Advertising and Society
Notes from Advertising and Society, a MOOC on Coursera.
What is advertising and where did it come from
Definition of Advertising
“Any device which first arrests the attention of the passer-by and then induces him to accept a mutually advantageous exchange”
– James Laver (art historian)
- Proposed in late 18th century
- Very broad. Could include naturally occuring phenomena such as flowers attracting insects.
- There were advertisements in Ancient Rome
- Key features
“The official art of capitalist society”
– Raymond Williams (social theorist)
- Coined in the 20th Century
- Sponsored Art (Capitalism sponsors it)
- Locating advertising in a socio-historico-cultural context.
- Earlier socio-cultural systems had different ‘sponsors’ – wealthy patrons, kings etc.
- In recent times, ‘sponsors’ could be the state etc.
- Key features
- Links to social context of advertising
- Focuses on advertising‘s modernity
- Views advertising as sponsored art
- Understands Advertising as supportive of the social/political/economic system
“Salesmanship in print”
– John F. Kennedy
- Coined in early 20th century.
- Would need to be changed to account for the emergence of new media
History of Advertising in America
- England - 1600s (Advertisements for coffee)
- America - late 1700s
- Benjamin Franklin
- Text advertisements in newspaper
- Reflects the history of society of that time: little manufacturing in America, slaves etc.
- America - Mid to Late 1800s
- Manufacturing in America picks up
- James Gordon Bennett (Herald Newspaper)
- Advertising limited to one run, one day and no illustrations
- Emergence of a poster culture. Walls plastered with ads w/ some illustrations. Still not very popular though
- Salesmanship emerged
- The birth of the modern American Advertising agency. They assisted in physically carrying the ad to the newspapers, and also writing the ads.
- JWT (J. Walter Thompson) and NW Ayer.
- Radio became an advertising medium in the late 1920s after it was invented for the War
- Advertising and World War II
- Promoted war effort
- Promises in the future because wartime was a time of scarcity
- Television became a commerical medium post WWII
- Television commercial was born
- What’s next
- Internet has revolutionised advertising
- Advertising has evolved
- Social media etc.
- Things common in all advertising
- Literacy Requirements
- Different forms
- Salesmanship in print
- Television (Radio w/ pics)
Am I Being Manipulated by Advertising
- The Trouble with Advertising by John o Toole
- No such thing as subliminal advertising
- 1957 : First subliminal experiment
- Movie: Picnic
- Apparently “Hungry? Eat Popcorn” words were superimposed in one scene
- The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard
- Advertising just ignored the outrage that followed, and also poked fun at it and parodied it.
- 1970s: Subliminal Seduction by Key
- Gilbey’s Advertising (The word ”Sex” is embedded in the ice cubes)
- 1990s: Absolut Vodka’s play on Gilbey’s ad by embedding “Absolut Vodka” in the ice cubes
- Why does the public want to believe in subliminal advertising?
- Probably because the consumers want to believe it. It provides an attractive and convenient explanation for our sometimes irrational behaviors.
Public Perception of the Advertising Profession
- Gallup Poll: only 14% of Americans believe that advertisers act in an honest and ethical manner.
- Mr. Blanding Builds His Dream House (1948), Hucksters (1947): Movies that reflect/reinforce popular perception of advertisers - a view that is not particularly positive.
- John Galbraith - Advertising creates unncesserary needs and wants
- Rober Heilbroner - Advertising is ”subversive” ttoward the public interest because of “its relentless effort to persuade people to change their life-ways.”
- Sut Jhally: called advertising “the most powerful and sustained system of propaganda in human history…”
- Daniel Boorstin: “We read advertisements to discover and enlarge our desires. We are always ready–even eager–to discover, from the announcement of a new product what we have all along wanted without really knowing it.”
- Jef Richards: “Advertising is the art and sole of Capitalism. It captures a moment of time through the lens of commerce, reflecting and affecting our lives, making us laugh and cry, while simultaneoulsy giving traction to the engine that propels this market economy.”
- Earlier there were no regulations on advertising, so after a while people became suspicious of advertising.
- Perception from Hollywood: Advertising is easy. - Nothing in Common 1986
- Perception from Hollywood: Advertising is glamorous. Stylish clothes, Big mansions, spectacular events.
- Perception from Hollywood: Advertising is dishonest. Crazy People (1990) shows an advertises going to a mental asylum and finds that crazy people come up with the best ads. Fighting Temptations also creates an impression of advertisers being dishonest.
- Other countries may not have the same view of advertising.
Ethics and Advertising
- What is deceptive advertising?
- Is it deceptive to say KFC tastes great w/o also saying that too much of it will make you fat, raise your cholesterol or increase your sodium intake above a healthy level?
- Mockups, Demos and Simulations in Advertising
- Ice cream ads. Real ice cream not used because it will melt in the studio
- Campbell Soup ad: The actual soup did not look like the photo. Misleading
- Full Disclosure. How much information do consumers need to be given?
- Some products (like prescription drugs) need fuller disclosures.
- False Advertising
- Misleading Advertising
- “4 out of 5 Pediatricians recommend Gerber”
- Harmful products
- Advertisements for Children
What’s in an ad beyond that which meets the eye?
How Ads Mean What They Do to Us?
Semiotics and Advertising
- Decoding Advertisements by Judith Williams
- Semiotics = the study of systems of signs
- Sign = signifier + signified
- Coined by Ferdinand de Saussure
- His lectures compiled in Cours de linguistique générale
- Superman ad: Ad for Milk = Superman + Milk
- Ads use signifiers to transfer attributes to commodities
- Further theoritical points
- Ads are ideological
- Ads borrow referent systems from outside advertising and rework them
- Acc. to Williamson, the ideological power of ads can be dealt with by understanding how ads work
- Virginia Slims 1970s ad targeted against woman - playing with themes of history and evolution. Ideological trickery.
Interpreting TV Commercials
- Meaning in advertisements and interpreting them
- Peter Pan Peanut Butter commercial. What does it really mean
- Who is the author of the meaning of the ad? Creator or Interpreter?
- It is very possibly that the reader interpretaions are markedly different from the creator of the ad.
- 1984 Apple ad
- Ridley Scott did the ad, so some scenes are reminiscent of Blade Runner
- IBM Ad
- Wheel Motif
- Charlie Chaplin character, The Little Tramp
- Red rose alongside the PC all the time
- Ad reflects the Chapling movie Modern Times, which was a satire on dehumanising, industrial labour. But the ad appropriates the film and spins the message entirely by portraying workers as happy. Here is a case of ideological transformation.
Thinking about interpretation
- When you are reading a poem, what matters most? What the poem itself says? Or do you want to know more about the author and the circumstances of who he was and where and why the poem was written?
Interpreting works of art
- Image from the Lascaux Cave
- Artist nor the Society is around
- Varied interpretations: Hunting magic, Shaman’s vision etc.
- When looking at an ad, it is difficult to get access to the person/people who made the ad, so when interpreting it we are in some ways on our own.
- Las Meninas by Diego Valazquez
- Washington crossing the Delaware at the time of the American Revolution
- When we look at snapshots, it does not tell us the whole story. What we are doing is collaborating and supplying our own meaning and narratives.
- Jean-Léon Gérôme’s painting from the middle east depicting a snake charmer. Used on the cover of the book Orientalism by Edward Said.
- Virgin surrounded by a child. Exposed breast of the madonna and exposed genitals of the child.
- One interpretation of the painting is that the exposed body parts emphasise the humanity of the divine characters.
- American painting from 1642-43
- Jackson Pollock’s painting (Modern Art)
- Modern Art Perplexing and Delightful at the same time, depending on the viewer.
- Pollock was trying to capture something abstract – motion
- Aboriginal Australian Art - Time Leura’s painting, Emu Dreaming from 1975.
- Whole lot of arrows (which are actually emu footprints and they move in the opposite directions)
- Circles represent waterholes
How do ads get made?
How do ads get made
Classical functions of an advertising agency
- Account Management
- Make the ads
- Writers, Graphic Designer, Artists etc
- Applied Research
- Guide production before the ad is made
- Assist creatives during production
- Place ads in print, tv and internet/social media
- Client hires agency
- They agree on a strategy
- Creative Brief
- What the product is about
- Brand issues
- Target audience
- Creative works from the Brief to create ads
Post-War American Advertising
- Romantic lifestyles
- Idealized cultures
- “Perfect” families
- Harmonious society
- Led by Bill Bernbach
- Doyle Dane Bernbach
- Truth telling
- Hard hitting
Also in the 1960s
- David Ogilvy from Ogilvy and Mather
- Long copy ads
- Ogilvy’s 11 Commandments laid out the creative process of advertising.
Creativity Case Study
- Old Spice Ad
- P&G bought the brand from Shilton in the 1990s
- It hired Wieden and Kennedy (based in Portland, Oregon) in 2006
- Creative Brief
- Focus on masculine scent
- Involve couples (because women often purchase men’s toiletries)
- Interesting followups. Live Twitter audience while Isaiah Mustafa was in the studio.
The Role of Research in Advertising
Laying the groundwork
- Graphs and charts including sales trends etc
- Focus group interviews
- Pie charts and other info
- Demographic and Psychographic factors involved
- Educational level
- Motivated by ideals
- Well educated
- Work in professional occupations
- Content with careers, families, station in life
- Informed about world and national events
- Concerned about functionality, value, durability of products.
Example Ad: Ford Escape Hybrid
- Value family, religion, community and nation
- Brand loyal
- Prefer American made products
- Respond to links of brands to fundamental American values
Example Ad: Chevolet Silverado Ad (This is our country)
- Motivated by desire to achieve
- Work = sense of duty, material rewards & prestige
- Value predictablity
- Buy reliable, durable, stylish products
- Like brands that reflect their achievements
Example Ad: Mercedes Benz ad (the race that really matters…)
- Also seek to achieve
- But place heavy emphasis on opinion and approval of others
- Often lack self-confidence
- Look to brands to help them fit into society
- Buy expensive items if they can afford, but often settle for lower budget alternatives
- Frequently save for expensive items
Example Ad: Jeep Compass (It’s freedom in a whole new dimension)
- Seek variety and experience in their lives
- Favor off beat and risky
- Avid consumers
- Buy items on basis of whims, appearance and trendiness
Example Ad: Nissan 4x4s (Naturally Capable)
- Enjoy DIY projects
- Self-sufficient and practical
- Demand safe and reliable products
- Always looking for good quality at low projects
- Men in the category = cars, household projects
- Women in the category = sewing, cooking, household projects
- Highly successful people
- In control of their lives
- Have abundant resources
- Spend lots of money
- Buy expensive items that reflect their personal styles
- People on low budgets
- Must shop for the least expensive products and brands
- Survivors are typically ignored by advertisers.
- Planning = representing the perspective of the consumer in the advertising process
- Members of the creative team who know the consumer and speak on their behalf
Research after ad is made
- Do consumers remember the ad?
- Are they persuaded?
What do ads teach us about race, class, gender and sexuality?
Gender Representation in Ads
Definition of terms
- Gender: Socially defined differences (masculine/feminine)
- Sex: Biologically based differences (male/female)
- Sexism: Unequal treatment of males and females
- Gender representations
- How is masculinity and femininity depicted?j
- Masculine attributes: Powerful, strong, dominant, controlled, emotions etc.
- Feminine attributes: Beautiful, weak, submissive, emotional etc.
- Sexist representations
- Are males and females being treated unequally
- Men are always in charge
- Women are usually show in roles as mother and housewife
- Men are depicted as active and intelligent while women are shown as passive and weak
- Using sexual imagery to sell
- How is sexuality linked to brand identities
“And I want you to think about the question of whether it is not the case that advertising is laying out a program for us of what our lives ought to be like in an idealized sense of telling us really how we should live our lives, what our aspirations should be, and how we should comport ourselves to fit the models of gender and the good life, according to the world of advertising.”
Depictions of Gender in Mad Men
Does Sex Sell
Does Sex Sell
- Advertising is very much about sex
- Sexual imagery permeates modern advertising
- But does it sell?
- What kind of sex does advertising sell?
- Normally it is heteronormativity
- Earliest instances: Advertising Trade Cards for selling tobacco
- Actual beginning: later in the 20th century: Woodbury’s Facial Soap (considered too risque for its time although it is very normal for our time)
- Woodbury went on to use a lot of sexual imagery in their ads
- Advertising did not only reflect the sexual mores, but also challenged and set new standards of sexual license and erotic propriety
- Erotic imagery is a mainstay of modern advertising
But Does Sex Sell?
- The Erotic History of Advertising by Tom Relchert
- Examines the evidence. Lot
- He concludes that it frequently, but not always increased consumer interest
- Some brands like Calvin Klein and Victoria’s Secrets have succeeded in linking erotic appeal to commercial success.
What kind of sex does the ad actual sell
- Normally it is heteronormativity, with the male in the dominant position, and the female in the passive position.
- Frequently, focuses more on foreplay than actual sex
- Sometimes there are non-traditional alternatives like multiple women, female dominant
- Seldom see one woman with multiple males, or gay people
- Abercrombie and Fitch use very suggestive ads that push the limits
- Use of sexual imagery as metaphor As a literary genre, pornography is writing that has sexual arousement as its primary objective.
- When is an add pornographic? Edmund Miller defines it: “Erotica, by contrast, is such material with an artistic pretension. Thus, the descriptive term pornography implies a statement about intentionality and instrumentality. Without reference to merit, whereas the term erotica is evaluative and laudatory.”
- Jean Kilbourne’s criticism
Niche Marketing: Gay Consumers
- Advertising has pushed the limits and managed to represent all kinds sexuality.
- Niche Market: ”A special market segment with its own characterisitc profile that is large enough in size and affluent enough to warrant special consideration” - Gays, African Americans, Latinos
- According to research, gay people tend to be affluent, better educated, hold professional positions and are in two-income and no-dependent situations (People have challenged this assumption)
- It is unclear how many gay people are out there
- Katherine Sender has done research on Gays and Advertising
- Only since 1990s
- Some negative stereotypes as well: Heiniken ad ”Male bonding incident”
- Gay Vague Advertising: advertising could be read either way
- Lesbians in Advertising: very rare. Advertising tends to assume that advertising for gay men stands in for all LGBT advertising
- AdRespect collects ads targeted at LGBT communities
What’s the Future of Advertising
- Nobody is really clear about this
- Advertisements are ephemeral by nature
- Duke University has an archive of American advertising agencies. Smithsonian Institution as well.
Recent Innovations in Advertising
- All Bran cereal in the toilet (”See you same time tomorrow”)
- It is possible to put an advertisement on a postage stamp (zazzle.com)
- Ads on the floor of the supermarkets, grocery carts.
- Underground systems, top of train cars (Hair loss ad)
- Overhead bins of RyanAir
- Future seems to be the colonization of more and more such spaces.
- Example: A woman who sold space on her forehead and tattooed an ad. Google glass.
Exploration of Current Trends
- The End of Advertising As We Know It by Sergio Zyman
- The book predicted that advertising won’t be around for much long in it’s traditional form. In its place there will be Total Marketing Communications
- TMC is about building a relationship with the consumer
- Apple Store example
- Dove Soap (Real Beauty campaign). Not a hard sell, but more of an invitation
- Trendspotting: video at jwtintelligence.com
- Crowdsourcing: moves the production process to the consumer
- Native Advertising: advertising material is ‘naitive’ to the medium. e.g. Netflix ad for Orange is the New Black on an NYT article
- Two major candidates in the 20th century for inventions that brought about major transformations in human societies:
- Information Technology