institutions of advertising I course, but as individual matters. To transfer them I from personat idiosyncrasies into tribal taboos is a are inherently amoral, serving their Seif-interests md- magicianly trick indeed (Gossage 1%7, p. 366). with no ennobling social purpose. Just as it seems un it is ctear that we have a culturat ttem in which ~~ objects ate not enough but must ~ validated, if wise to assume that advertising h~ no ]ong-term ef fects whatsoever, the UNESCO report holds that it - 1 only in fantasy, by association with sociat and per- sonal meanings which in a different cultural pattern might be more, directly available, The short descri- would be urtwi~ to ~sume hat such eff~s are whollY beneficial (MacBride 1980, p. 154). i ption of the pattern we have is magic: a highly orga- nized and professional system of magical induc- Advertising undoubtedly has positive features. [t is ements and satisfactions, functionally very similar to used to promote desimblc social aims, like savings magicat systems in simpler societies, but rather and investment, family planning, purchases of fertil- strangely coexistent with a highly developed scien- izer to improve agricukurat output, etc. [t provides tific technology (Williams 1960, p. 27). the consumer with information about Possible @- 902
  8. 8. T .’ tcms of expenditure . . . and quips him (o make Stanford historian, highly influential in his discipline, choiccS: *15 coul~ not bC done, or would be done in expresstxl it as follows: . . .“. a much, MOrC IImlted W?Y. without advertising. Fi- nally. since the advefllslng ~ven.ue of a newspa r . . . though it wields an immense mid influence, or a broadcaster comes fym multlpie sources,“r. It OS comparable to the influence of religion and learning, I tmeynomlchealth~d Independence . enabling the it has no social goals and no social responsibility for enterpn~ to defy P~~SUR from any single economic what it does with its influence, so long as it refrains interest orfmm phtlcrd authorities (ibid, p.110). from palpable violations of truth and decency. h is this lack of institutional responsibility. this lack of At the Iemt, advefiising is seen as inducing us to inherent social purpose to balance social power, which, ~&p. working in order-to be able to keep spending, 1 would argue, is a basic cause for concern about the role of advertising (Potter 1954, p. 177). k~~plng us on a treadmdl, chasing new and improved ~ts wi~ no less vigor, even though our basic needs A simple materialistic orientation without com- I may be well met. This impact was manifest in an un- pensating values is seen as problematic, for a roman- ~sua] personal admission by a famous Yale psychol- tic attitude toward goods comes at some cost. As most ogist (Dollmd 1960+ p. 307) that “advertising makes thoroughly discussed by Leiss (1976), the transfer of me miserable” by an intensified pursuit of goals that feeling toward goods and away from people, the reifi- would not have been imagined save for advertising. cation of abstract meaning into objects, and the si- 1 nus, advefiising’s most fundamental impact may be that it induces people to keep productive in order to keep consuming, to work in order to buy. Advertising and its related asts thus help develop the kind of man the goals of the industrial system re- multaneous objectification of personal relations, are manifestations of this materialism. 1 should like to suggest that perhaps a transfer of at- titudes through the change of the semantic environ- ment has taken place. Previously. highly emotionalII quire-one that reliably spends his income and works expressions were applied to human beings. Nowa- reliably because he is always in need of more. . . . days, they are constantly and massively applied by in the absence of the massive and artful persuasion the admen to objects. . . . It is quite natura] that that accompanies the management of demand, in- when we become more and more emotionally in- creasing abundance might well have reduced the in- volved with objects, we tend to be less and less in- terest of peo Ie in acquiring more goods. . . . Being volved with people. . . . lrr love, in friendship, andI not pressedEy the need for these things, they would in the multitude of other human relations, detach- ment, lack of interest, and coldness seem to prevail.;.. . have spent less reliably of their income and worked less reliably to get more. The consequence-a lower Human beings are treated like objects (Skolimowski and less reliable ropensity to consume—would have 1977, p. 97). been awkward f the industrial system (Galbraith or 1%7, p. 219). The objectification of self has been explicitly de-i scribed in personality theoty as a “marketing orie- This maintenance of our propensity to consume is ntation,” where a person is mannered for mercenaryI accomplished, in part, by channeling our psycholog- ical needs and ambitions into consumption behaviors by romanticizing goods. But this romantic attitude to- motivations and has a detached view of self as a com- modity. in thk orientation, man ex nenees himself as a titng ward objects is seen as having serious side effects for (o be employed successfur on the market. He does ly our personalities; a social effect of displacing affect not experience himself as an active agent, as the bearer from people to objects and an alienating effect where of human powers. He is alienated from these powers. the self is perceived not as a child of God or as an His aim is to sell himself successfully on the mar- ket. . . . His body, his mind, and his soul are his element in community, but as an exchange commod- capi[al. and his task in life is to invest it favor-ably, ity. Whatever advertising’s economic contributions, to make a profit of himself. Human qualities like these do not invalidate concern for its influence on our friendliness, courtesy, kindness. are transformed into commodities. into assets of the “personality pack- personalities and values. age,” conducive to a higher price on the personality y market (Fromm 1955, pp. 140, 142). For material things cannot in themselves achieve anything. They count only where there is a will 10 use the m. and whether they count for weal or woe Intrusion and krationahy depends upon the way that they are used. What is, Advertising is designed to be intrusive. Indeed, intru- in the end, of decisive importance are the intangible factors that we call character . . . the ideals hat ~ siveness is one of the concepts currently in vogue in held u to children and the pattern of conduct that is pte-testing the effectiveness of television cmnrnercia.ls. fixed r them, the morat standards thai are accepted or This successful commanding of attention makes the and the moral values that are cherished (Commanger 1947. p. vii). attempt to concentrate on the remaining content of media “like trying to do your algebra homework in There is a reluctance to simply presume innocence Times Square on New Year’s Eve” (Hayakawa 1964, of influence on our character. This is rooted in a view p. 265). Such intrusion, first into our consciousness of advertising as inherently amoral, acting only for its and then into our inner voices, distracts us from the own ends and without more ennobling ~oals~ A late serenity of solitude and thereby inhibhs self-aware- 903 The Distorted Mirror / 25
  9. 9. . .. ness. Freoccupled with commercial blandishments, in one’s whole course of life. All these methods are what passes for common culture in our affluent so- essentially irrational; they have nothing to do with the qualities of the merchandise, and they smother ciety are sets of jingles, slogans, and selling phrases and kill the criticat capacities of the customer like an which are perhaps more uniformly known than any opiate or outright hy nosis. They give him a certain other creed, ideology, or set of myths. satisfaction by their Iaydrcarning qualities just as the movies do, but at the same time they increase hls The repetitive, fantastic, one-sided, and often ex- feeling of smallness and powcrtessness (Fromm 1976, hortative rhetorical styles of advertising combine, it is p. 1 lo). felt, to blur the distinction between reality and fan- tasy, producing hypnoid states of uncritical con- Mirroring and Modeling sciousness wherein the subject is reduced to passivity Advertising models a pattern of behavior that is held and a relative sense of powerlessness. Being inun- out to be “the good life, ” with the props, of course, dated with propaganda for products, only “an excep- for sale, and this is shown to be the ideal for all to tional degree of awareness and an especial heroism of strive toward. Indeed, the lifestyles displayed are ideal effort” can free the individual from becoming the “su- from a consumption peqxctive, and they probably pine consumer of processed goods” (McLuhan 1951, provide a fair portrayal of a materialist’s hedonic con- p. 211). In this view, such autonomous awareness is ception of utopia or heaven. Such conceptions may unlikely, not only because of the monopolizing pres- be increasingly common and unquestioned. As Potter ence of commercial coercions but because their chara- (1954) notes, the stimulation and rehearsal of materi- cter is “anti-rational” or precipitates irrationalities. alistic drives and emulative anxieties inevitably in- Titus, intellectual submission seems almost inescap able, given the omnipresence of advertising and the volve processes of validation, sanctioning, and stan- success with which its ideas, phrases, and melodies dardization of the drives as accepted criteria of social value. are implanted in our minds. - But the behaviors displayed often appear less than And so wc are &tied chances to discover the value ideal judged fivm other perspectives. To most ob- of silence and nothingness, an environment condu- servers, the image presented in the cultural mirror of cive to contem Iation. Advertising has taken quiet..-. away from us, Ras made the choice impossible. tlu advertising is not unambiguuly worth imitating. Even minds become jammed with bk and pieces of jin- if it were, imitation requires some effort, perhaps gles, buzz words, products, act images, brand names, frustrating, and the prior acceptance of an unworthi- and slogans so there is no room for rnedkation and Iittte r o o m f o r Self-confrontion (SCM 1977, ness of one’s own life experiences. p. 90). StriCtly considered, however, modern advertising seeks to promote not so much self-indulgence as selfdoubt. The one-sided rhetorical styles of advertisintz seem It seeks to create needs, not to fulfill them; to gen- . to inMbit rationality and con&on sense, as d&s the erate new anxiet~s instead of atlaying old ones. By i’ repetitive nature of claims and encouragements. f~~nding the consumer with images of the good I The nature of any communication in which the actuat information conveyed is 16s significant than the the propaganda of commodities simulta- rteo’w.ly &Ices him acutely unhappy with his lot. B fostering gmndiose aspirations, it also fosters sel / denigration and self-contempt (Lasch 1978, p. 180). - manner of its presentation is, to say the least, illog- icat. The itlogicai man is what advertising is after. It addmwes itself to the spiritual desolation of mod- k( This is why advertising is so anti-rationat; tltk is why em life and proposes consumption ss the CW. [t not it aims at uprooting not only the rationality of man only pforrtiscs to palliate all the old unhappiness to but his common sense (Skolimowski 1977, p. 95). which ftesh is hcii, it creates or exacerbates new forms We have become so groggy, so passive. so helpless of Imha@ness-personst insecurity, status anxiety, amidst the entttess bamage of appeals that “we go anxiety rn parents.. . . Advertising institutionalizes about our business,” as we say. But the business of envy and its attendant anxieties (ibid, p.73). the advertiser is to see that we go about our business with some magic spell or tune or slogan throbbing Whether or not people are very successful in pW quietty in the background of our minds. . . . Today suing the ideals offered, they may more easily suffer our whole society is reeling from copy-writer’s shock self-denigration and doubt. By constntly showing us as much as any soldier ever felt battte-shock (Mc- Luhan 1953, p. 557). that the grass seeMs greener el~where, we’re led to - A vast sector of modem advertising . . . does not look askance at our immediate environment and ex appeal to reason but to emotion; like any other kind perience. We may not be sure where the action is, but of hypnoid suggestion, it ties to impress its objects we suspect it’s almost always somewhere else. emotionally and then make them submit intellec- This fear that advertising instills a sense of inad- tually. This type of advertising imprtsscs the cus- tomer by all sorts of means: by repetition, . . . by equacy has been particularly expressed with respect _J the influence of an autiori~tive imagq . . . by at. to women’s self-concepts. &acting the customer and at the same time weakening his critical abilities by the sex appeal of a pretty gM; Advertisers in general bear a large part of the t’c- . . . by terrorizing him with (a) threat; . . . or yet s~nsibitity for the deep feelings of inadquacy that again by stimulating daydreams about a sudden change dfivc wonten to psychiatrists, pi]ls, or the bode. YOU 904
  10. 10. -——- ,.. k~p telling us over and over that if we could use [These would be] insatiably desiring, infinitely plas- ~at or have this or look hke that, we would he for- tic, totatiy passive, and always a little bit sleepy; un- ever desl~ble, fo~ver happy. So we spend our time predictably labile and disloyal (to products); basically worrying over the gmy s~+ or the extra pound or wooly-minded (Henry 1%3, p. 79). @ dry sknr instead of our mmds, our hearts, and our fellow men (Marines 1964, p. 31). A.meriC~ society, as popular advertisements p. trayed It, was a nightmare of fear and jealousy, gos- sip and slander. envy and ambition, greed and lust. Women ~ not tie only segment that feels stress . ~e typicat American. as they pictured him, when conf~nte$.by advertising imagery. The elderly, iiied m a torment of anxiety and cupidity and reg- we other ~non~es not gl~oriti in advertising, have ulated his conduct entirely by ulterior considerations. . To the advertisers nothing was sacred and noth- ~! f-concepts threatened by the gospel of advertising. ~n~ private; they levied impartially upon filial de- votion, marriage, tdigion, health, and cleanliness. The exploitation of age, fear. and social acceptance love, as they SR so closely interwoven that it is difficult to sepa- &tit;ve. . . . Frien~h~& ,was for sake... ‘t’ ‘u P~ly corn. rate them for the PWPCXS of examination. But ex- (Commanger 1950, pp. 416-417). ploited they ye, ruthlessly and continually wearing away at tlus Image we have of ourselves. Our soci- ety’s vsdtses are being corrupted by advertising’s in- Social Change and Social Problems sistence. on the equation: Youth quats FOpularit y, The education to abundance by advertising has al- Popularity quals success, success quats happiness (Fisher 1%8, p. 117). ready, it is claimed, induced cultural change. We are all potential victims of the invidious com- Commercials have worked-with success—toward revision of many traditional tenets of our society. As parisons of mality to tie world seen in advertising. we have seen, reverence for nature has been replaced @ce convinced that the grass is greener elsewhere, by a determination to recess it. Thrift has been re- placed by the duty to E The work ethic has been uy. one’s own life p~es in comptison and seems a life replaced by the cmwmption ethic. . . . Modesty has half-lived. been exorcised with help from the sexuat sell. Re- straint of ego has lost starsding (Barnouw 1978, p. So people do worry, feel inferior, inadequate, uilt 98). ~ey sense that they live without living, that h“f runs e “ through their hands like sand (Fromm 1955, p. 166). Ironically, commercials often romanticize the life Advertising, using “ideal types,” can lead the re- being lost, just as museums encapsulate ways of iife ceiver to tx dissatisfied with the reatities of his no longer possible. everyday world—his wife, his friends, his job, even his life itself. Fantasies are a loaded gun. They may Tltis back~nd texture is often compxed of tta- sweeten life and advance culture; they may also de- ditionat images of well-being drawn from social sit- stroy life in a reckless pursuit of impossible accom- uations which have largety disappeared from every- plishments (Toronto School of Theology 1972, p. 22). day life: a slower pace of life. quiet and serenity, open space, and closeness to the naturat environment Simplistic, symbolic stereotypes, chosen for their (images of ruml life); contributing to the happiness clarity and conciseness, serve as poor models and in- of loved ones (images of family life); attainment of hibit sympathetic understanding of individual differ- goals set in accordance with personal rather than in- stitutional demands (images of success in noninsti- ences. This position has been articulated in detail re- ttstionat settings); a sense of familiarity and security garding the portrayal of women, but the problem is in purchasing goods (images of craft skills); a con- universal, as ads can reinforce stereotypes for not just cern for quatity and good judgment (images of dis- cerning tastes) (Leiss 1976, p. 89). the sexes, but also for races, ages, occupations, fam- ily relations, etc. To the extent that these images are In most western cultures, families are nearly sa- disrespectful or unworthy of emulation, they are so- cred and seen as the basic social unit. Yet, family cially divisive. composition and character are changing for many so- . cial reasons. Nowhere may interpersonal relations be Advertisers should be made much more sensitive to the fall-out fi-om their ads (using strong stereotypes). more affected by advertising than in the home, as the Such advertising is disseminating offensive and roles of both women and children as consumers get ~le~erious images which cannot be laughed off as expanded and redefined. mere harmless buffoonery (ibid, p. 17). The q dvertising indusay thus encourages the pseudo- Few would argue that advertising faithfully mir- emancipation of women, flattering them with its in- rors reality. What are the supposed consequences of sinuating reminder, ‘You’ve come a tong way, baby,” confronting the imagery in the mirror of advertising? and disguising the freedom to consume as genuine autonomy. Similarly it flatters and glorifies youth in What strains are felt facing the distortions inherent in the hope of elevating Young people to the status of selective feedback? While some wony about mass full-fledged consumers m their OW right (bsch 1978,J persuasion creating conformity, more worty more about the nature of norms that we may be conforming to. p. 74). If advertising has invaded the jud ment of children, it has atso forced its way into thefamily, an insolent One fear is that the advertising system will create the usurper of parentat fimction, degrading parents to mere kind of consumer citizen it seems to assume or prefer.I intermediaries between their children and the market.
  11. 11. This indeed is a social revolution in our time! (Henry quency and reverence of attention that makes ‘self- 1%3, p. 76). love a consecrated ritual.” This would have been un- Relations with neighbors, the proverbial Joneses heard of only a few years ago. So too with the TV selling of women’s sanitary products. Standards of we strive to keep up with, are increasingly based on envy, emulation, artd competition (Krutch 1959, p. public decency have changed much in the twentieth century, and advertising has been one of the elements 34). But social competition can turn asocial and pre- cipitate violence and theft. contributing to changed norms. It is also argued that our capacities for political Two processes could be involved in this type of re- responsiveness to social problems like these may be sponse. Fret, the inaccessibility of the products being reduced by virtue of living in a commercial culture, offered may create in some viewers feelings of frus- as consumers grow indifferent to either communica- tration sufficient to make them engage in antisocial acts. Second, the arousat process associated wirh the tions generally or the plight of others in their com- ad itself may have behaviorat consequences about munities. which very Iittte is known. Much advertising is de- signed to gain attention and build positive attitudes Exhortations to buy assail everyone from every pos- to brands essentially by a tension-arousat and ten- sible dkction. Subways, highways, the airwaves, the sion-reduction process. . . . If, for a number of ma- mail, and the sky itself (sky-writing) are vehicles for sons, frtmation is an outcome of such a process, it advenisin$’s unrelenting offensives. The total indii- is possible . . . that aggressive acts of one kind or ferencc wnh which advertising treats any politicat or another may follow (Myers 1978. p. 176). social event, insisting on intruding no matter what else is being presented. reduces all social phenomena Other social problems that have been linked to ad- to bizarre and meaningless happenings. . . . the te- sult is individual passivity, a state of inertia that pre- vertising are those of ecology and pornography. Since cludes action (Schilkr 1973, p. 2S). there is rarely consumption without waste and unin- tended by-products, promotion of consumption also Encouraged in our inclination to self-centered- promotes pollution. ness, our personal political prioriti~ seem to reflect private economic goa!s with diminished counterbal- The squandering of resources only begins the prob- ancing social consciences. Our collective political lem. lle consumption binge which television has done so much to push has been fouling air, water, roads, priorities shift to economic goals more exclusively,—, . streets, fields, and forests-a trend we failed or de- despite our lip se~ice that doing so is simplistic. We } clined to recognize until almost irreversible. It haa tolerate higher and higher levels of Unemployment and given us garbage statistics as staggering as our con- sumption statistics, and closely related to them (Bar- welfare needs as long as sales and profits are main- nouw 1978, p. 156). tained by aggregate consumer demand. We maximize GNP, with little concern for economic justice. Advertising, for almost as long as it has existed, has used some sort of sexual sell, sometimes promising Evcty featute and facet of every product having been studied for sell~g points, these are (hen described seductive capacities, sometimes more simply attract- with talent, gravity, and an aspect of profound con- ing our attention with sexual stimuli, even if irrelevant cern as the source of health, happiness, social to the product or the selling point. This provocation, achievement, or improved community *g. Even while Iess graphic than more extreme pornography, is minor qualities of unimportant comrnodkies arc en- iarged upon with solemnity which would not be un- far more public in exposure. The difficulty seems to becoming in an announcement of the combined rc- be that these sexual stimuli are frequent, vety hard to tum of CMst and all the apostles. . . . The avoid, and employed for a broad range of products. consequence is that while goods IXCOITW ever more abundant, they do not seem to be any leSS important. This makes them inevitably offensive to some and p On the contraty, it requires an act of will to unagittc tentially jading. To all, advertising is more of a tease that anything else is so impottant. Morally, we agree than a whore, for sexual stimulation is moderated and that the supply of gooda is not a measure of hu= achievemen~ in fact, we take for granted that it will channeled. As SIater (1970) discusses, a modest be so regarded (Gatbraith 1%7, p. 219). arousal commands our attention and can be harnessed for instrumental purposes, while too strong an arousal Of course, if propaganda for products is a concern might not. For at least some of the public, however, to the cultures within which it has gmdua.lly evolvedsn sexual ads represent a challenge to standards of de- it is even more threatening as a cultural interventio cency and am in a real sense pornographic. Not every- in economically less developed societies. one enjoys confronting near nudes on their streets’ Advertising is seen by many as a threat to the ctdtd billboards or seeing things that flaunt conventional identi~ and self-teatization of many developing propriety on their living room TV. Certainly conven- countrtfi it brings to many people alien ctMcd v~- tions of intimacy are frequently violated. Bamouw ues; it may deviate consumer demands in developing countries to ateas which CSII inhibit &veloptWnt (1978, p. 98) notes as art example that we now see priorities; it affects and can often deform ways of life women caressing their bodies in showers with a fre- and lifestyles (MacBri& 1980, p. 11 1). 28/ Journal of Marketing, April 1986 906
  12. 12. .T i &ibilitY, Cynicism, and Community ask their children to tell the truth must explain that of course a certain cereal will not transform them into ~guage is of vital cultural significance. The ability grea[ athletes. as the highly paid announcer says, nor ,0 ~st in the validity of what-is comprehended Ver. will the drug mentioned really cure hemorrhoids, or ~lly is a cornerstone of one’s mode of acting in the cancer, or afthritis. The announcer is really lying. . . . Somehow the parent must ex lain that truth is world—the ability to accumulate knowledge, build to be expected of the child indivi uatly, but that a $ 1 ~mmurtity, and establish a relationship with God. huge industry can be based on falsitJ, exaggeration, and distortion (Skornia 1%5, p. 15 ). ~~ are possible only with faith in words. Words ~ be poetry for everyone; the richness of language Reisman, Glazier, and Denny ( 1950, p. 294) once ~, with inspiration, express our passions, politics, asked: “Isn’t it possible that advertising as a whole is ~~se, and prayers. a fantastic fraud, presenting an image of America taken our language is potentially affected by advertising seriously by no one?” It may be possible, despite in- in NO ways. Adveflising provides us with vocabu- dustry attempts to attain credibility, but even frauds MY a ‘t of ‘C’rds ~d tie concePts theY exP~ss with have serious consequences. The consequence of ex- which we stmcture our perceptions and judgments, treme cynicism, the rejection or doubt of all offered ~fining in large measure how “reality” is conceived. values, is the norrrdessness known as anomie. This AH language d~s his. what advertising does is give faithless position trusts no one and no word. Without SOrne W~ ~ COnCC@ greater emphasis. But it also a teliance on words and a faith in truth, we lack the @ects k c~ibility of language, and so simulta- mottar for social cohesion. Without trustworthy com- Pusly cheapens its own currency. munication, there is no communion, no community, only an aggregation of increasingly isolated individ- Poetic language is used so constantly and relentlessly uals, alone in the mass. for the -s of salesmanship that it has become atnpst Impossible to say anytlung with enthusiasm There was a time not too long ago without radios and or JOY or conwctron without running ioto the danger of sounding as if you were selling something. . . . televisions, . . . signs, bumper stickers., and the ever- present announcements indicating price increases or To repeat, advertising is a symbol-manipulating w- special sates. There was a time without the adver- ctqxmon. The symbols of fashion and ele ante are tisements which now cover whole cities with words. used to glamorize clothing arid cosmetics. L . . . The result is that the main function of the word. botsofyoutMld gaiety seusoftdrinks arKicandysG: communication, is no longer realized. The word no Thesymbots ofadventure and sportsmanship amused longer communicates, no longer fosters communion, to promote cigarettes and liquor. . . . Advertising is no ton er creates cornmutity, and therefore no longer a tremendous creator and devourer of symbols. Even gives f“ The word no longer offers trustworthy lfe. the symbols of patriotism are usul for the purposes ground on which people can meet each @her and build of salesmanship. . . . Not even the symbols of re- society (Nouwen 1980, p. 22). ligion are off timits-Christmas and Easter are so strenuo@y exploited commercially that they almost Ironically, the anomie isolation of the individual lose tkr rchglous significance (Hayakawa 1964, pp. creates some needs that well-advefiised goods might 268-269. meet. Identification with society, or at least the ap Now we pay intellectual talent a high price to amplify arnb@sih. distort thought. and bury reality. All propriation of lifestyle roles therein, is easily affected. languages are deductive systems with a vast truth- It requires only the wit to buy recognized brands with telling ptential imbedded in vocabulay. syntax. and symbolic value. Today, such brands, badges provi- _rogY. yet no language is so perfect that men ding identity, are proudly displayed on shoes and shirts, may not use it for the opposite purpose. One of the A discoveries of the twentieth centuw is the enormous on pants and hats—from tip to toe, from fronts to variety of ways of compelling Iang”&ge to lie (HenryK backs. 1%3. p. 91). To use a brand of car, drink, smoke, or food that is . Because virtually all citizens seem to recognize this natiorsatly advertised gives a man the feeling that he tendency of ad language to distort, advertising seems belongs to something bigger than himself. He is part to turn us into a community of cynics, and we doubt of a prwess or a culture that contains and nourishes//, him. And [he irrational basis of the ap als made to advertisers, the media, and authority in all its forms. him by the ads reinforces his sense o mystic com- r“ Thus, we may also distrust other received wisdoms munion (McLuhan 1953, p. 555). fkom political authorities, community elders, religious I leaders, and teachers of all kinds. As Heilbroner ( 1976, Rites, Religion, and Morality p. 113) wondered: “How strong, deep, or sustaining The criticism of advertising on moral grounds, seeing can be the values generated by a civilization that gen- it often as a social force opposed to the values of re- erates a ceaseless flow of half-truths and careful de- ligion, is not new. Indeed, such observations were ceptions?” probably more frequent and came from more varied J In fact. pd-iaps one of the most powerful effects of sources at the turn of the century. The emergence of Q television has been to teach a nationat tolerance of the more secular, urban, and mediated society stood falsehood, exaggeration, and distortion. Parents who in some contrast to the preceding gilded age. Here, 907

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