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Archive for January, 2010

By Jhansher Khan

Well I want to go back to an older theory that McLuhan put forth and analyze it since it can be applied in modern society. Okay so the big question is, do we actually pay attention to advertising? Well of course we do, if we like it or not. There are two types of media that McLuhan proposed, “hot” media and “cool” media. “Hot” media as McLuhan says, takes more of a passive approach when listening. It’s understandable why we tend not to analyze “hot” media, since these mediums such as the television and radio do not require our utmost attention most of the time. We tend to just absorb everything the media or to go even further, “advertising” informs us about. We fail to question advertising, as well as its overall motives. “Cool” media is when we actually actively participate in “filling in the gaps”, with mediums such as the newspaper and literature for example where we can actually filter out messages that are relevant to us. Yes, we can also do this with “hot” media, but not as effectively since it is difficult to go back and review points for example since messages are basically said in short spans of time. For example, the radio, you may hear something that interests you, but you less likely to “fill in the gaps” since the radio already conveys a message to the listener and the listener happens to take on a more passive role in return.

This brings about the question of “audience”, are we dominated or pluralistic? Do we select what we want to hear or do we listen to everything the media conveys? It tends to be a mix of both, it really depends on the consumer. Some consumers of these messages may internalize these messages while others do not. However, it seems that there is more of a transition towards a pluralistic society. During the 1950’s, society was very much controlled by the printing press and not many bothered to question motives of advertisers. However, during the modern age, yes we are still consuming more and corporations are expanding rapidly, but there is more questioning occurring as a result. Take for instance, Morgan Spurlock, the creator of a documentary called, “Super Size Me”, he questioned practices performed by McDonalds and tried to expose their real intentions as a rich and greedy corporation. Documentaries like these in turn also causes consumers to question what they are consuming. Therefore, there seems to be more “Pluralism” in this case. According to an article called, “How Advertising Works: What Do We Really Know?” by Demetrios Vakratsas and Tim Ambler, there is a certain model that advertisers use to get our attention. The abbreviation known as “AIDA”(26) is proposed to be a model that is behind advertising. It stands for:

Attention——> Interest——–>Desire———->Action

This is an effective model and is actually relevant to how messages are conveyed to us. First they grab consumer attention, get them interested, show them how they would benefit from a product and/or idea and then the consumer acts on it. Within the same article there is a table displaying “A Framework for Studying How Advertising Works”(26)

Demetrios Vakratsas., Tim Ambler. (1999). How Advertising Works: What Do We Really Know?. Journal of Marketing, Pp.26. 63

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By Marcus Ray

In The Toronto School of Communication Theory, an Marshall McLuhan has an excellent theory mentioned by James W. Carey that states: “Forms of communication such as writing, speech, printing and broadcasting should not be viewed as neutral vessels carrying given and independently determined meaning.” In a pluralistic society such as ours, or even a dominant society, where one only one view exists, it is important to realize that neutral views are a rarity. McLuhan then proposed that “these forms be considered technologies of the intellect, active participants in the process by which the mind is formed and in turn forms ideas.” Every message that is put out through media is no simple message. They all have a purpose to sway opinion and alter thought.

One point of this entry is to claim that no message delivered through any media should be taken as an innocent remark or statement. In no way am I declaring that all advertisements are concentrated evil, that would be a little over the top. I am saying, however, that they all want your attention, and in most cases, your money, so viewer beware. It’s the simple process of socialization that everyone should be aware of: our surroundings shape who we are. It’s this that makes advertising easier for corporations.

That being said, the main point of this entry is to say that an education of media is important in today’s society, so that people may be aware of the intentions and purposes of advertising. Would it not be better to be educated on media before we get educated (or uneducated) by media. Interpreting each and every aesthetic or social aspect in advertisements isn’t what needs to be done, but simply analyzing why the ad is really there. Corporations spend money to make money, and billions of dollars isn’t spent for nothing. To show how bad they want your attention, here is an interesting figure: www.zenithoptimedia.com published a report stating that the advertisement budget for 2009 in the world is an estimated $495 billion. Think about it this way: How much money in comparison to that figure is spent on things that are actually important. Either way, it shows the power and influence behind the media, and the disgusting amounts of money they are willing to spend to get to you.

An article by written by Jessica Shepherd on www.guardian.co.uk states that people need to teach children as young as five to beware of advertisements. There could be quite a few arguments made on how these corporations offer opportunities that they may not have otherwise had, but in the long run, I think they could do fine without them. The main argument against this is that it’s appalling to see that five-year-olds have become such a large target market. It’s difficult enough getting adults to be aware of this concern.

N. E. Marsden, an educator specialized in media research said on www.huffingtonpost.com that corporations now are not only having advertisements placed in television shows, but are paying to alter the scripts to give the product more attention. “The problem cannot be overstated,” she says. “Directly ahead, we face a hostile takeover of the public airwaves — not to mention the invasion of movies, youth novels, videogames, music videos, songs and even comic books. Giddy marketers are gushing about the prospect of controlling media, instead of just sponsoring it.”

If all of this is true, we may have to revise how we watch television, how we surf the web, and how we walk through malls and streets. Their power is taken for granted, and as I mention in my previous blog about manipulation, there are powerful people who’s life job is to discover easy access into the public mind. The only way to prevent this is to educate yourself on the methodologies and epistemologies of the media. It could be much more important than we realize.

Sources:

http://www.zenithoptimedia.com/gff/pdf/Advertising%20Expenditure%20Forecasts%20%20March%202007.pdf

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/n-e-marsden/stealth-advertising-the-d_b_117810.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/dec/14/children-advertising-exploitation-report

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By Jhansher Khan

It is pretty obvious we see the media everywhere and advertisements that corporations reach out to us with (I mentioned this in previous articles). One thing that I found astounding is that not only are we indulged in a world of mass consumption, we are actually being controlled in terms of our behaviour and attitudes as well. According to what the media advertises generally, this in turn influences us to conform as a result. However, you may think that it was the state that had all of its dominant control on us, but it is in fact the “Marketplace” that shapes our lives as individuals.

I’ll just use one example that I am aware of in the case of mass consumption. Take the iPod for instance, do we really need one? Sure it can store a lot of memory and has a friendly user interface, but do we need to buy a new one every few years since the newer ones have more features and more space for songs? Well, you earn money, but why are you keeping all of this money? Why can’t you spend it on entertainment? The Marketplace has geared us into a mode of thinking and effectively uses this tactic in order to influence us to consume constantly.

This is mainly what you call a “dominance” in society, those who are the heads of corporations. The majority of us in society are passive viewers and are largely dependent on media outlets. As a result, this causes a type of social order in society, whereas everyone conforms and gives into new technology. Advertisements work as a bridge to essentially “hook” consumers, therefore its just a mere tool at the corporation’s disposal.

I know that Marx is one of the most quoted individuals in history, but this situations is very much like the class struggle between the Proletariat and the Bourgeoisie in society. During Marx’s time, the rich Bourgeoisie class consisted of private factory owners who owned the “means of production.” In the 21st century, corporations actually own the “means of production.” It is the capitalist system, but without the cheap manual labour that existed in the past. However, by consuming we basically give feedback back to these large corporations. So in a way, we are generally working in their best interest. Sure we have our own jobs and we do not work directly for the corporations themselves, but by consuming the products created by corporations, we are in fact aiding in expanding this “consumption empire.” Therefore, the control over us is being asserted even more since these corporations are expanding their enterprises to large degrees. If you draw the same type of model now and compare it to the days of Marx, they both do in fact strongly correlate with each other. One of the major differences is that the “means of production,” have changed according to technology. We are living in the exact same system with a few tweaked aspects!

Not only are corporations controlling our consumption habits, they also play a “cultural” role as well. Yes, they are going far beyond what they originally set out to be. I’ll use the iPod example once again. We are generally listening to and consuming even more music than ever before in the past. With all of this easy access and availability of music, music has become an even more important part of our lives. We did in fact have mp3 players before the iPod’s release, however, the iPod revolutionized mp3 players and stood out to consumers. This lead to heavy consumerism in the music industry as a result. Even in popular culture, the iPod is always depicted as an ideal mp3 player that stands far beyond others and due to popular cultural beliefs, consumers feel as if they need iPods.

It is questionable how much more of a grasp corporations will have on us in the future. The idea of control is always feared, but how much control do we really have to fear? Should we be worried?

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By Jhansher Khan

Determinism, is the idea that we must think in extremes and only through one model or idea. However, when assessing a reason for why anything occurs, there is more likely multiple reasons and explanations that are at hand. The theorist I would like to bring up, whom is very deterministic would be Marshal McLuhan. His type of view is that society changes due to thriving technology and that is the only driving factor in this case. In the book, “The Toronto School of Communication Theory: Interpretations, Extensions, Applications,” the author states, “What about the institutional power and political implications of electronic communication?”(86)

It is true that besides technology, there are political and corporate factors at play. According to McLuhan’s view, society is heavily ingrained in the idea of the printing press, since that is where technology seemed to begin in the media and newspapers were one of the first mediums in society. Newspapers were a source of enrichment and education, as well as an outlook of the outside world. Through this medium, the media was able to exercise its own power and domination over people in society. It could be at times bias or misleading as well, which brings in the idea of how the political and corporate world begin to use these mediums, as well as the idea of cultural factors being imbedded behind messages. If a government for example wanted to use this medium to justify acts of war for example, through the newspaper, a one sided biased article may explain how the government essentially has the right to invade another country. Therefore, the use of mediums can lead to corruption and deceit in society.

As technology developed over time, new mediums were formed and generally the same messages and the idea of control was implemented. The invention of televisions, the radio, and computers for example are used in modern times. All this new technology did was open up a new window of opportunity for the corporate and political world to reach us in society. This idea of reaching us and conveying messages to us has been implemented for years, regardless of technology. The only major change is that it is now much easier to convey messages across to us, since the mediums we use in modern day society can be flooded with advertisements put forth by corporations. Therefore, we are more manipulated now than ever.

An advertisement does not necessarily just sell products, but presents us with certain ideas that corporations want us to absorb in everyday lives. Even the political world may use advertising, it is not just limited by the corporate world. One example that was more prevalent in the past two years was the idea of Barrack Obama running as a presidential candidate in the United States of America in the democratic party. Certain ideas were created in his campaign, such as the idea of “change” during the aftermath of an economic crisis caused by the previous government. There were multiple advertisements for his campaign and he eventually took a stand in popular culture as some sort of political prophet that would take office and would succeed in completely reshaping the United States of America.

“Barack Obama looks more like a movie star than a politician”

Here is an article by CNN, that has already analyzed the idea of Obama as a pop culture figure:
http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/01/18/obama.cool/

Not only did his reach take effect in North America, in other countries around the world that praised him. Even products that certain companies made had the label of “Obama” on them. (I’ll attach a few pictures to give examples) He was basically seen as a charismatic leader and a sign of hope, much like other political influential leaders, such as Nelson Mandella in South Africa. It wasn’t just a simple election. Something originally intended to be just in the realm of the political world, extended its reach into the corporate world as well. Everyday, before he was eventually elected into power, citizens of the United States of America were always reminded of his change campaign and all of the positive hope he presented to society. Through multiple advertisements presented on T shirts, pins to his face on practically every magazine, advertising was effectively implemented and practically being treated like a pop icon may have tremendously helped him win the election. Yet once again, this is an example of the political world at play and its relation to advertising.

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By Marcus Ray

The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man (http://www.gingkopress.com/02-mcl/mechanical-bride.html) is Marshall McLuhan’s first book on media. Although it wasn’t popular, it did outline the three main underlying themes that continue appear in advertisements. The purpose of the book was to both show how corporations put so much effort to gain access into the heads of consumers. By doing this they use messages that stand out, mostly consisting of violence, sex, or death.

Manipulation is the key purpose for these advertisements, as the suggestions made by their powerful messages stand out. They attempt to give more aggressive reasons to purchase products by using models for beauty products, men and women domiating eachother in clothing ads, and list goes on.

The thing that troubles me most is not the sex or the violence, but the death. Looking through advertisements its frightening how death is portrayed in them. In the context of the advertisement some of them might be able to taken as funny, but some are just dark. It is interesting how these ads succeed. How does a woman, pale in the face and

At least she died wearing Versace?

 unconscious, lying on a pile of crumpled up newspapers, sell diamond necklaces? Of course she’s wearing the necklace, but when I see this advertisement I’m not thinking about diamonds, I’m thinking “why hasn’t anyone helped this woman?” That is one form of advertising I will never understand. Whether it represents some artistic form of natural beauty or diamonds as a form of revitalizing an image I can’t tell, but these advertisements should reconsider their approach.

Both sexuality and violence is portrayed here, as a man in "Diesel" jeans gets whipped

Manipulation in the forms of sex in violence is something more understood by me, but still unnecessary. It is so easy to use advertising to attack the self-esteem of target markets, and thats where these two topics thrive. Jean commercials are prime examples, as women slightly more broad than a twig pose under unreal circumstances, such as surrounded by fire, or being chased by an army of sweaty mean. The ideas that are placed into consumers minds from these are all too hopeful for an article of clothing.

McLuhan speaks of educated professionals dedicating all of their time towards creating these ads to manipulate us. The consumption of these ads can be dangerous for a society because it gives new meaning to products. It changes  our perspectives by exposing us to unrealistic ideas. These ideas make people want to be more like the people in the advertisements, so they purchase the product and begin to create a false identity, losing a part of themselves in the process. So not only do these advertisements manipulate small thoughts of whether or not to purchase certain items, but for some they can manipulate our whole identity.

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By Jhansher Khan

What interests me primarily at this point and something that I can see the effects of on a daily basis is hyperconsumption. As we went over this is Dr.Strangelove’s CMN 2160 class, I grew more interested and wanted to explore this to a further extent. He raised many questions I was particularly interested in, the fact that corporations may be able to regulate everything we do or say. Will we lose free speech and our ability to voice our own opinions? Also, to be human is also to question attributes in our environment and assign ideas of what is right and what is wrong. We all speak our opinions, but what if our voices were marginalized and we had to resort to listening to one power with no other alternatives to turn to? Dr.Strangelove brought up this point during his lecture on January 18, 2010. It then had me thinking, what if corporations moved far beyond the production of goods and shifted into an age of control and Tyranny? This is just a speculation, that may or may not occur in decades from now.

We live in an advertising age full of corporations, tempting us to consume, never leaving us with that taste of satisfaction. We must consume, we are never satisfied with what we currently have, we want what is better than the “leading brands.” We work even harder so we have enough money to consume more. Not satisfied with a fully functional 20 inch TV screen, why not get something bigger? Its obvious we don’t absolutely need it, but it would be nice to have something that serves its function much better than the previous versions of essentially the same piece of technology produced on a larger scale. So the idea of replacement is at hand here, whereas improvements are always being made. Therefore, the idea of “change” is at hand.

Lets address one of Harold Innis’s ideas regarding “essentialism,” whereas the world is unchanging and stagnant. This viewpoint introduces the idea that society woul remain “fixed” and “permanent.” In the world we live in today, change is inevitable though. In a book entitled, “The Toronto School of Communication Theory:Interpretations, Extensions, Applications,” it states, “Essentialist and fundamentalist movements organized and stood up to the dominance of the leaders, financers and prophets of global culture, economy and polity, sustained in their resistance by the universe of little media.”(81). To further verify what is being stated here, the idea is that while society did evolve and change, certain groups of society sustained the idea of “essentialism”, whereas they were resistant to change that was occuring. However, dominant powers in society advocate for change constantly. Innis was strongly opposed to the idea of “essentialism” which was widely advocated for in the 1950’s, whereas ideas of society remained stagnant and those in society itself weren’t widely aware of change that was occuring. It is a very “old” way of thinking, where ideas of advancing technological change isn’t advocated for. Innis was one of the few people during his time to actually question the idea of the conventions of  an”essentialist” society and tried to advocate for the idea that society changes due to new innovations.

The question arises out of this, whether or not change is positive or negative. It depends on multiple perspectives when addressing this idea, since it could potentially be both positive and negative. For example, the negative aspect could be too much of control could result over society by corporations if this trend of consumerism continues. An example of a positive aspect would be the idea of technological change which allows us to perform tasks faster than ever before. Therefore, there are two sides to this issue of “change” and Innis was one of the first to question change.

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By Marcus Ray

“We’re more concerned with what the group knows, of feeling as it does, of acting with it, not without it” –Marshall McLuhan

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-C6FDcUutj8

This video is a CBC interview of Marshall McLuhan from 1960 where he talks about his idea of the global village. It is interesting to see how that idea, now almost 50 years old, is more accurate than ever. More specifically on that idea, McLuhan spoke about how the media changed the individual man and woman into the tribal man and woman. The individual is a person who reads books to gain knowledge of the world, while the tribal person is one who gains knowledge of the world through new forms of media.

The individuals read by themselves, acquiring knowledge word by word and taking time to decode it. It requires no other person to learn.

The tribal ones are described by McLuhan as frequent users of the media. They learn of events through the television, and they learn all at once, rather than individually. As McLuhan put it, “The World is now like a contually sounding tribal drum,” and by this he means that in relation to the tribal aspect, everyone now hears everything at once. He goes further into this by saying that world has become a single unit, and we feel and hear things all at once. We have become tribal because we have slipped away from being individualists and have turned into people who are concerned more with the group than the individual.

When the main medium was the book information was mass produced, however, it wasn’t produced in such a way that all recievers would hear it at the same time. With television and radio we see and hear events all around the world at the same time as thousands or even millions of viewers, and the news is heard by world.

To use Haiti as an example, because of modern day media the whole World was aware of these traumatic events within a few days. Even irrelevant information about celebrities makes its way around the world just as fast. Rather than information staying in a country, state, city, or village like it would in the past, the entire world hears nearly everything, whether or not it is important. That is why the World has become one. Borders and boundaries will begin to lose their importance, and the idea of the individual will disappear.

Now to bring this all back to advertising. Today tribalism in McLuhan’s view has taken over in Western societies. If you are still an individualist, you wouldn’t even be reading this, and you basically wouldn’t even be able to go outside. Although books are important the idea of the individual has become more or less a part of the tribalists. Advertisements everywhere become a part of the day’s conversation as we see controversial signs or billboards. We talk to our friends about funny commercials. We go by the beat of the drum that McLuhan speaks of in the video. Once the drum is struck, everyone hears it and responds to it. Similar to once a movie or album comes out, it can be the main topic amongst friends for weeks at a time.

The Washington Post stated in 2007 that in the prior year, one of four Americans had not read a single book (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/21/AR2007082101045.html). Meanwhile the tribal side of humans is running rampant, and Csun.edu reveals this by stating that the percentage of households that %99 of Americans own at least one television (http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html#tv_stats). And even more frightening, the average American watches 28 hours of television per week, which equals two full months of non-stop televsion per year. With all of this time spent watching television, it is obvious that the beat of the drum is heard by nearly everyone today, and as advertising grows more powerful, the beat of the drum gets increasingly louder.

In our modern day society, we can’t help but just watch this ‘global village’ grow at a rapid pace. The individual in McLuhan’s eyes has disappeared, seeing as it is impossible now to live a life without exposure to advertisements.

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