Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Out-Smart Advertising

I was an Advertising major in college, not because I wanted to learn about advertising but because I wanted to be a film maker. At the time, it was trendy in Hollywood to pluck young directors from the advertising world and give them the keys to the fancy sports car on a big budget film. Needless to say, I haven't become a film maker yet, but I am glad I learned about advertising anyway.

The average person sees anywhere from 300 to 3000 advertisements or commercial messages per day, depending on where you get your information, but while the estimates vary, what isn't debatable is... it's a lot. Our society is becoming more saturated with commercial ads all the time, and even though we may not always realize it, this does have an effect on the way we think and the way we spend our hard earned money.

Now that we have access to so much more media than in the past companies are coming up with new and creative ways to sneak their ads into all aspects of our lives. They're on TV, radio, print media, internet, billboards, and the most annoying of all... the sponsorship of stadiums and events. The idea is that even if we're not consciously aware of an ad's presence we're still getting the message on an almost sub-conscious level.

And this does have an impact on our society and our communities. For example, over the last 50 years the concept of the local business has been fading away. It's all about name recognition. The larger companies are the ones who can afford to advertise, the public sees the ads and spend their money in the places they've heard of before, and as a result we're left with chain restaurants like Outback Steakhouse and Olive Garden dominating the market rather than local businesses. What ends up happening is the loss of local identity as the entire nation gradually gets taken over by the same massive corporations, selling everyone the same products.

And while that may sound grim, there is something we can do. Learn how advertising works. Learn the techniques that companies use to influence your mind and convince you to buy their products. Knowledge truly is power, and the more you know about how advertising appeals to your sub-conscious the less power it has over you. Learn to see an ad, evaluate what it's saying and how it's saying it, and think to yourself about how they make their product look appealing. Often it's not even the product they're trying to sell you, it's a certain lifestyle, an idealized image of how your life can be if only you owned a BMW or a Gucci handbag.

Advertising is, on some levels, essential to our economy. It fosters competition among businesses and alerts the public to the availability of products they may need. The problem is that it has become so ubiquitous that it can be difficult to sort through the hype and find the quality. So do your own research, learn about how advertising effects your mind, and every time you buy something with your money think about what you're supporting. Remember, every time you spend your money you're voting, and our society would benefit greatly if more people made the act of consumption a conscious act rather than a sub-conscious impulse.

1 comment:

  1. Advertising has gone past the product scene since the advent of drug ads, I believe. It used to be that drug companies would schmooze doctors to prescribe their drugs, but now they're going directly to the consumer, making them scared about restless leg syndrome, high cholesterol, and making herpes look like, literally, a walk in the park.
    This gets into healthcare and that's a whole other rant, but when it gets down to it, people are diagnosing themselves because of some ads. And let's not forget the fear that happens when something like H1N1 hits the scene and the ERs are suddenly packed with everyone who's ever had a headache.
    Maxi pad (except for that "have a happy period" commercial. I hate that one) and condom ads we can't avoid, and are needed by a specific part of the population, but making everyone convinced they have ED? TMI thank you.