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In the world of today, it is not possible to avoid advertising in the society. Producers of both goods and services use advertising to appeal to the consumer’s choice of their goods, services and opinions. Over the years, advertising has undergone transformation and this has also to do with our trends in consumption. Stuart Ewen is an author, lecturer and historian based in New York. He lectures media, profession of compliance as well as consumer culture. During the year of 1966, Stuart formed part of a group of editors of a newspaper that was about captains of consciousness and it was talking of the importance of advertisement as well as the social roots of the consumer culture. This paper evaluates Stuart Ewen’s thought on advertising as a captain of consciousness and it will also discuss how advertising industry has evolved over time since the 19th century to today, as well as how the idea of advertising is working in today’s world.
Advertising involves focusing attention on inventing or identifying people’s anxieties, that can be resolved by purchasing the specific goods being focused on. Graydon tried to educate people with critical self-consciousness as it was specifically directed to appearance at personal level. Stuart’s premise led to the individual revolution leading to mass production. The mass production also led to mass distribution which put people in a state of wanting goods since all produce were directed elsewhere. Stuart consciousness created the need through writings and eventually built today’s consumer culture.
Stuart’s aim of creating consumer culture was to expand the demands of industrial system during the 20th century to reshape the US society’s mentality of heterogeneous culture segments and to improve the technology of communication. The advertising culture was to act as a tool of social order whose purpose was to break the barriers of individual habits. Most advertising did not aim at providing information but rather they focused on creating the images of brands. It is done better by use of imagery and symbols rather than with reason and text. This way, they appeal to emotions and instincts of the consumers. Advertising is a way of creating good public relation although the public relation part of it is invisible because it carries an explicit message that is commercialized. There is a little difference between good public relation and good business. Advertising relies more on imagery and the more editorial content it has the better the sell of goods.
Stuart is talking of mass production as a way of bringing out the value of production economically. By the early 1990s, employment interests and the need for mass production in industries had grown so much. The manufacturers of consumer goods realized the importance of mass production and mass distribution as well. They laid strategies of implementing these critical issues so as to survive in the competitive world. This aspect of production was considered by other people as a social term. Markets needed to become more dynamic for the mass production mechanism to function. This market had to grow nationally and ideologically into various social classes. Masses needed to be given more buying power as a consumer production was growing freely. Each manufacturer was expected to create an ideological bridge across taste, need, social and class so as to reduce the prejudices at their own favor.
Towards the end of 1921, businessmen began to see the importance of reorganizing their businesses as greater markets were valued as compared to those of public buying power. These businessmen were required to reorganize their businesses on the side of the buying public as well as the production of goods. There was also a need to influence the conduct of human beings to understand that production of goods meant the social production as idiomized to be consumer’s dollar of human conduct. Over time, raw materials industry and consumers were seen as malleable who needed to be molded by the demands of production line and pecuniary interests.
The traditional ways of manipulating labor were replaced by mass production and mass distribution as capitalism emerged. For instance, the wheel horse was changed to worker and the worker was transformed to consumer. At this point of capitalism, modern advertising was required to bring out the needs of mass industrial capitalism. Many people invested in the advertising sector as it created a continuous response to the consumer market. From 1918-1923, many of the adverts in the journal of printer’s inker were aiming at convincing those who had not accepted it, that advertising was a modern industry devoted to the techniques of merchandising. With time, the industry grew into a big industry, for example, by 1918, the revenues of advertising as well as farm magazines were 58.5 million US dollars. The figure grew to 129.5 US dollars by 1920 and by 1929, it was 193.6 million US dollars.
The shift to mass production completely changed the characters of labor. It made the worker a less significant part of the production process as compared to the former very creative worker. The worker needed to be taught the new technology within a very short period of time. This affected the relationship between the worker and the manufacturer; it also affected the manufacturer’s desire to distribute the large amounts of finished products. The revolution required workers to recollect themselves and adapt the modern technology. The process of endowing the masses into industrial technology was quite challenging and a tedious process, but it was inevitable for the definition of the modern workers as a unit of industrial production smooth running and the conversion of the workers from right to better consumers.
Advertising was a mean of controlling the product consumption and at the same time create efficient consumers. Although many business men boasted of growing of their businesses without advertising, research showed that those businesses were inefficient and they were of scattered agglomeration at the same time they were unpredictable, while those who were advertising their products were agents of consolidated and multi-leveled commerce. The advertising industry invented universal notions that could create efficient consumers. These notions were aimed at going beyond the horse sense psychologically which had been created by the earlier industry and they had to make people respond. This way they could reach the mass audience through a universal appeal.
There was an argument that, human nature is hard to control as compared to material nature, as men had human instincts capable of inducing them to purchase a certain product if presented scientifically. The traditional way of presenting quality of products was no longer producing enough inducements to move the buyers at the required rate and volume necessary for mass production. Those traditional notions were not able to move the potential market towards the direction of consuming the available products.
The concerns of the advertisers were to affect the self-conscious and it was only possible through talking about the product as well as the reader. The literature of advertising concentrated in appealing to instinct, prestige, beauty, acquisition, play and self adornment were all used for the purpose of providing products of mass distribution that were effective. The modern advertiser also saw the need of fancy as a crucial aspect of advertising. For example, a beautiful lady presented in an advert as using a certain body lotion would make many consumers admire the lotion and go for it in shops so as to look like the beautiful lady in the advertisement. This is a fancied need for the lotion advertised. Advertising directed people to spend time and energy in education of production and consumption. This experience was to be expanded to the lifestyle of people that had been denied to people earlier either psychologically or socially. This way, social and personal frustrations could be ameliorated.
Over time, the social perception of people was ameliorated through consumption social responsibility and self preservations were required to decide a public face that was mass produced. The original image of man that was associated with the image of God was transformed into a man made product of industrial expertise. This aimed at creating desires and habits that could capture the interest of consumers. Later it was discovered that to capture the interest of consumers to buy the products and keep on buying them, it was important to endow them with self-consciousness that is critical in turning them on the solutions of the market place as compared to preserving facts on their own merit.
Today the advertisement language is very essential and the manufacturers tend to copy from each other. For example, there was an advert of women’s spray that used the word body odor for the first time in its advertisement. The manufacturer of the product went straight to the point and told the consumers that the product was important in eliminating body odor. Other sprays were only talking fostering sweetness and daintiness. With time, different manufacturers took a similar approach after seeing that the product was more selling than theirs. For instance, the general antiseptics that had been known like that for a long period of time were now changed their names from antiseptics to mouthwashes.
Another important aspect that is very crucial nowadays in advertisements is that they should at least leave the consumers with suspense so that they can investigate about the suspense created and the efficient way to do that through purchasing the product and taste it. For instance, an advert of soft drinks that brings a man who after taking the drink wins a football match immediately will attract other players who have never used the drink to go and purchase, drink it and then go and play.
Self-consciousness was proved to be important in mass advertising as a selling point. The consumer self-consciousness was associated with the ongoing proliferation of products that informed the industry. Generally speaking, advertising keeps the mass buyers dissatisfied with their lifestyles, not contended with bad things that surround them and from this statement, we can conclude that satisfied consumers are never as profitable as dissatisfied ones. The advertising industry has grown all rounds and the power of advertisement is globally recognized today. There are other businesses that depend entirely on advertisements to get profits. An example is the media in some countries especially the private ones that do not get any support from the government. These media houses depend on advertisement brought to them for paying their workers and other daily running businesses within the house. Advertisements are good but some manufacturers do not produce educative advertisements; instead they produce advertisements that are not morally fit especially to children. For example, adverts that consist of naked people should be discouraged as they are not fit for young children to access. Otherwise advertisements are a very powerful way of promoting mass production as well as mass distribution that came as a result of industrialization.