Sunday, 21 March 2010

Lecture Notes - Advertising, Publicity and The Media

Advertising, Publicity and The Media

'History will see advertising as one of the real evils of our time. It is stimulating people to want things, want this, want that, there is no end of it' - Malcolm Muggeridge.

'Instead of being identified by what they produce, people are made to identify themselves because of what they consume' - Williamson 1991:13

'Publicity [advertising] persuades us by showing people whose lives have been transformed' - Berger 1972

'Art showed what the owner of objects already had, whereas advertising shows us what we ought to have' - Berger 1972

'The products [of mass media/cultural system] indoctrinate and manipulate; they provide a false consciousness which is immune against its falsehood... Thus, emerges a pattern of 'one dimetional' thought and behaviour' - Mercuse 1956

In early 1990 estimates showed there were over 11,000 TV advertisements every year and 25,000,000 printed adverts created every year.


Karl Marx 1818 - 1883

Karl Marx was a theorist of social class difference. He wrote the books 'Communist Manifesto' and 'Das Kapital' 1887 vol 1

Markist would argue consumer culture lives governed by what we consume. In commodity we construct out identities through consumer products that inhabit our lives. This is what Stewart Ewen calls the 'commodity self'.

Judith Williamson, author of 'Decoding Adverts' said, 'instead of being identified by what we produce, people identify themselves by what they consume'.

How does commodity culture perpetuate false needs?

  • Aesthetic innovation
  • Planned obsolescence - gadgets deigned to break.
  • Novelty.
Commodity Fetishism - Advertising conceals the history/background of products. Context is which a product is produced is kept hidden. Eg. cheap sweatshops producing branded items for pennies.


  • Products are given human associations.
  • Products perceived as sexy, romantic, cool, sophisticated.
Frankfurt school was set up in 1923.
Herbert Marcuse, author of 'One dimensional man', 1964.

Commodity culture manipulates us, it gives us tunnel vision and doesn't let us live life to the full.
  • Buying things makes us richer, but realistically poorer because we spend money.
  • It seeks to make people unhappy with existing material possessions.
  • It potentially manipulates people into buying products that they don't really need and want.
  • Encourages addictive, obsessive ad acquisitive behaviour.
  • It distorts language and encourages bad usage and incorrect spelling (u and you).
  • Encourages consumers, especially children, to want products they cannot afford, causing feels of inadequacy and envy.
  • Uses images that encourage us to buy products and brands that have potential to be unhealthy.
  • Encourages unnecessary production and consumption, therefore depleting the worlds resources and spoiling the environment.
  • Advertisement has no morals.

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