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Sociology 2179A/B Midterm: Readings for Midterm.docx

Course Code
SOC 2179A/B
Gale Cassidy
Study Guide

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Introduction: Social Communication in Advertising (p. 1-16)
-advertising is a major sector in the global economy – part of the broader system of production,
distribution and consumption in the global marketplace
-in 2003, global advertising was a $471 billion business (over half in US)
Agencies employ 165k employees in US and 20k in London
-James Twitchell (1996) compared advertising to a religion for its honest celebration of
consumer goods as the key to contemporary American life-ways
-a century ago, forms of privileged discourse were mainly church, politics, family elders
THINGS  communications among ppl which ppl send signals to others about their attitudes,
expectations, values, intentions, aesthetic expression are strongly associated w/ patterns of
ownership, preference, display and use of things
-material cultures – web of social relations that give “objects” meaning and importance to
people in the modern world
-advertising became a “privileged” form of social communication  we accord what it says a
special prominence in our lives
-market’s social communication about consumption is privileged in 2 ways:
1) in our market-industrial societies, economic affairs and marketplace transactions occupy a
predominant place in public life
2) at the individual level the discourse through and about objects sidles up to us everywhere,
teasing/instructing our daily interactions in most settings
-goods become “doubly articulated”
In terms of meanings and uses imputed to them and by the promotional discourses of
corporations that advertised them in the marketplace
Advertising as persuasion in the marketplace
-Vance Packard (liberal)– The Hidden Persuaders – talked about how advertising manipulates
and influences people in everyday life.
Motivational research  use of focus groups to see consumer behaviour
wanted to show how this manipulation took place at a subconscious level
did NOT criticize all advertising, just the underhanded/covert kind
his main theme concerned devious advertising
-Wilson Bryan Key –reinforced Packard’s ideas by the technique of subliminal perception in
wasn’t concerned with motivational research/ non-rational techniques of persuasion but
looked at if subliminal messages could be perceived at a conscious level and how they
influence behaviour
found ‘sex’ in the Ritz cracker and in alcohol ads
*neither Packard or Key was able to prove that advertising’s “manipulative behaviour”
persuaded consumers to do something they normally wouldn’t do
-Martin Bell Marketing: Concepts and Strategy – said advertising in the 20s/30s DID try to
increase consumer demands “anything could be sold with enough expense and effort”
-criticism of this approach increased in the 1930s  marketing industry framed a new approach
based on 2 key strategies: THE MARKETING CONCEPT
1) intensive market research
2) effective design of new products

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-the marketing concept looks at the needs and wants of consumers and plans
products/programs based off those needs/wants
Marketing concept involves integration of the 4 P’s:
product – making products that meet consumer needs
price – appropriate pricing
promotion – through ads, store displays, selling strategy
place – placing products in appropriate retail outlets (distribution)
-most efficient way for the market to function is the consumers direction the producers, not the
How a consumer acts according to the rational approach (Bell)
-the satisfaction of a want has 4 stages:
1) recognition of a want
2) search for means to satisfy the want
3) evaluation of competing alternatives
4) a decision
-George Stigler – “the economics of information” (1961) – justified advertising as an
important source of consumer information
in this sense info designed to persuade consumers is a legit, welcome aspect of market
competition by most consumers
-advertisers were offended by the accusations of manipulation b/c they felt it was just
persuasion  advertisers cannot lie but they do not have to tell the whole truth and nothing but
the truth (Achenbaum)
-Royal Commission in Canada said that persuasion is an inherent part of the democratic
-Rotzoll: “under assumption that man is rational, it is quite appropriate to attempt to persuade”
-Theodore Levitt agreed with this view  persuasion is okay as long as audiences are not
subject to outright deceit
-Schudson Advertising the Uneasy Persuasion – all culture goods have been part of our most
intimate moments and social rituals
-if advertising is criticized, it should be at specific acts of omission or distortion
-impulse and routine are most typical of consumer’s “low-involvement” purchases
-Driver and Foxall – advertising is of itself incapable of building preference or conviction
-Andrew Wernick – navigating ones way within market society requires constant attention to
the modes of consumer behaviour as the arena wherein pleasure and the good life can be found
-98% of goods fail showing that marketers feel they must communicate with consumers
through advertising and the general ability of consumers to filter advertisers’ persuasive
Goods beyond the rhetoric
-continued debate lends support to common perception that advertising has some influence on
serious issues in modern lives
-advertising works broadly to enhance cumulative brand values associated with products,
cumulative and broad impact of messages where their influence is to be left
-ways in which messages are presented in ads reach deeply into most serious concerns
-high portion of people enjoy ads as an art form and think its playing general positive role in

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survey: respondents asked whether public school system or advertising had a greater
influence on society: 54% said school, 42% said ads
high proportion said that good products don’t need to be advertised at all  ads make
products more expensive, do not influence consumer choice
The social communication approach to the study of advertising
-advertising must be recognized as special business institution because it lies at edge of
economy and culture
key site of negotiation b/w economic and cultural spheres
-advertising impact on our social attitudes can only be appreciated when analyzed in
institutional context as part of our mediated promotional culture
-advertising in history and cultural aspect
history: Robert Atwan (1979) “ads tell us in miniature a great deal about entire
civilization, its actual material life and interlocking collective fantasies”
-if some of the businesspeople in the 1920s has their way, there would be no commercials on
radio or TV
-least important aspect of advertising’s significance is how it influences specific consumer
-some influence on people’s decision on acquiring goods makes sense
-20th century witnessed a dramatic rise in the real income and purchasing power of the average
person in Western societies
From product description to social communication
-over the past century, advertisers constructed a vast, diverse and continually changing library
of messages
-studies of the industry emphasize ads that please the cultural elite but also ones that show the
need to speak to people on the street
-importance of ads: it is the privileged discourse for circulation of messages and social cues
about interplay b/w person and objects
-privileged b/c the state of our economy is the predominant concern in public affairs, messages
about goods surround us through interactions with communication media and because our
interpretation of social world is formulated with backdrop of these messages
-late 19th century – producers began to allocate portion of income to advertising
-5 main perspectives to understand the role of advertising in discourse through and about
1) broad economic changes of the transition from craft modes of production to a
predominantly industrial mode of production
2) socio-cultural perspectives in seeking to understand how these economic changes
influenced how people related to goods ; pay attention to how cultural forms that give
meaning to world undergo a drastic repositioning
3) economic and socio-cultural changes were mediated by emergence and development
of commercial mass media and advertising agencies; cultural forms that give meaning
to world undergo drastic repositioning
4) analyze ads from all periods of 20th century to see how economic, socio-cultural and
institutional contexts influence their form and content; advertising text reflects
negotiation of meaning
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