THE CODES OFADVERTISING – READING SUMMARIES
- Four major epochs in advertising form and content explored throughout the text.
- Analysis of cultural role that good play as satisfiers and communicators.
- Advertising is a conversion and interaction of:
- Material social relationship of advanced capitalism
- Symbolic dimensions of needing and culture and economic dynamic of capital accumulation are
- Exploration of person-object relationship.
INTRODUCTION: FUNDAMENTALSAND STARTING POINTS
People and Things
- Advertising structures mass-media content, plays key role in the construction of gender identity.
- Advertising is part of a specific concern with the marketing of goods. It is a discourse through and about
objects – more specifically, the relationship between people and object.
- All societies are based on the use of nature by humans.
- “Objectification” – objectify ourselves to a material world. Making things from what surrounds us integral
part of our lives.
Distinctive human experience – mediation of human need through objects.
- Things need people, but humans need things.
- Because of this, advertising deals with one of the fundamental aspects of human behaviour.
Use, symbol and power
Tool used by producers to control and manipulate consumers to want things they don’t need?
Creation of the demand is necessary because of mass-production via capitalism. To avoid
depression in economy, manufacturers have to ensure consumption of what is produced.
- Advertising creates false needs in people to satisfy the needs of manufacturers.
- Ewen: to create more want for product, stress moved to relationship between people and products –
integration of the consumer, making consuming a social status/symbolic meaning.
- We are not sensibly materialist – the product by itself is not enough – rather, there is a cultural pattern
where we must also validate these objects by associating social and personal meaning to them.
- Two points (valid and problematic):
Modern capitalism associates meaning to consumption of goods.
Without advertising + ‘sensibly materialistic’ society, goods would only be seen for their
- “Commodity vision” – capitalist commodity not yet separated from problem of objects.
- It is important to note the context not only of power in the person-object relationship, but also the culture
and history behind it. Williams has forgotten to take this into consideration.
- L’art pour l’art – advertising using this as a defense in context of symbolism.
- Symbolism keeps the audience interested. (Levitt) Goods and social communication
- Traditional economic thought:
Envy (competitive display)
- Goods are needed for visible categorization in culture.
- Rituals serve to contain the drift of meaning
They are more effective when tied to material things (rather than verbal form).
- Markers of social categories. This is framed by social power:
- Subsistence vs. Prestige economy:
Subsistence: food, clothing, shelter – easy to obtain
Prestige: socially scarce goods, less available.
With ritual, turns material values into abstract values of prestige, reputation, and status.
- Contextualization of goods in a symbolic/material field
Stabilize existing organisation of social power.
Control of social knowledge
Symbolic processes are always played out in contexts of power.
The capitalist market and goods
- Goods are
Communicators (about social ideas and power)
Satisfiers (of human needs)
- Sahlins – totemism & Levi-Strauss
Universal cultural tendency to divide nature into different groups of species – correlate them with
differentiations in society.
Modern society substitute objects for species.
• Exchange and consumption = means of communicating totemic order.
Nature has been domesticated; society has not been liberated from natural-material basis.
- Advertising gives goods their symbolic aspect.
It makes goods ‘communicators’.
- Commodity-form no longer dominant, sign-form is more prevalent.
“Systematic manipulation of signs” within broader behavioural code.
Objects are less associated with their practical use, more with the material correlate
- Consumption is capitalism’s method of control (over demand and socialization) via the code.
Achieved via control of symbolic code
Commodities can be given any meaning.
• Market is the center of new code monopoly.
The paradox of affluence commodities and satisfaction
- Consumption is a social activity (Veblen)
“Conspicuous consumption” – to describe ceremonial nature.
Based and judged by society
Relative, not an absolute. • Thus, relative satisfaction.
• Satisfaction is an average standard.
o Numbers above and below stay consta