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The Value of Advertising. Jasper Lee


Advertising has always been seen as a negative have been born. The common belief is that because

business, regardless of whether you are a creative, a people always want to exceed what they already are, consumer or a manufacturer. Bullmore details some of the they are vulnerable and susceptible to manipulation from claims about advertising as; ‘advertising is evil, advertising advertisers. The a-for-mentioned manipulation is done by exploits human inadequacy, advertising is wasteful, showing us how we can be the person we dream of being, advertising prevents small, enterprising companies from through the acquisition of a certain product. An advert breaking into established markets, advertising is a force ‘proposes to each of us that we transform ourselves, or for change.’ As a creative, to work in advertising is deemed our lives buy buying something more’ and through this as selling your soul, your skills are ‘wasted on trivial transformation we will become the person we ideally want purposes, which contribute little or nothing to our national to be, until the next product is advertised. One source of prosperity’. The First Things First Manifesto, both the the negativity stems from the wrong people connecting original (1964) and the rewritten version for the millennium with the wrong adverts. Although adverts are tailored – (2000), highlight the issue, that due to its lucrative nature ‘publicity principly addressed to the working class tends to and allure of wealth – ‘the most lucrative, effective and promise a personal transformation through the function of desirable means of using our talents’ – advertising has the particular product it is selling (Cinderella); middle-class become ‘how the world perceives design’. It is arguably publicity promises a transformation of relationships through correct, to say that advertising is ‘nothing less than the a general atmosphere created by an ensemble of products manufacture of contemporary reality’, however, it is false (The Enchanted Palace)’ – if they attract the wrong audience to say that ‘designers are engaged in nothing less than the it can cause a social group or class to become absorbed manufacture of contemporary reality’. The untruth is that in the ideology that they can be something that is near designers do not ‘manufacture’, they enhance or vivify and impossible. What this means is that people get ‘trapped by that there is much more to design other than advertising. the illusion of choice’ and believe that to become their ideal Without design the world would stop and the same can person they must spend money, even if they do not have it. be argued about advertising, ‘without publicity capitalism In this aspect, advertisings power is highly negative. This could not survive’. Advertising as a power fundamentally is not only the viewers fault but also that of the advertisers serves the user by showing them what they could be; ‘the creating an advert that is aimed at the wrong audience; advertisement is actually feeding off [the] subjects own for example you would not create and advert for a Dolce desire for coherence and meaning in him or her self. This & Gabbana suit and aim it at the working class as that is is as it were the supply of power that drives the whole creating a gap too large. ‘The gap between what publicity ad motor’. Bullmore’s view on advertising and design is actually offers and the future it promises, corresponds with slightly different to that of Williamson and closer to that the gap between what the spectator-buyer feels himself to of Berger. He states that advertising is ‘a pool of spotlight be and what he would like to be’ and if these gaps do not on a stage; a trickle recharge for the brand batteries; or a correspond then the advert has missed its audience and may lasting place in the hall of fame’. With each of these views therefore cause problems. Williamson supports this point it is possible to get a very negative view of advertising, by agreeing that ‘advertising refers only to consumption, to however, it is also arguable to make a positive point, a sort of personal leisure time which few people actually defending advertising in a way that is not usually done. have. It emphasises what you buy, which in fact means you have to work harder to earn money to buy.’ The ‘personal ‘The pursuit of individual happiness has been acknowledged leisure time’ which she refers to is only really found in as a universal right’ and therefore is used by advertisers the lives of the very rich, a bracket that is not effected by to sell a product. This can be seen in both a positive and advertising – ‘the only place relatively free of publicity are negative light; however, it is frequently seen as a negative. the quarters of the very rich; their money is theirs to keep.’ Due to the viewers belief that it is their right to pursue ‘individual happiness’ it leaves them open to manipulation. This is where the negative connotations of advertising


By saying that the advertising refers only to consumption, become that person and therefore spend more money to a very rich lifestyle that very few people have, she on another product which they may not need. This is a suggests that adverts aim to portray this affluent alluring negative demonstration of the power of advertising. Due to lifestyle to make the viewers life seem less appealing and people’s susception to these adverts they remain ‘credible therefore make the product a solution. This is an example because the truthfulness of the publicity is judged, not by of the negative power of advertising as it encourages the real fulfillment of its promises, but by the relevance of people to spend money that they may or may not have. its fantasies to those of the spectator-buyer. Its essential Berger makes a similar point when he says ‘publicity is application is not to reality but to daydreams’ and it is to make the spectator marginally dissatisfied with his this application combined with the inability to resist from present way of life’. The adverts intention is to make the viewers that presents most advertising in a negative view. viewer ‘marginally dissatisfied’ – not so dissatisfied so the viewer thinks their life is worthless and not so satisfied The power of advertising is apparent through Berger’s that they think nothing needs changing – just dissatisfied comparison of the viewer and the advert, ‘we are static; enough so that they think that the acquisition of the product they are dynamic’. Here Berger shows the adverts in a more being sold will make their life more than satisfactory. positive light and the viewer in a negative one. He suggests that the adverts are more than us. By describing adverts As well as selling your soul, advertising is regularly perceived as ‘dynamic’ and viewers as ‘static’ the advertisements are as a lie. Berger shows how advertising presents the user with elevated above the viewer. Berger undermines himself by the possibilities, however, it is never backed up; ‘publicity following ‘we are static; they are dynamic’ with ‘until the begins by working on a natural appetite for pleasure. But it newspaper is thrown away, the television programme cannot offer you the real object of pleasure.’ This is another continues or the poster is posted over’, instantly taking reason for advertising’s negative perception. Bullmore the power away from advertising and giving it to either implies that ‘advertising doesn’t sell the product, it sells the viewer or a third party. By showing advertising to what people buy’ and this misdirection is what is commonly be so transitory, it removes a substantial element of its denoted as lying. Berger also details that ‘publicity does power and shows the viewer to be more in control. It is not manufacture the dream. All that it does is to propose the viewer’s decision to throw away the newspaper, to each one of us that we are not yet enviable – yet could to change the channel or to take notice of the poster. be’. This point compliments Bullmore’s in that they both believe that advertising does not depict the truth, rather a vision of how the viewer could be if they buy the product. Money is seen as both a negative driving power and a negative source with regards to advertising. Berger states that ‘all publicity works upon anxiety. The sum of everything is money, to get money is to overcome anxiety.’ So the notion that ‘money is life’, that ‘the power to spend money is the power to live and those who lack the power to spend money become…faceless’ is a key concept for the negative view on advertising. The negative view is down to advertising’s power to persuade people that to become a better person they need to spend their money. This creates a vicious cycle where people buy what the product in the advert as they believe it will turn them into the person they want to be, only for the company to bring out a new item, making the consumer think they also need this to


The presentation of the user being in control takes the power Williamson, ‘publicity is never a celebration of pleasureaway from the advert and enables them to be viewed in a in-itself. Publicity is always about the future buyer.’ more positive light. Advertising relies on the belief of the viewer. Without this belief, if the viewer were contempt with Bullmore argues that there is a differentiation between life – which is close to never – advertising would not work. ‘advertising’ and ‘advertisements’. He writes that ‘advertising The viewer is in control as it is ultimately their decision to as such, can do absolutely nothing, it is simply there waiting act on an advert; there is no actual force from the advert to be used’ adding the point made by both Berger and itself. ‘The way we see things is affected by what we know Williamson that the advert is totally reliant on the user. Where and what we believe in’, so that if we believe in something as Berger and Williamson offer up habitually negative view we are therefore less likely to be converted or changed by on the power of advertisements, Bullmore suggests there is an advert. As the viewer has to believe in what the advert an aura to them. ‘Advertisements in theory, can do practically is selling to connect with it, it is therefore a choice; ‘to look everything, introduce the new, confirm the old, congratulate is an act of choice’. This would dismiss the argument that existing buyers/users/consumers/employees or attempt to adverts manipulate and control the viewer and it is in fact convert them.’ Where as Williamson has described any the viewer who is in control. In this argument adverts are form of possible manipulation in a highly negative tone, simply persuaders or encouragers to try and convince the Bullmore instead gives it the ‘dynamic’ quality described viewer to buy a product – they are ‘merely the invisible by Berger. Whilst still pointing out advertising’s relince conveyors of certain undesirable messages’. It is true to say on the user he shows advertisements exciting potential. that without the viewer advertisements are nothing, they are superfluous and absent of power, a point which is echoed To be influenced by an advert you must already believe by Williamson. ‘Ads create an ‘alreadyness’ of ‘facts’ about that you are part of the audience that is being aimed at ourselves as individual: that we are consumers, that we have otherwise you will not take note. ‘You do not simply buy the certain values, that we will freely buy things, consume, on product in order to become a part of the group it represents; the basis of those values.’ One reading of what Williamson you must first feel that you already, naturally, belong to that has said is that it is down to the viewer and whom they are, group and therefor you will by it.’ If the viewer does not as to whether they will react to an advert. The use of ‘freely’ believe they belong to the group they subconsciously do not shows that it is a decision that only the viewer can make absorb the advert. We, as viewers subconsciously ignore and therefore that advertisement does not have the power any adverts that don’t apply to us, for example a 22-yearof manipulation that has previously been considered. The old law student may see an advert for the latest range of adverts reliance on a viewer is emphasised by Williamson baby food, however, they will not acknowledge it as it does again – ‘A sign replaces something for someone. It can not apply to them. This then presumes that the viewer has only mean if it has someone to mean to. Therefore all signs already decided on what advertisements they are going to depend for their signifying process on the existence of respond to and therefore the only adverts that have any specific concrete receivers, people for whom and in whose power over the user are those adds he can relate to. A systems of belief, they have meaning.’ This reiterates point conferred by Williamson; ‘you do not choose in the the point that advertisements require an audience as a shop, but in response to the advertisement, by ‘recognising’ product requires demand and that without them they are yourself as the kind of person who will use a specific brand. superfluous – ‘it can only mean if it has someone to mean to’. Berger makes a similar point by stating that ‘publicity is, in essence, nostalgic. It has to sell the past to the future. It cannot itself supply the standards of its own claims.’ Here Berger shows that advertisements cannot support themselves and that they rely on the involvement and participation of the viewer. A point that is cemented by


You must have already chosen when you buy, otherwise the advertisement has failed its purpose. This is why it is so crucial for the advert to entre you, to exist inside rather than outside your self image; in fact, to create it.’ The power in this situation becomes varied and ambiguous. Initially the power is held by the viewer (even if they do not know it) as they subconsciously ignore and forget an advertisement that doesn’t apply to them. If, however, they to believe that the advertisement applies to them the power then begins to shift as the advert attempts to convince you that you should buy what they are selling, again trapping the viewer in the ‘illusion of choice’. The element of freedom of choice is again picked up by Williamson, ‘in an advertisement, we are told that we choose, we are free individuals, we have taste, style, uniqueness and we will act accordingly’. Here she implies that is the viewers own choice whether they act, however, she also suggests that the viewer is told by the advert that it has this choice. Again the power is difficult to decipher whether it is with the viewer or the advert. Advertising and design in advertising are used as scapegoats for people’s own downfall. Advertising especially, is the bogie man under every critic and jealous designers bed, with them all being determined to crucify it at any possible opportunity. Is advertising that bad or is it the acts of the viewer that are the bad decisions. Yes, the advertisements from the fifties had a definite manipulation but since the introduction of regulations surely it is the power of the viewer that is to fault. Do the advertisers and advertisements really have that much power? Even when two competing companies spend billions a year on advertising to show us how much better they are – we will still walk into a bar, ask for a Coca-Cola, only to hear the response of “sorry we only serve Pepsi, is that okay?” And what do we do? Do we refuse the refreshing soft drink because it is not the one we asked for? No we say “yeah, whatever’ and drink it with as much enjoyment as we would have had we had got the other. Advertising plays an important role in the functionality of the world, be it raising awareness for the NSPCC or selling you the new Audi, it is who you are as a viewer that determines whether you respond to the advert or not.



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