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Sociology 2172A/B
Jim Karagiannis

Advertising and CultureImage Based Culture In 1938 NW Ayers was hired to change public attitudes towards diamonds In 1947 an Ayers copywriter came up with the slogan Diamonds are forever This is a dramatic example of the institutional structure of the consumer society orients the culture and its attidudes values and rituals more and more towards world commodities The marketplace and its major ideological tool advertising is the major structuring institution of contemporary society In the agriculture society before industrialization institutions such as family community ethnicity and religion were dominant institutional mediators and creators of cultural form At first information was about products alone using things like newspaper As colour pictures emerged magazine became a competitor for advertising dollars and the discourse moved away from solely textbased Integration of radio and TV ensured commercial communication would be characterized by the domination of imagistic modes of representation 1920s were the period of time when the advertising industry was faced with the need to sell nonessential goods using the potentialities offered by printing and colour picturesThe initial period of advertising 18801920 focussed more on reason why adsThe 1920s saw the integration of people into advertising and these people stand for values like family status differentiation and hierarchical authority In the 1920s ads were instructive because the audience was not literate in visual imagery So they couldnt decode the more complex messages There was copy describing what the images were showing during this period Contemporary society is filled with advertising Media is packed with advertising images public space is taken up by information about products and sporting events and cultural events are accompanied by the name of a corporate sponsorAdvertising and the Good Life discourse through and about objects tells us how things are connected to important domains of our lives Ads tell us how we can become happy Quality of life surveys consistently find the following make them happy Personal autonomy and control of ones lifeSelfesteemHappy family life and loving relationsTension free and relaxed leisure timeGood friendships Happiness is not linked to commodities but rather to social life Advertising promotes images of what is conceived as the good life They do this by tying in the product to the social aspects of happiness For example beer can be connected with anything from eroticism to male fraternity The marketplace cant directly offer the real thing but can offer visions of it Advertising works by drawing upon and rechanneling concerns that the target audience and the culture already shares It doesnt mirror how people are acting but how theyre dreaming Advertising absorbs and fuses symbolic practises and discourses and it appropriates and distils from an unbounded range of cultural references In doing so goods are knitted into the fabric of social life and cultural significance Since real sources of satisfaction cannot be provided by buying things it should not be surprising that happiness and contentment appear illusory in contemporary society The problem with institutional structure of a market society is that it propels definition of satisfaction through the commodityimage system The consumption of commodities mediated by the image system of advertising leads to consumer uncertainty and confusion Imagesystem of the marketplace reflects our desiresdreams yet we only have the pleasure of the images to sustain us in our actual experience with the goods The commodityimage system provides us with a unique vision of the world a particular mode of selfvalidation that is integrally connected with what one has rather than what one is There is a difference between having and being but now being is defined through the former The commodity as displayed in advertising plays a mixture of psychological social and physical roles in its relations with peopleThe advertising imagesystem propels us towards things as means of satisfaction We can regard advertising as a propaganda system for commodities In the imagesystem as a whole happiness is found at the end of a purchase Economic growth is an unquestioned and sacred proposition of political culture Environmental costs of uncontrollable economic growth are becoming more obvious and we need to debate the nature of future growth However as long as the commodity imagesystem is around we cant open this debate Unsustainable growth is becoming a bigger problem as more and more countries reach for the marketplace to provide happiness Transnational corporations are provided with the opportunity to go into Third World countries and supply their productsThe spread of imagebased influence Commodity imagesystem is primarily about satisfaction The commodity imagesystem has impacted gender identity Commercials use images of men and women to get attention and persuade However they use images drawn from only a narrow and concentrated pool Ads draw heavily upon HOW we think men and women behave but NOT on how they ACTUALLY behave Images having to do with gender strike at the core of individual identity our understanding of ourselves as either male or female is central to who we are In advertising gender especially for women is defined almost exclusively along the lines of sexuality Imagesystem distorts our perceptions and offers little that balances out sexuality Sexuality provides a resource that can be used to get attention and communicate instantly Sexuality is a powerful component of gender that once again lends itself even easier to imagistic representation Having so much sexuality in all our ads results in an increasingly eroticized worldwe live in a world culture that is more and more defined erotically through commodities The image system has also spread to Electoral Politics The social commentary on politics from this perspective has mostly concerned the manner in which the focus has shifted from discussion of real issues to a focus on symbolism and emotionally based imagery It is possible that George Bush won the 1988 Presidential election by running better ad and public relations campaigns Politics are largely conducted on a symbolic realm and that a notion of politics that is based upon people having a coherent and deep vision of their relationship to their social world is no longer relevant Politics is now more about feeling good or bad about a candidate after watching a 30 second campaign ad Majority of committed voters are held at ransom by swing voters and undecided Political culture has become increasingly superficial and doesnt correspond to what we think of politics
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