Unintended Consequences

There are a myriad of reasons, perhaps even billions of reasons on why corporations and businesses invest in advertising.  Most of these reasons are related to George Washington or Benjamin Franklin or Andrew Jackson.  Or rather, people whose faces can be found on US dollars.  The best way to show you the money is to advertise.  For local or small business they usually get right to the point, for example used cars salesman almost have a genre of commercials on their own.  However for the corporations who make millions or billions of dollars a year, they invest in advertising strategies and techniques to get people to buy products, often of those that they don’t need.  However the overindulgence of advertising media has had severe consequences outside the dollar figures.  Not only that but they partly promote negative viewpoints in regards to race, gender or class even if they didn’t intend to make this message.

As the famous saying goes, “Any publicity is good publicity.”  Or as Oscar Wilde has said “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”  The essence of advertising is promoting brand names, rather than  promoting the messages within the actual content.  Therefore even as advertisements highlight negative stereotypes, the end result is actually a positive for the business. For example during Super Bowl XVII, website hosts Go Daddy aired a commercial in which a stereotypical unattractive male had a passionate kiss with supermodel Bar Refaeli.    It was one of the most talked about advertisements for the Super Bowl and garnered media attention from notable news networks.  While Go Daddy does not have the official video up on YouTube, several internet news hosts have posted coverage of the advertisement.  As clearly shown here, the advertisement, or more specifically the image of the kiss is very poorly received.  More people disliked the video on YouTube than liked it, yet it attracted millions of views and the awareness of the brand only got higher.  It’s even more astonishing that this video is not the actual advertisement but a low level news source. However people were still drawn to the images of the kiss.  Unlike other forms of media in any given time frame in mankind’s history, advertisement does not seek approval.  It does not seek critical acclaim. Controversy at times can even be a useful tool.   As such advertisement agencies will use several techniques, even those that deal with racism or sexism to get brand recognition higher.

Companies spend billions of dollars on these advertisements and they expect a sizable increase in profits because of that.  Truly for the most part, money is the main or even sole factor in their decisions.  While the message being shown may be misogynistic in nature, it doesn’t actually mean these companies actually believe in that message. It’s a ploy to garner attention.  As mentioned on Wolf Culture, “[…] it is difficult to read the magazine with a sharp eye as to how thoroughly ad revenue influences the copy.  It is easy to misread the whole thing–advertisements, beauty copy, images of models-as if it were a coherent message from the editors telling women, ‘You should be like this.'”  Companies that use an over sexed woman don’t care whether or not their products actually turn women into what they portray them to be.  The goal is not a campaign. They aren’t trying to get viewpoints across, they only care about the money that these images will generate.  Several class discussions have argued that these companies are stereotypical, misogynistic and racist but that’s almost a non-sequitur. These companies are filled with minorities and women as well, these advertisements don’t have a purpose of suppressing the public as before in American history. While I would argue that these companies don’t support their messages do not mistake the argument as a wya to absolve them.  Rather the real consequence here is unintended and negative social effects.

For example there are definitely signs in which advertising or popular culture has an ill effect on young women.   Models have almost impossible standards of how they should weigh.  They are required to use excess amounts of makeup to hide any “faults” they may have.  There is an “ideal” woman acceptable in society however it’s quite impossible to naturally look that way.  Despite that, these images of these women have a profound impact in society.  “In movies, particularly, but also in television shows and the accompanying commercials, women’s and girls’ appearance is frequently commented on: 58 percent of female characters in movies had comments made about their looks, as did 28 percent in television shows and 26 percent of the female models in the accompanying commercials.”  It’s said that looks kill, but in advertising looks are money.  With the media highlighting the importance of an acceptable look there are bound to be ill effects on women, particularly those in adolescence.  “When a girl enters adolescence, she faces a series of losses-loss of self-confidence, loss of a sense of efficacy and ambition, and the loss of her ‘voice,’ the sense of being a unique and powerful self that she had in childhood.”1  To back these claims up are numerous statistical metrics that can be found on the subject.

There are various ways in order to combat this.  Spreading awareness for starters would be essential.  However posting statistics or articles is not enough, in order to combat mainstream media then mainstream media must be used.


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