Sunday, April 10, 2011

New Post: Advertising


(The following was written in the autumn of 1983 by a college junior.)

Advertising in its many forms affects our society, lifestyles, buying and employment habits, even our personalities. Some believe it doesn’t affect them. This is delusional.

“A peculiarity of the North American mass communications system is that advertising pays most of the bills. On the plus side is the fact that the North American people get an incredible variety of information, entertainment, and culture at minimal cost…a disadvantage is that nearly all of North America’s mass communications is heavily over-laden with commercial or persuasive messages.”

—‘Introduction to Mass Communications,’ Jay Black and Frederick C. Whitney.

Advertising exploits our emotions and beliefs to sell a product. Sex is evident in a large percentage of ad material, whether it be magazines, billboards or television.

By causing us to identify something good, (not necessarily sex,) with a product, they alter our attitudes toward a product, idea, person or action.

Attracting attention, emphasizing a need, awakening a want, or simply announcing a new product or service, outlining the advantages of a brand, educating the consumer, all are the job of advertising.

“The real catastrophe is the prospect of the total moronization, dehumanization, and manipulation of man,” according to noted philosopher Herbert Marcuse.

“Advertising is a necessary adjunct to mass production and is, in fact, mass sales: it is an automated sales force…” (Whitney and Black.)

Editor’s Note: There are about ten or twelve pages here, but we’ll cut to the chase.

'…the potential exists for an individualized information and entertainment system of great complexity, and even greater usefulness. Let the imagination wander on the possibilities. There you are, sitting in the New Guinea jungle. You’re hungry, and you need to know if a certain plant is edible. Speaking into a wrist-watch telephone, you are instantly connected to a computer in the world net. Overhead satellites relay your question to an appropriate channel and your question is answered within seconds. All of this is recorded and your account is charged accordingly…your computer now comes on the ‘line’ and reminds you of a doctor’s appointment. All of this is a drop in the bucket compared to the possibilities.'

(End of excerpt.)

The student got an ‘A’ on that assignment, and the only thing he really missed was putting a camera into the wrist-phone. The teacher missed that one too. Not mentioned is how it was all supposed to be paid for, but the natural assumption would be advertising, sales and service subscriptions, or license fees, or direct taxation by a state monopoly.

Nothing in life is free, and advertising is all-pervasive in modern society. It is used as much to sell a point of view or a way of thinking, as it is to sell a product.

The global structure of the thing is implied in the story. Today, we see a little clearer picture of the costs and benefits of such an infrastructure. And much of the world today is still governed by state-controlled monopolies of mass communications or their subsidiaries.

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