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Advertizing is a means of informative communication designed to persuade the targeted people to take interest in some products, services offered, ideas or concepts (Lopez, 2000). It demonstrates the benefits of the product or concept involved. The concept of advertizing contains some ambiguity, as it has no clear definition. When used in an institutional setting, it is a tool for building the reputation of the institution. When used for politics, it attracts votes and contributions as opposed to attracting purchases in other settings. Sales representatives apply the concept of advertizing in their attempt to sell more, build a larger customer base or build confidence on a new product.
Over the years, America has evolved in the way information is passed along, and that has contributed to the growth of the advertizing industry. The first concept of advertizing involved the passing of information via the word of mouth in the eighteenth century. Many American colonists were used to importing British consumer goods such as furniture, porcelain, musical instruments and luxury products. This made the insecure producers to start responding to changing demands by talking about their products. They begun by making announcements of the goods available by describing them and reporting their availability.
The nineteenth century advertisements demonstrated numerous changes. Most adverts were at the end of the newspaper page, or at the end of magazine publications. There were few branded products as there was standardized production of consumer goods. The emergence of mass production of consumer goods led to the need for sales domination. This led to the emergence of advertizing agencies that sought for space in all kinds of media mediums; ranging from newspapers, magazines and other printouts.
The industry has grown since then as it proves itself beneficial to consumers, contrary to the belief that it swindles the consumers. New developments on creative art, technology, tabloids, and product branding and production techniques are the characteristics of the new age advertizing. The ability to effectively sell a product is recognized part of the product production as the adverts are designed to retain consumers, poach others from other brands by offering better deals or introduce new products. The industry has attracted modern criticism and anxiety that have questioned its ethical and moral implications.
Raymond Williams was a scholar whose writings on literature, politics, culture and the mass media were a significant contribution to the analysis of arts, culture and literature. He has authored pieces on the technology growth and cultural changes. In one of his many scholarly journals, he introduced the concept of cultural materialism. (Ray Williams, 2006)
Cultural materialism is an approach borrowed from the concept of historical materialism. According to Williams, there are many social movements because there are that there many societies. This causes diversity in the social and material production. He attributes cultural change to a difference in lifestyles and political influence as changes occur due to external forces.
In one of his arguments, Williams argues that advertizing operates as a magic system. In this argument, explanations of the developments of the American advertizing industry are covered. He puts this across by studying the message and the influence that the industry has passed on for years since its introduction to date.
His first step is the study of the issues that faced the history associated with advertizing. He has traced the institutionalized advertizing from when it begun; in the eighteen hundreds and made an analysis of the changes up to date. The process of advertizing involves the spreading of information to the targeted parties.
The article by Williams about advertizing concepts operating like a magic system begins by his opinion of the very first attempt to advertize. A highlight of a recalling about the tale of old Papyrus from Thebes, who offered a reward for the person who would help solve the case of a runaway slave opens the article. He dates the advertizing concept back in the medieval times when pictures of gladiators displayed on walls attracted relative parties, who would later attend their shows. The earliest form of arranged advertizing was by spread of news from one person to the other by way of mouth.
The Graphic Revolution in Photography
By the end of the seventeenth century, London newspapers begun to print advertisements and this opened the way for the mass media to circulate promotional messages. The printing press allowed the mass production of circulars and posters. Within no time, production of newspapers and magazines depended on the revenue brought by the advertizing. The photographic revolution in the nineteenth century ignited innovation and the adverts evolved to informative stories that were more convincing than before (Wells, 2003).
The help of photography resulted to the twentieth century graphic revolution. A combination of images and texts played a vital role in making the communication of the advert more effective. They begun to combine ideologies with realities to create ideal concepts for products that would attract targeted parties.
According to Williams, the changes in the society and the economic changes have contributed to the shift in the organizations intentions. Cultural changes that led to majority rules offered a platform for the advertisers to reach a vast number of people. The maintenance of a modern economic stability is the core activity in a social setting. This allowed for politics and cultural activities to grow and compete against each other to dominate the advertizing field.
The revolution in the twentieth century changed the setting of advertizing as the political leaders tried to sell themselves (Mintz & Roberts, 2010). This is because the products they were selling were not necessarily factual; all they needed was a concept or idea that the public would have an appeal towards it. Communication of the advertisements took a turn to fit what the society needs, as opposed to the former; where announcements of real goods were the case.
The emphasis changed from a standardized market of goods to the concession of higher status. The labor market advertized using the notion of favoring the most superior candidate. This put an end to the class- society and introduced the era of socialist democracy because anybody who felt they fit the requirement would go for it. The solicitation of ideas for commercial gains was evident at the time.
The spread of cultural diversity, political liberalization and economical domination changed the way of life. The ability to buy a product based on success, power to control the environment, health, beauty or availability as opposed to basic need hassled to a modernist revolution the whole idea of advertizing. The field of advertisements targets these things when they make the adverts.
It is in this regard that William argues that there is an establishment of a magic system in the society as fantasy overcomes reality since most people validate the fantasy. There is a rise of a system that has trained everybody to judge others by the means of what they have bought. A general unreality of concepts has become the most sought after attribute in a sale of any commodity, and the interesting part is that they require validation at a personal level to endorse the general appeal. The operation of advertisements preserves the consumption ideal through information as opposed to experience.
The advertizing agents are the assumed magicians in this case, since they seem to create what everybody needs out of a single commodity which is ideal but unreal. As difficult as it is to distinguish between real magic from art or general knowledge, the advertizing agents have a grey area between their provision of real values, truths and meanings. The tricks that are involved in the advertizing field match those of magicians, since they confuse the buyer from the reality of the commodity.
The propaganda of advertizing has led consumers to believe that the best commodities are the ones with the highest ranks, instead of the buyers' basic need. The belief that high consumption is the prime of high standard of living as opposed to the satisfaction of the products utility is the common case in advertizing. This is the system that Williams calls the magical system since consumers do not base their beliefs on real facts but from mythical propaganda passed to them.
The industry has gone to the lengths of using human tensions and calamities to put points across. They have involved psychological maneuvers to convince the masses to buy products by offering a peace of mind, which is not real. The consumers believe in the most convincing stories regardless of the harm not mentioned in the story (National Association of Retail Druggists (U.S.), 2008). This exploits the weaknesses of the masses as their strengths expand the target base for the magic.
The magic system distorts the difference between the basic needs and ideals. It confuses the real cultural values by misdirecting the masses through persuasive communication instead of informational communication. To achieve the magic, the magician; advertizing agencies convince the buyer of a need that is not there. For example, they will convince a man that he drinks a certain beer, not to quench his thirst but because it portrays him to be more manly. The sale of commodities are ideally meant to satisfy needs, but in this setting, the masses buy class, health, social respect, beauty, success, and the power to control the environment.
Market Control Systems of Modern Advertising
Modern advertizing has incorporated market control systems, which includes controlling tariffs, price fixing by manufacturers, cartel quotas that create a form of imperialism in the economic state of any society (Chapman, 2005). This system has its strengths and weaknesses according to the evaluation by Williams.
One of its strengths is that advertizing is a vital tool for marketing. Introduction of products by advertizing them strengthens the perceptions of the buyer towards them and increases the chances of the seller to make the sale. The continued illustrations on the modifications of the product and communication of its progress build it into a preferred brand. This is because the more the product gains fame, by presentation in any form of mass media; the more familiar it gets with the consumers. The ones that are legit and honest help to keep the consumer updated.
The constant reminder to the masses about a commodity by communicating about it through the adverts helps to build customer loyalty. The important aspect of branding products is to keep the target consumers' confidence in the product. Direct marketing through communication to the masses using factors that they can relate to, help to influence the consumers' loyalty to the product.
Advertizing products online and through TV increases the chances of selling them by 50%. This is because ads that appear on TV deliver a clear evidence of the effectiveness of the product that they are selling. They exploit the strengths of the product and the ability of the media to communicate. Online advertizing reaches millions of people at the same time without a lot of capital material utilization. Both TV and the internet are major tools of entertainment hence making the products that appear in them superior to acceptance by the masses.
Promotional advertizing has long lasting effects on the consumer. This results to a growth of personal attachment to the product. The creativity involved in this mode of advertizing is effective because it gives a suspense that keeps the target society anticipating for more. When used correctly in a way to show appreciation to the buyer, it creates continuing good will. Some endorsement promotional aspects turn out to be multibillion-dollar business ventures.
Newspaper advertizing has a high degree of respect, acceptance and familiarity from the community in any part of the world. It has the ability to communicate to the adult and upscale market with a single exposure covering a large mass. The legit information in newspapers has given the advertisers the ability to communicate without a lot of criticism. Short and clear headlines characterize the advertisements on the papers, and they attract instant reactions from the readers.
Mass media advertizing though the internet has an advantage to both the target group and the advertiser (Pride & Ferrell, 2010). It is cheaper for the agency, and the consumer can access information at will without spending a fortune. The creation of mass excitement by the modern commercial adverts creates emotional trust that helps to build brand images for the products.
The Flaws of the Advertisement Sector
The advertisement sector has its flaws. One of the other sides of the magic system that Williams felt so strongly about is the alteration of truths by replacing them with ideal concepts. Agencies select a concept, and then deploy it back in the society with false advice and information. This leads to a misrepresentation of information characterized with stereotypes and mysterious ventures.
The system manipulates the masses into believing in the products being advertized by creating a false need and convincing the consumers to satisfy it. This diverts the genuine needs to the bottom of the tier since they are not a part of the advertisements. They confuse the masses about their needs and convince them to purchase products that they do not need.
The need for the agencies to produce the most superior brand has caused moral decadence in the society. The use of sexual images, criminal ideologies and lies has led to the erosion of traditional values. Fake ideologies that create dependency through social manipulation have replaced reality.
When advertisements are about dangerous products, they do not tackle the consequences (Otnes & Lowrey, 2004). Their aim is capitalistic and this leads many people to believe in harmful products or spend fortunes in worthless causes. The assumption that the new or famous products are superior as created by the ideologies by the advertizing propaganda misleads the masses from the real helpful products.
The attempt by the industry to tap into the most people's approval has led to the agencies exploiting real tragedies that people go through for capital gain. The use of people's loneliness, death, disease, poverty, disabilities, loss and other calamities that lead to humanity misery to sell a product is socially wrong. The agencies use the emotions involved to capture the people at their most vulnerable time.
The use of celebrities to advertize products create a fake impression on the people targeted by it as their hopes continually get crushed when their expectations to match the celebrity are not met. The companies have the responsibility of educating the consumer about the honest attributes of the commodity. Instead, they create fake hopes and expectation without taking responsibility for it.
The Emotional Emphasis of Advertisements
The world has embarked on commercials that have incorporated creativity, humor and emotional connection to appeal to the public (Shimp, 2008). An example of such a commercial is a video clip of an advert "The Force" which, is about the all-new 2012 Passat car by Volkswagen. In the commercial, there is a child dressed as the mythical Darth Vader, who is a central character in the movie 'trilogy Star Wars Saga' as the chef antagonist. It begins with the star wars anthem with the child walking through a hallway creating suspense. The destination is a room filled with gym equipment. There is a treadmill at the center of the room and the child spread her hands towards it in a manner that is similar to the way Darth Vader would do to command his subjects.
Frustrated as the child fails, she moves on to the next room where there is a dog lying in a basket on the floor. She tries the same thing but it does not work as the dog walks out leaving her more frustrated. She proceeds to the laundry room and tries the same with the washing machine, nothing happens. By then, the star wars anthem is playing faster and louder, creating more suspense. She proceeds to her room, tries her command on her dolly, still gets nothing. She shows frustration by dropping her hands. In the kitchen, her mother offers her a sandwich that she has been making this whole time, but she rejects it after trying her command on it and failing.
At that moment, the dog is barking outside at the arrival of the father who pulls in the driveway in a Volkswagen Passat. She runs outside and as he gets out of the car, he offers her the bag hoping that she was out to meet him. She rejects it and stretches her hands towards the car as her dad walks into the house. The music disappears leaving a slow hint of it to create more suspense, then suddenly the car starts as the headlights flash, completely surprising the kid who jumps up with joy. In the background, there is the father in the kitchen with the mother, pressing the remote of the car from the house to amuse the kid. It ends with creative graphics of the all-new 2012 Passat and the Volkswagen logo.
The main score is to create emotion. The commercial has used mythical and futuristic attributes. The use of a normal family is a major attraction to a big group of people as they can relate to the setting. The use of Star Wars in the advert targets the ready fan base that the movie created. There is suspense all through the clip, which keeps the viewer anticipating for the next move. The appeal of the father to help the child reaches out to many parents.
The advert has used fake concepts such as the mythical concept of Darth Thader. He portrays the cause for his powers to work being more important than the feeding of the child or her meeting her father. Showing the modern attributes and the strength of a car remote using unusual aspects that are not basic life needs is the main theme of the commercial. The use of a normal day in a family to advertize a car is appealing to the masses and the incorporation of humor and creativity ensured viewership by millions of people.
Another example is a Viacom Billboard with an image of a plus size man standing on one side of the billboard. The billboard tilts towards the side that he is standing, to look like it is about to fall; this is used to imply that his weight is making the billboard to tilt in that manner. The writings on the billboard read "Time for Silberman's Fitness center" with a phone number right below the statement. Putting such an advertisement on the street enables the designer to reach out to many people as they pass by. They do not care about the offensive nature of the image, as the humor in it is more appealing. The modern world has hence incorporated the magic of advertizing to the lengths of making it a vital part of day-to-day life (O'Guinn, Allen, & Semenik, 2008).