The Cult of Ads
The power of consumerism cannot be underestimated. It is an important element of how the success of a product can be measured. From cinema sales to food purchases, consumerism manifests its buying power. What makes the power of consumerism stronger can be attributed to the effective promotion of products by means of advertising. This is seen in the form of television commercials, newspapers, in public facilities and buildings – almost everywhere in the presence of the public eye.
Without the effective means derive from advertisement, most of the products of today would not reach as many people to support or purchase it. Advertising is an important part of product promotion and with the amount of ads that people see on the streets, it shows that it is critical to make a certain product or business known. The reception of the people towards these advertisements depends on how effective its impact on people and this effectivity can either be measured through the number of sales or by the reaction of the masses.
The power of consumers in American society can be said to have been driven by these advertisements. In these ads, the act of buying creates a certain attitude in which pop culture is developed. This pop culture reflects social conditions in where the attitudes of the people are manifested in these consumer products promoted by advertisements. The following discussion will delve on how advertisement influenced Americans’ attitude as consumers shaping society’s pop culture. Advertising in America has its share of a long history with the first largest advertising campaign recorded after the discovery of the New World.
Around 16th to 18th century, invitation to migrate in America was posted all over Europe where the allure of job opportunities, huge wages, plenty undiscovered resources, and the idea of starting a good life became the tools in promoting America. Throughout Western Europe, smooth-talking promoters scoured overcrowded slums in search of men and women willing to emigrate to America. Armed with attractive handbills, posters, and pamphlets, these hired agents used half-truths, exaggeration, and often outright trickery to persuade Europe’s downtrodden to seek their fortunes in North America. (Mierau 7)
This early form of advertisement used publicity and aesthetic quality of promotional materials to be able to attract migrants to America. Positive sides of America were highlighted to catch the interests of European and even the names of the ships sailing to the New World were utilized for advertisement such as Friendship, Harmony, and Success (Mierau 7). From this event, advertisement expanded in the United States the moment media has been invented. The import of printing press in America to the television mania during the 1950s – these tools became advertisement’s best friends in spreading its message and purpose.
The growth of advertisement became the main tool in attracting people to purchase this or to support that. It encompassed every needs and wants of people which develop a certain trend in people’s response to these ads. This response can be seen from buying products and can be called as “consumer culture. ” This can be defined as a culture “in which the personal consumption of goods and services becomes an all-powerful force” (Berger 2). This force refers to the necessity of investing in matters of education, properties, personal welfare, and other needs.
Advertising is an active element in igniting the desires of the Americans to do investments mostly focusing on personal and individualistic needs rather on public or societal participation. Companies spend billions of dollars in advertisements using the wittiest punch lines, famous celebrities, and the most realistic plots to be able to influence people to buy. Through this, people are influenced by these ads. However, advertisements do not necessarily dehumanize the people because when a certain advertisement becomes a hit, it immediately becomes embedded as part of the society’s culture.
The effects of advertising become a way of life. Perhaps the love of Americans to shop is a result of how advertising affect the life of the Americans. This culture of “buying” or “shopping” can be said to have originated from advertisements or vice-versa. The relationship between pop culture and advertisement is about these two reinforcing each other in shaping certain attitudes or situations within the society. Pop culture refers to the beliefs and practices that are widely shared and can also be defined as the result of the products and practices of mass-produced culture (Fowles 10).
Advertisements can considered as part of the cycle in forming popular culture with the “culture of shopping” as one of the main evidences. The cycle is pictured as: advertisements > entice people to buy > growing social tastes and demands within the masses > pop culture. Perhaps one of the points why advertisements are effective it is because of the classless appeal it brings to the audience. American advertising presented promotional materials which obscured class differences. To reach as large an audience as possible, American advertising obscured class differences and portrayed an affluent, classless society.
Advertisements conveyed a clear message, reflected in such catch-phrases as “any woman can” and “every home can afford. ” (Gorman and Mclean 70) Through this aspect of American advertising, people assert their social position by purchasing these products. Buying becomes one way of asserting equality of the middle-class with the social elites by means of possessing these promoted products. From the preceding paragraph, the obscurity of social classes through advertising makes up for the development of pop culture. The popular culture of Americans’ love for shopping is propagated by the absence of social divide in advertising.
If advertisements are one factor of reinforcing pop culture, then its influence to the American people must be intense. The portrayal of social relations in advertisements such as the role of women and the social divide affects the cultural values and attitudes of people. The behavior of supporting the products in accordance with the slogan from the advertisement pertains to the people’s change in perceiving social relations through these ads. Whether or not advertising has a negative or positive effect on society, its influence to change the behavior of the consumers cannot be underestimated.
Advertising is considered as the main foundation in keeping the business thriving and the products continuously supported. It aims not only to promote goods but to embed itself into the lives of the people through the ideological messages included in the slogans and the models used. Advertisements are the vanguard of a healthy business and its effects on people is a reflection of a capitalism which thrived in the American society. It is the primary evidence of what the society demands, whether in the present or in the future. Advertisement has its pros and cons.
It can break social divide but it can also establish new stereotypes which can widen gaps of certain social groups. Its influence is said to have a powerful tendency to change people’s behavior not only as consumers but as citizens which propagates either a bad or good case of pop culture. As part of media, advertising presents itself as a reflection of what a society possibly wanted to gain out of goods and services. It also projects each product as a need of every people that’s why Americans have been told to be addicted to buying.
Advertisements are made for the sole purpose of luring people to support consumer goods, but it is always the case of the individual if he or she will fall under the spell of advertising and the culture of shopping.
Berger Asa, Arthur. Shop ‘til you Drop. USA: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005. Fowles, Jib. Advertising and Popular Culture. USA: Sage, 1996. Gorman, Lyn and David Mclean. Media and Society in the Twentieth Century. USA: Blackwell, 2003. Mierau, Christina. Accept no Substitutes! USA: Twenty-First Century, 2000.