Research Project on Advertising
There are numerous ways through which people are persuaded to buy their necessities or even luxuries. It is especially through these persuasive actions of the marketers, publicists and producers that advertising "an active strategy of selling and marketing" (P. Falk 1997:65 in Buy this Book) became the means of selling the products. However, since humans are complex beings having many different habits and patterns, it is of utmost importance that these patterns and habits are identified and understood for efficient advertising. Thus, it is through the Manchester model that in this essay I will attempt to argue some aspects of advertising, which does not only revolve around simple TV ads but also draws from production through to reception. I will also argue that advertising does encounter difficulties that I will review as its criticisms. I therefore will not be using the Hypodermic Syringe or Two Step-Flow model to analyze advertising.
Paul Taylor et al writes “advertising agencies normally prefer a market research classification which groups people along occupational lines which reflect consumption patterns, spending power and life styles”. (P. Taylor et al 1995:31). In other words producers and advertisers are not simply producing for everyone but for different segments of people within the audience. It is for this reason that the way in which people consume and spend is of great importance to the advertisers and producers. This is because it helps the producers to make their advertisement the most efficient. We can illustrate this argument using the example below and simultaneously exploring the way in which advertisements are produced. (P. Taylor et al 1995).
In production the aim is to indulge people to buy the idea or product. Sometimes the product or idea is manufactured so as to openly advertise its related item such as in the case of fashion shows promoting clothes that are mostly directed towards the consumers with more purchasing power. However in other circumstances of production the idea of the product is hidden within a broader picture. Lury supports this argument from a Marxist perspective when she argues, “ Marx used the term fetishism of commodities to describe the disguising or masking of commodities whereby the appearance of goods hides the story of those who made them and how they were made” (C.Lury 1996:41). Then not only the clothes are being advertised in a fashion show for example, but rather more importantly the culture, lifestyle, history and materialism is being advertised but in disguise. The above was thus an essential tool in the cold war for the transmission of western capitalistic ideology. (C.Lury 1996).
Thus as the model emphasizes, through segmentation producers use the manner in which people consume not only to know how and what to produce but also to circulate, sell and distribute their products or ideas especially in cases where they have manufactured new products and ideas. (P. Taylor et al 1995)
When we talk about distribution for a particular audience we can use the children as an illustration since it is well known that they learn through exploration and discovery, thus the latter are used as method to induce children to consume newly made products. In a local advertisement, the setting of children in a spaceship on a mission of exploration was the tool employed to lead children to discover the new snack called ‘double cheese curls’. As children are fans of television the means of distribution of the product was indeed television. The result was that children were good consumers of the product. Thus for advertising to work the producers need to identify their audience and the means of circulation and distribution carefully this often comprises of the television, radio, magazines, internet etc. (P. Taylor et al 1995)
Even if the consumption pattern is drawn out it is of uttermost importance that what the audience consumes carries a meaning to which he can identify himself. Thus the exchange values attached to the product are essential if it is to be bought when advertised. Often different categories of commodities are used with different types of values to amplify the coolness, morality, traditionalism etc, which are coded within the advertising of a product. Therefore messages are conveyed through diverse signs and symbols known as semiotics that people have to decode as Stuart Hall argues. Semiotics is also used on advertising destinations especially for exotic islands such as Seychelles. As a result, meanings are attributed to a product, this is why Jones and Jones argue, “ we can only make sense of a sign when it is set in a meaningful context”. (Jones and Jones 1999:171).
Additionally semiotics can also have an effect on the emotions; this results in emotions being used when advertising a product, to evoke certain feelings of belonging, sympathy, security or shock. Many products and even musical shows held for the aid of orphans carried a greater impact when princess Diana or her memory was used as a popular figure for its advertisement. This promoted a sense of sympathy, sadness and morality compelling the consumers to belong to the same group as Lady Diana and thus participating and buying for a good cause. Often people such as Mother Theresa or Princess Diana are used because of their popularity and nobleness to invite people to contribute towards many activities and to feel moral satisfaction. Hence popularity and authenticity are tools used to influence people into buying, consuming or supporting an idea. (G. Branston and R. Stafford 2003).
However if the producer intends to make the commodity ‘worldwide’ it cannot solely rely on the promotion of its product but also on its brand, thus “branding associates certain meanings with product”(G. Branston and R. Stafford 2003:372). One might argue that consumers tend to consume and buy to soothe feelings of anxiety and fear from being insecure and deprived of their essential needs. Branding then comes as a guarantor that even before use, things will be better. Thus the Virgin Company took to establishing itself in almost all aspects of the consumer’s life by advertising thus selling its name before its product inspiring a sense of security. This is common in the promotion of its logo on different items that it produces such as t-shirts and also donations or sponsors that it offers. (G. Branston and R. Stafford 2003).
But how does governance fit into advertising ‘s manner of application? In order to pass on messages and ideas, producers need to have modes of transmission, which include TV, radio, newspapers, magazines internet etc. Power and popularity are key factors that help into the production of advertisements. Therefore a person such as Rupert Murdoch can be of good influence to the audience, as he possesses not only ownership but also a certain degree of control over the media. Another interesting aspect of governance in advertising is the mere fact that technology can make it possible for the sale of products to a person directly. This is because information about a person can be obtained at only a click away on a computer database. In other words a great deal of brainwashing is used in order to get to the desired effect of advertising. (C.Lury 1996).
The last phase of this model that we will argue about advertising is the reception or response. Advertising thus works by producing discourses about particular objects or ideologies where one of such is the way that the audience undeniably comprised of women comes to perceive women themselves as sexual objects to men as well as seen in the home. (S. Thornham 2000). Interestingly then, it invites the consumer to change consumption pattern and adopt one that matches better with the evolution in capitalist production and consumption which in turn is being reified. Thus on reception the consumer buys into a different culture, which will influence his consumption at a very significant extent. (C.Lury 1996).
Nonetheless after seeing the working aspects of advertising we now come to its critical aspect, when we attack its position about production. Often, ‘Over production’ of products hampers the real effect of advertising. This is such because when there’s over production, not all the commodities have the chance to produce the desired effect and the audience often feels misguided and indecisive. Ultimately the consumer does not buy what is needful and useful for the value of his money and often takes more time than intended to decide upon a commodity. Yet as Branston and Stafford argue “it defends itself by arguing that it helps us to be ‘rational consumers’”. (Branston and Stafford 2003:367). But in reality the audience becomes less rational because of too much of the product for example shampoos to choose from are being advertised. Rather than being efficient at choice the advertisements often slows decision and rationality. (Branston and Stafford 2003).
Human beings are very unpredictable. Even if there is much research done to understand how people react there is still the element of uncertainty when dealing with humans. Thus one other critique is the assumption that the market research can predict the reactions of the consumer is thrown into question, since it is very important to keep up with every day reactions of the audience. Thus keeping up with the consumer proves to be an impossible task in itself. As a consequence advertisers are faced with uncertainties that they often cannot solve or overcome. This proves to be one of the downfalls of advertising and undoubtedly a challenge to the producers and advertisers. (C.Lury 1996).
Semiotics is one other area where much can be criticized. This is because we can argue that it is not always easy or straightforward to understand the coded messages being conveyed through those numerous signs and symbols. One of the major reasons for this is that producers and advertisers overestimate the educative and discerning skills of the readers and assumes that they will be able to comprehend what is being transmitted. (V. Nightingale 1996).
So, occasionally the images, signs and symbols give the audience limited range of readings because of their prior education and therefore makes it, that the reader cannot understand the intended message and thus acquire a different meaning to the originally intended one. This happened with one of the advertisement where Russ Abbot the comedian was used as an actor in an ad for Castella Cigars, and instead of understanding what the ad was about the audience understood it as a joke. This is termed as Leakey boundaries by O’Donohoe, between advertising and cultural forms. (S. O’Donohoe from Buy this Book 1997).
One other aspect of advertising that brings undesired effects and that producers and advertisers have to deal with is negative advertising. We can relate negative advertising to the different messages conveyed to the community through music and songs. As young people are vulnerable and very flexible many musical groups use youth vulnerability to promote drugs, sex, racism and violence. Thus production and advertising often have to watch out for the negative influences or contradictions of their production for this brings about what Schroder calls “The Cynical Response”(K. Schroder from Buy this Book 1997:282). That is the audience resents what the producers are promoting through their advertisements and productions because it does not take into consideration the interest of the community. As a result the advertisement can produce negative responses. (K. Schroder from Buy this Book 1997).
In conclusion one can come to realize that advertising plays a major role into our everyday lives. This is essentially portrayed into the way that we consume and behave vis-а-vis advertising. We cannot therefore shut ourselves away form advertisement for to a greater extent that we might want to acknowledge it is almost impossible to live in a world without advertising. In analyzing the Manchester model I have explored only some of the ways in which advertising works. This forces us to come to the realization that whether we like it or not we are influenced beyond our own control to abide to the domination of advertisement in our lives. Be it in production, circulation or exchange-value advertising is able to revolutionize the way we use to perceive things into new discourses for its own benefit. (Branston and Stafford 2003)
Although, advertisers, publicists and marketers encounter several objections these do not flush out the scope that advertising has on its consumers but rather presents new ways in which the producers and advertisers need to work in order to keep their business going. Advertisement can be of great benefit to consumers but Branston and Stafford brings us to realize a very pertinent position that might be one of overwhelming concern. One might think that if advertising induces unlimited consumption we can come to a point where we are so indulged in capitalistic consumption that we might lose our identity through the incessant search to belong and feel secure through consumption. (Branston and Stafford 2003).
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