Thursday, November 29, 2012

Advertisement as our Religion

Throughout my whole life I have been exposed to countless amounts advertisements and will continue to be exposed to millions of ads until the day I die. Though this might sound a like a generalized melodramatic exaggeration it really isn’t, most of us will have been exposed to thousands, if not millions of ads before we are the age of sixty.
 As a person fascinated by media of all kinds I always found ads to be very interesting. This might the creative person in me, but believe it or not it, I would always think of creative ways to advertise things when I was little, but after a few college courses on advertising, a couple of good books and two years of experience as a retail sales person, I’ve learned a lot about the insides and outs’ of advertisements; from the technical aspects of commercials to the psychological purpose behind their message. Yet, I still would not call myself and expert and worst of all, I dare not to say that I am immune to these messages.  But personal interest aside, what I am really trying to get at is that ads are mediums that appeal to us through emotional leverage.
Jhally makes a lot of interesting points regarding advertisements in relation to society. He argues that products lose their social meaning when they ceased to be produced by individuals who specialize in building or creating that good. Industrialization, which sustains capitalism, strips goods from any personal meaning its makers  might have with their creation; consequently, the job of advertisements it to create one in order to sell it.
He says “it’s[advertising] power comes from the fact that it works it’s magic on a blank slate” (221).  For example, now a days we often value hand made things, they usually sell for more and are made by small companies which don’t utilize ads as much; however, these companies succeed because by just creating something handmade they already put in a part of their own personal value into it which customers can relate too, this is why they continue to purchase them and value them as something different. This doesn’t happen, when we go to the store and buy one shirt out of fifty sitting on clothing rack.
Another one of his arguments is that advertisements have taken the place of religion for some people in society. He believes, institutions that often provided meaning to peoples emotions and concerns have weakened.  Instead, ads suggest consumption as a mean of personal realization and success. Creating a false idea that the more we have, the more we are worth, and the more successful we are. He goes as far as to explain that advertisements often use “radiant beams”, lights similar to the one assimilated with religious backgrounds and “spiritual overtones” consequently suggesting an invisible relationship with success (223).
I can quickly relate this message to the way in this advertisements influence my life, and I often also find a release by doing so. For example, sometimes I find myself relieved after shopping spree and justify spending more money than I should by thinking that I will look good in my new clothes and therefore gain status; which leads me to have more happiness because I find a superficial solution to my own internal insecurities. We often hear the phrase “Shop till you drop” as a way to justify large amounts of unnecessary consumption.
The depth roots of advertisements have affected the way we utilize and satisfy emotional appeals through products. In the United States some women have been diagnosed as “shopaholics”, addicted to spending money on shopping in order to avoid uncomfortable emotional states.  

An example of a women utilizing shopping as form of release and relating it to happiness: 


  1. The clip included above perfectly depicts how people in America need to engage in the act of purchasing materialistic items to be satisfied. Accordingly to Jhally, this is due to the power of advertising. Today, if something that is greatly appealing is advertised, you develop a sense of want and desire. The immediate thought is not "do I really need that", or "is there something more useful I can spend my money on", it is instead "I want that, and if I have that, I will be happy". Somehow the term "happiness" has become a feeling that emerges from the consumption of unneeded entities.

    It is also terrifying to think about how much further advertisers can go. As more tactics are invented, will we as consumers be able to resist anything that is advertised?

  2. Just to add some other contemporary examples, there's Oxygen's new show about shopping addiction, called "My Shopping Addiction," and your reflection the value of DIY and artisanal culture reminds me of the most recent episode of Top Chef, where the cheftestants had to do justice to handcrafted local ingredients and were partially judged by the artisans.