Summary of "Advertising and the End of the World"
"Advertising and the End of the World" -- a
Pilgrim's summary of
the video asserting
fueled in part by
advertising must be
changed to avert
The video features
Professor Sut Jhally,
of the Media
author of four books
(including "Codes of
narrator in "Dreamworlds 3."
Note: The studies Jhally uses (in the summary below and video) calculating when depletion of
resources might occur have seen some criticism -- and, some critics say, disproven because of
restrictive estimates on energy and population, etc. Students are urged to consider that even
though the earth's resources might last longer than 70 years, this discrepancy should not be
enough reason enough to dismiss Jhally's message and stance.
These are the points and arguments made by Jhally:
ADVERTISING AS CULTURE
The video asserts that in the world of advertising, normality is taken from us.
If anthropologists from Mars looked at us, they'd conclude this society was dominated by a belief
Scholar Raymond Williams has called advertising a "magic system" where material things have
immense power of transformation.
Advertising has goods promse a myth. They can bring instant gratification. They can promise a
world of desire.
The alien anthropoligists would point to the similarities between the consumer culture we live in
and older cultures.
Economists would see the differences between our consumer culture and what came before our
of goods produced. Economists would note the immense accumulation of commodoties. societies in th number Summary of "Advertising and the End of the World"
No other society in history can match the output of our capitalistic society -- it is a revolutionary
society in that sense. Once prodced, this vast number of goods must be Distributed and then
The problem of capitalism is not one of production -- but instead is one of consumption.
It invented the institution of advertising in the last part of the 1900s to solve this problem.
There has never been a PROPAGANDA EFFORT to match the effort of advertising in
the 20th Century. Much thought, effort, creativity, time and detail has gone into the
selling of the immense accumulatin of commodoties than into any other campaign in
history to CHANGE PUBLIC CONSCIOUSNESS.
Over $175 billion [$250 billion by 2004; $287.5 billion by 2008] is spend every year on
advertising in the U.S. so it must be an important part of social life.
Advertising has literally colonized the culture because it takes up more and more space. In the
1980s, studies showed the average person was exposed to 1,500 commercial impressions each
day. By the late 1990s the average was 3,600 per day.
American media systems are dominated by advertising. Broadcast revenues come 100% from
ads; magazine revenues come about 50% from ads; newspaper revenues come about 80%
from ads. Movies are more and more dependent upon ad revenues coming from ads placed in
them (product placement), with examples like James Bond's car in Golden Eye and Tomorrow
Never Dies. The media are vehicles mainly for selling products and services. Professional
sports are integrated into the marketing effort. Ads colonize the space on scoreboards and
places like behind home plate in baseball. Schools are selling ads on buses and in hallways.
The internet is now fully integrated into this effort. In the modern world,, everything is
sponsored by someone (the Mariner stadium is named for Safeco Insurance Company; the
Sonics facility, Key Arena).
There was even an idea to commercialize the sky with an orbiting billboard.
Culture has now become an adjuct to the cycle of production, distribution and
consumption. Its job is to sell us things (for example, diamond ads being pushed by the
monopoly supplier DeBeers, which wants to make diamonds a CULTURAL
IMPERATIVE for many periods in people's lives).
In a sense, commercial culture is now INSIDE OUR INTIMATE RELATIONSHIPS --
inside our homes and heads and identities.
Now the problem for advertising is to cut through the AD CLUTTER -- how to make an ad
stand out from the other 3,599 we will see in a day. The job of the individual ad gets more
difficult so more thought goes into the ad than into the programming. Now an ad costs into
the millions of dollars.
Ads are made like big Hollywood blockbusters. IF ADS WERE STRUNG TOGETHER FOR
1.5 HOURS (THE LENGTH OF A MOVIE), THEY WOULD COST MORE THAN THE
BIGGEST HOLLYWOOD FILM. Production cost per 30 seconds for Jurrasic Park was
$236,000. For a TV commercial the same length, the cost runs $264,000.
1) Advertising is everwhere (ubiquity)
2) Huge amonts of money and creativity are expended on these ads
Jhally asserts that we must come to terms with the role and power of commercial images. Summary of "Advertising and the End of the World"
Too long have we asked the wrong questions concerning whether ads have an impact on our
The Wrong Question:
"Does an individual ad campaign for a product increase sales?"
The Right Question: "What impact does advertising have on our culture?"
Culture is the place and space where a society tells stories about itself, where values are
articulated and experienced, where notions of good and evil, of morality and value are
In American culutre, the story of advertising dominates the field.
So, we should ask this:
"What are the consistent stories told by the whole range of advertising -- and which values
does advertising stress?"
Jhally says we need to treat advertising as a cultural system -- that imparts how we make
sense of the worNot to be influenced by advertising is to live outside our culutre and NO
ONE CAN LIVE OUTSIDE HIS/HER CULTURE -- we are all influenced to some degree.
How can we make sense of the vast field of advertising messages?
A way to get answers is to pose another series of questions:
1) How do ads tell us to achieve happiness?
2) How does advertising define what society is?
3) How does advertising perceive the future?
1. How do we become happy?
Ad systems tell us the way to happiness is through the consumption of commodities (they are
sold through a story of goods bringing happiness to people). This story is the major
motivating force for social change on a global scale as we head to the 21st Century.
In advertising, political freedom is offered by an immense accumulation of commodities.
These are powerful stories that equate happiness and freedom with consumption.
ADVERTISING IS THE PRIMARY PROPAGANDA OF THIS VIEW TO CREATE
The question seldom asked: Does happiness come from material things? The answer is no.
Happiness surveys beginning in 1945 tracked