What is the cultural significance of advertising

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The two texts given by Dallas Smythe and Raymond Williams both are about advertising. My task is to do a comparative analysis of popular culture focusing on advertising. I will explain the focus point of the texts and support my analysis by using quotes from the texts.

According to Smythe, ‘the audience commodity is a non-durable producer goods brought and consumed in the marketing of the advertiser’s product’. (Smythe: 1981: 223). He believes that we are taught to buy goods because of advertising and spent our money. We buy things even if we don’t need it, usually brands especially amongst teenagers. In the essay ‘On the audience commodity and its work’, the term ‘monopoly-capitalist advertisers’ is used a lot, meaning, money making advertisers.

The text refers to our society always making money by advertising after when people buy goods. Although there are costs, it pays off after.

We have ‘observed old and new models of different labels and have discussed the ‘goods and bad’ features of products we buy or what we may potentially buy. So therefore we have helped with advertising, by using the word-of-mouth strategy. For example, fashionable things like mobile phones, we’ve looked at our friends new mobiles and observed the technology and quality, which have in my case influenced another to buy the same phone.

However, mobiles are a good example in terms of advertising, the Sony Eriksson k700i, has radio, nevertheless, the new Sony Ericsson, has everything the k700i has but has a walkman. The public buys the new phone just because of the extra technology. In addition to this there are better modules on offer as different companies compete and ‘there is an ever increasing number of decision forced on audience members’ (T.N.Levitt:1976:73). This is the source of brainwashing in advertising as products sell because we work with the advertisement.

According to Professor T.N. Levitt (1976:73) of Harvard Business School ‘Customers do not buy things’ and that we ‘buy tools to solve problems’. But the question is does buying product really help us solve our problems? The text looks at whether this is true or not, I agree that the products we buy saves time like a loaf of bread, unlike in the 1850s to 1940s where most households made their own bread, a lot of time was spent doing this. Today we have the choice to make them or buy from supermarkets. Again further questions rises, particularly, whether we are really given a choice?

Without the label, brand name, the look ‘and symbolic decoration on the product’, we are probable to be ‘hopeless’ (Smythe: 1981:223) on what to buy. So how do we know what is best to buy? For so many years, consumers have change their product labels for so called ‘better’ quality products, reason that consumers are brainwashed by adverts to believe that another product will be a better quality, by quantity and competing prices. A classic example of products which can ‘change our lives’, is the National Lottery. We are brainwashed to believe that by doing the lottery, our lives will be changed, and therefore we are a part of a ‘giant con game’, where are forced to take a chance. Some adverts may suggest or promise certain things for example the Lynx adverts, where focuses on the hypothetical Lynx effect is. Again the public are indoctrinated.

Advertising has always changed since it birth in the mid 1600s, where medical items and medicines were being promoted a lot more than now. However, products like toothpaste have always been advertised in the same way. For example, they have always been described as making your teeth ‘white an ivory’. But if this is true, why do they still publicise these product in the same way. Also, we always told that the actors in the adverts using it ‘are never troubled with toothache’ (Raymond Williams, Advertising: The Magic System, 1993:322). Although the advertising industry grew, the ‘ordinary household goods’ were not advertised as most other products like the ones from high street stores, as they were available from the local convenient shops.

Adverts are now ‘negligently perused’ meaning they are now carelessly looked at and it doesn’t take much to persuade consumers to buy goods as they have been brainwashed for so long about certain products. For instance, with mobile phones when a mobile phone model companies bring out new phones, you know that it going to be better than the one they brought out before. It is almost predictable, especially with entertainment, from the change from turntable records to now iPods, and VCRs to DVDs.

However, there has been a change is what is advertised, especially in newspapers, such as ‘a list of whores’ (Williams: 1993:324). This shows that advertising had changed because of the change in society and norms and values. Advertising forms part of an evolutionary pattern in society and was shaped by society according to what the public are likely to want.

The main purpose of advertising is competition since companies always have to compete with other companies to win over customers and gain higher status and popularity. Advertising will always be a part competition as it is an ‘open, fair, and legitimate’ (Williams: 1993:324).

In the text for Advertising: The Magic System, it states that from 1935, statistically only 0.5% of advertising expenditure as an amount of sales was flour. This was basically because of the fact that everyone needed it as it was a part of everyday life so there was no need for advertising of flour and similar products. Today, we can get just buy them from supermarkets and local shops.

Advertising and publicity was developed to increase sales to different types of potential buyers. There is a similar rule to advertising on TV, which is basically, ‘the arranged incident’ where the product is needed, the use of showing the supposed quality of the brand, and a good ‘selling line’, on posters this is known as a tagline. For example, for the National Lottery the tagline is ‘Think Lucky’, which is put ubiquitously where the Lottery sign is.

The text titled ‘On the Audience Commodity and its work’, tries to explain how we are brainwashed by the media and that we are given free time, but really we aren’t. By looking at the statistical data of how much time we spend average on work, personal activities like personal care, visiting relatives and friends. Hypothetically, women than men are more likely to have more free time, more than ever those who are housewives the text looks at how old equipment have replaced by new technology. For example, the uses of broomsticks were replaced by the needs of vacuum cleaners and the text looks at whether this supports the idea of ‘free time’.

The Advertising: The Magic System, text looks at how advertising changed throughout the years according to the change in society and the ideology of society. It focuses on how the rapid change in the advertising business influenced what the public consumed. The statistics on page 332 makes the text more substantial and a lot easier to understand. It shows the popularity of types of products which needs promoting, like proprietary medicine (29.4%), toilet goods (21.3%), cereals, jams, and biscuits (5.9%) and other everyday goods we need/buy. So in a nut shell, the text considers the use of advertising and focusing on the history and the different conventions, the development, the transformation, the power and the system as a whole. It explains how all of it collectively brought together to make ‘a magic system’ in William’s point of view.

Both text looks at the effect of advertising, however, the Audience and Commodity text, is a lot more convincing as it was a lot more interesting to read. They both contain some form of numerical data, to make the text more precise and detailed. The term ‘monopoly-capitalist advertise’, is used in both text, this goes to show that both authors believes that money is gained through adverts and that advertising main purpose is to make money as well as indoctrinating people.

However, Raymond William’s Advertising: The Magic System text, focuses more on the evolution of the advertising business and how the demand for promoting certain types of products had changed. Nevertheless, Dallas Smyth’s On the Audience Commodity and its work concentrates on how we as a community form part of the ‘giant con game’, and how are blind to see the hidden concepts of an item for consumption.

Like the Dallas Smythe text, Williams’s text mentions that promises given by advertisements by stating that advertisement helps to ‘…gain attention by magnificence of promises and by eloquence…’ (Williams: 1993: 333) This then links to the notion of the Lynx adverts and the National Lottery being part of a ‘giant con game’.

Both texts explain the uses and the reasons for advertising in our society, and why it is significant. However, the Dallas Smythe text focuses a lot more on the effects of advertising rather the development through the history.

I personally find the Dallas Smythe manuscript a lot more convincing as I do believe that we have been brainwashed for so long that we are blind to see the hidden part of advertising. In addition, as the text suggests, we work with advertising by discussing certain products.

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