Tuesday, 24 January 2012


'Advertising doesn't sell things; all advertising does is change the way people think or feel' (Jeremy Bullmore).  Evaluate this statement with reference to selected critical theories (past and present).

In this modern day consumer culture that we live in, advertising has become a significantly growing influence over the public, arguably being the most dominant medium of the 21st century.  Bullmore's statement suggests he feels this constant, over whelming influx of advertising influences today’s society into changing the way people feel about themselves and their lifestyles.  It creates desires that audiences don't particularly need but are pressured into thinking they do because of the persuasive nature of the advert. This leads me to conclude that the audience is buying into the idealistic prospect of the product as opposed to its practicality.   It is difficult, however, to apply this notion to the statement as its somewhat contradictory, regardless as to whether it changes the way people think or feel, the product still sells.

Advertisers never claim that one needs the product to have the lifestyle conveyed in the advert but subtly manipulates the target group in to believing it is needed to gain that lifestyle.  A key element of an adverts appeal is to play on what is considered to be the 'perfect' way of life, stereotyping who people want to be.  A prime example of this is the use of celebrities.  Instantly recognisable famous people who are currently regularly appearing in the media, having said that, the person endorsing the product doesn't necessarily have to be universally recognised, only amongst the target group.  An advertiser would be selective about the person chosen to endorse the product depending on the aspirations of the audience that they feel the product is aimed at.  An example of an advert using the concept of consumer ideology is 'Chanel No.5' featuring actress Audrey Tatou.  Tatou is seen, in the public eye, as someone who radiates class, and as expected the stylistic nature of the advert reflects this.   The advert explores the theme of passionate lust which is encapsulated by the silent intensity between the man and the woman, a lust that one would expect to see in a film that is viewed by the target audience for this product.  This makes it appeal to its audience on two levels, one paints a picture of the way of life that someone may long for, yet the only thing accessible from it is the product, giving them a fragment of that lifestyle for them to then build upon.  The second plays on an individuals sense of vanity, the viewer will project an image of themselves as the female figure in the advertisement, who is seen by society as desirable, and in order to achieve this heighten premise of desirability, can gain it through the acquisition of this product.  John Berger (1972) writes in 'Ways of Seeing' 'one could put it this way: the publicity image steals her love of herself as she is, and offers it back to her for the price of the product.'

An advert will use the same method of manipulation with two contrasting advertisements that could be aimed at completely separate audiences, however they both use the medium of sexual desire in order to entice their consumer.  For example an advert that is targeted at a teenage male wouldn't display the passionate lust that is depicted in a fragrance advert but more of a derogatory leering of the females around him.  In the 'Lynx Shower Gel advert: Do the Wash' it shows a young man on a beach using the product and the sheer scent triggers multiple attractive females to lustfully surround him.  They choose not to use a conventionally attractive male figure but instead a more relatable one, as a teenager’s general outlook of themselves will lack more confidence than that of an adult man.  Once the audience can relate to a character, it is then in the hands of the advertisers to manipulate the public into believing that this product can better you.  In contrast, the 'Hugo Boss' advert featuring Ryan Reynolds, appeals to a more complacent male adult.  The advert shows no development of passion nor is there any teenage promiscuity, or chase as seen in the 'Chanel No. 5' advert.  Reynolds possessions are instantly seen with a sophisticated modern panoramic view penthouse, the dominant figure gazes out of the window almost basking in his own success. His love interest is seen undressing as he stands there effortlessly drawing all of her sexual attention towards him.  

The approach for both male and female fragrance adverts are similar with a small difference, again both playing on vanity.  In the 'Chanel' advert the female audience is envious of Tatou and what she represents.  Focusing on Tatou's empowerment, what she can achieve and what is drawn to her, enhancing the envy for Tatou and the product itself.  Whereas a male aftershave advert, the man is already empowered, and the audiences yearning derives from what the man possess rather than idolising the figure himself.  Berger (1972) writes 'It offers him an image of himself made glamourous by the product or opportunity it is trying to sell.  The image then makes him envious of himself as he might be.'

A technique advertisers have to incorporate to maintain credibility is to constantly refer to the past and what the future attributes will hold.  The company, Apple is a prime example of a brand that claims their latest model is a revolution to society, yet its overshadowed by the upgraded version released a year later almost making it redundant.  It focuses on the previous attributes of its former product and the current significance of its latest upgraded model.

It is easy to buy into the false promises because we are constantly surrounded by the visual images that publicly promote consumer goods.  Advertising has become a part of modern day culture, it appeals to the masses and so makes the individual feel pressured into conforming to the trend, that is now day to day life.  Berger (1972) writes 'We are now so accustomed to being addressed by these images that we scarcely notice their total impact.'  And Sut Jhally (1990) concurs through 'The Codes of Advertising' 'Satisfaction is measured against a social scale, or an average standard.  As a society gets richer and more goods are available to a wider group of people, so the average standard also rises and the 'level' of satisfaction remains stable.'

I agree with the statement Bullmore presents to a certain extent, advertisements subliminally disguise the simple intention of them selling a product for no more than financial gain under the guise of a false promise and friendly aid.  However, saying this, the purchasing of the product may superficially give the consumer a sense of materialistic fulfillment. This s a double edged sword, the product may give a sense of whatever the buyer was hoping for but it may not be in the way the advert was suggesting. Adverts can greatly manipulate the way people think and feel, by focusing on people’s insecurities and using them to believe in their product.  It uses their own sense of vanity and self projection and lures them into believing the qualities of the person portrayed in the advertisements can be achieved.  It is because of this, the public feels obligated to possess these otherwise unnecessary commodities.  Furthermore it proves, through changing the way people think and feel, advertising does sell.  Berger (1972) writes from 'Ways of Seeing' 'Capitalism survives by forcing the majority, whom it exploits, to define their own interests as narrowly as possible.  This was once achieved by extensive deprivation.  Today in the developed countries it is being achieved by imposing a false standard of what is and what is not desirable.'

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