Chapter 11: Advertising and Commercial Culture

Posted: April 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

VIDEO Intro: Ads of the 60s and 70s — 10 minutes

I. Early Developments in American Advertising

  • Advertising has existed since 3000 BC, when shop owners hung signs outside their shops in ancient Babylon.

A. The First Advertising Agencies. The first American advertising agencies were newspaper space brokers, who purchased space in newspapers and sold it to various merchants.

B. Advertising in the 1800s. N. W. Ayer, the first modern ad agency, helped create, write, produce, and place ads in selected newspapers and magazines.

Advertising in the 1800s
The first modern advertising agency, N. W. Ayer (established in 1869 in Philadelphia), remained active until 2002. Here are some of the slogans N. W. Ayer came up with over the years:

  • “When it rains it pours”; Morton Salt, 1912.
  • “I’d walk a mile for a Camel”; Camel cigarettes, 1921. Sometimes this slogan was formed into a jingle; “I’d walk a mile for a mild, mild Camel.”
  • “A diamond is forever”; De Beers, 1948.
  • “Reach out and touch someone”; long-distance telephone service for AT&T, 1979.
  • “Be all you can be”; United States Army, 1981.

1. Trademarks and Packaging. Manufacturers realized that if their products looked distinctive and became associated with quality, people would ask for them by
2. Patent Medicines and Department Stores. By the end of the 1800s, patent medicines and department stores accounted for half of the revenues taken in by ad agencies.
3. Advertising’s Impact on Newspapers. Today, more than 60 percent of space in daily newspapers is filled by ads, compared with only 25 to 30 percent in the late 1800s.

C. Promoting Social Change and Dictating Values. Advertising significantly influenced the switch to a consumer-driven society, promoted technical advances, and encouraged economic growth.
Promoting Social Change and Dictating Values
Early twentieth-century advertising appeals threatened citizens with social failure if they didn’t
consume the product. Here are some examples:

  • Listerine: If you don’t use Listerine, you’ll have bad breath, which will lead to spinsterhood.
  • Anti-dandruff shampoo: People with dandruff are “guilty.”

By the 1920s, agencies began to associate more positive experiences with product use and focused
on the pleasure of consumption. Some examples:

  • Metropolitan Life Insurance Company: You’ll have a happy, robust life.
  • Soap advertising: You deserve an afternoon of leisure.
  • Radios: “Here’s a picture of keen enjoyment.”
  • Kodak Girl: Like the Kodak Girl, you will radiate happiness every time you take a photo. . . .Kodak cameras were so simple, “even a girl could do it.”

2. Dealing with Criticism. To deflect criticism that advertising created consumer needs that ordinary citizens never knew they had, the industry developed the War Advertising Council in the 1940s, creating public service announcements that supported civilian conservation efforts during World War II. This led to the eventual
establishment of the Ad Council.

VIDEO:Discussion of ads in the 1950s: (4 minutes)

D. Early Ad Regulation. Fraudulent advertising practices led to the formation of several
watchdog organizations, including the Better Business Bureau.

  • During the 1960s and 1970s, there was much talk about subliminal advertising. In fact, the FCC actually banned subliminal advertising from the airwaves in 1974. However, in 2006 a team of Dutch researchers concluded that if conditions are right, subliminal advertising can successfully promote a brand. The researchers asked their subjects to count Bs on a screen, and flashed a millisecond image of the words Lipton Ice among the Bs to one group, and the nonsensical words Nipeic Tol to the other group. After the test, people from the first test group were more inclined to choose Lipton Ice Tea than people who were in the second group.
  • VIDEO: (Start 10 seconds in) McDonalds and Iron Chef (1:30)
  • VIDEO: Dollar Bill hidden in KFC (1 minute)
  • VIDEO: Longer look at subliminal messaging (9 minutes):

II. The Shape of U.S. Advertising Today

  • Until the 1960s, the ad slogan dominated the ad. Eventually, images would come to be more important.

A. The Influence of Visual Design. European designers in the 1960s and 1970s and MTV
in the 1980s and 1990s heavily influenced ad design.
B. Types of Advertising Agencies. Of the over thirteen thousand advertising agencies in the United States, nearly all fall into two categories—mega-agencies or boutique agencies.

  1. Mega-Agencies. Ad agencies have moved toward large ad firms that are formed by merging several individual agencies and that maintain worldwide offices.
  2. Boutique Agencies. Ad directors who make a name for themselves often break away from bigger agencies and form smaller, more personalized boutique agencies. Boutiques are often bought up by larger agencies but continue to operate as fairly independent subsidiaries.

VIDEO: Mad Men, Selling the New Kodak Carousel product (3:30 minutes)

C. The Structure of Ad Agencies. Advertising agencies are generally divided into four departments—market research, creative development, media selection, and account services.

  1. Account Planning, Market Research, and VALS. Account planning works with the client, creative team, and consumer to plan an effective advertising strategy. Market research assesses the behaviors and attitudes of consumers toward particular products before any ads are created. The Values and Lifestyles (VAL) strategy divides consumers into various psychographic profiles.
  2. Creative Development. Writers and artists make up the nerve center of the creative team.
  • One of the worst advertising campaigns ever was an expensive and ineffective campaign for Burger King in the mid-1980s that attempted to make a fictional guy named Herb famous. The $40 million Burger King promotion began in November 1985 with the search for Herb the Nerd, a man who was purportedly the only person in the United States who had not eaten at a Burger King restaurant. The ad-induced excitement over the identity of Herb reached its peak in January 1986, when Burger King promised to reveal the identity of Herb to the more than 100 million people watching the Super Bowl. The rather anticlimactic Super Bowl commercials unveiled Herb, an actor adorned in horn-rimmed glasses, ill-fitting clothes, and white socks. Shortly after the Super Bowl appearance, Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene wrote that with all the media exposure, “Herb is currently one of the most famous men in America.” Herb toured the country for the next few weeks, stopping at Burger Kings in each state for surprise Herb-sightings, but the campaign flopped after the Super Bowl ads broke the mystery. The Herb promotion had little impact on hamburger sales. (Apparently, most Americans didn’t want to eat fast food with nerds.)
  • VIDEO: Herb example (1 minute)
  • VIDEO: Herb example (30 seconds)
  • VIDEO: Herb reveal (30 seconds)

III. Persuasive Techniques in Contemporary Advertising

  • Although ad agencies often argue that the main purpose of advertising is to inform, advertising is largely about persuasion.

A. Conventional Persuasive Strategies. The famous-person testimonial is one of the most popular of the many persuasive strategies.
B. The Association Principle. In this strategy, the ad associates a product with a positive cultural value or image.

The Association Principle

  • In 1997, the makeup and skin-care company Clinique introduced a new perfume called Happy and launched numerous commercials with deliriously happy models urging women to “wear it and be happy.” This persuasion strategy was a marked departure from that of other perfume companies, which used sex (Obsession), vanity (Beautiful), tradition (Chanel No. 5), and status (Polo) to sell perfumes. Industry observers agreed that Happy would be a risk. By 1999, however, Happy was doing very well.
  • VIDEO: Happy ad (30 seconds)
  • The years 2005, 2006, and 2007 marked a fascination with cavemen in the advertising industry.
  • The cavemen were associated with Mr. Every Guy. Geico cavemen worried about their modern-day portrayals as simpletons; FedEx cavemen worried whether their packages would arrive the next morning. Geico’s cavemen were also showing up at golf tournaments and at Hollywood dinner parties after the Academy Awards. The success of these commercials prompted ABC to greenlight a 2007 half-hour sitcom based on the cavemen characters.
  • VIDEO: Cave Man (2:30)
  • The Burger King mascot is marketed to the same demographic, eighteen- to thirty-five year old men. The Burger King “King” mascot has actually appeared in print and television advertisements since the 1970s. Burger King then hired actors to dress up as the King mascot and appear in parking lots outside Burger Kings across the United States, doing magic tricks. This character led to the 2004 television incarnation of a mute King who stalks average, all-American guys (that is, white men age eighteen to thirty-five) and brings them breakfast. The King then became the star of a series of Xbox video games (three million were sold) and, like the cavemen, was positioned to appear in a feature film about the character’s origins. Adver-films are a definite trend in the age of Tivo. In 2006, about twenty-five companies both sponsored and produced a film shown on the Internet—five times the number of such adver-films produced in 2005.
  • VIDEO: Burger King “King” (30 seconds)
  • VIDEO: Burger King “King” (30 seconds)

C. Advertising as Myth. According to myth analysis, most ads are narratives with stories to tell and social conflicts to resolve.
D. Product Placement. Product companies and ad agencies have become adept at strategically placing ads or buying space—in movies, TV shows, comic books, and most recently video games—so that they appear as part of a story’s set environment.

Product Placement

  • The movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was entirely funded by Quaker Oats, which used the movie to promote its new Wonka brand of candy and sweets.
  • Here are some more brand partnerships: Snapple is the official beverage of New York City; Coca-Cola has a marketing deal with Huntington Beach, California, and East Lansing, Michigan; and PepsiCo has deals with San Diego and Fresno, California.
  • Product placement has been around since the 1940s, when the diamond company DeBeers supplied jewelry for stars to wear on the screen. In the 1950s, James Dean used an Ace comb in Rebel without a Cause, which caused sales to soar.
  • In 1968, HAL, the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, was actually a disguised IBM computer (count one letter back in the alphabet to get HAL).
  • MGM’s release of the James Bond movie Die Another Day set a record for product placements.

IV. Commercial Speech and Regulating Advertising

  • Commercial speech supports the right to circulate goods, services, and images in the marketplace of products.

Commercial Speech and Regulating Advertising
Here is some more information about prime-time ad clutter as of 2004, according to the
media research firm PhaseOne Communications:

  • Ad and promo clutter has increased 36 percent in a decade.
  • Viewers are exposed to an average of fifty-two minutes of nonprogram content a night on each of the four major broadcast networks (which amounts to seventeen minutes of clutter per network hour).
  • The average commercial break in prime-time is now just over three minutes long, up 41 percent from five years ago.
  • Of the cable networks (which built popularity in the 1970s as being “free from advertising”), MTV and the Food Network are among the most cluttered, both just under seventeen minutes an hour. TV Guide Channel beat them all—nineteen minutes an hour.

A. Critical Issues in Advertising. Concern about advertising manipulation exists, especially with regard to children, teens, and health.

  1. Children and Advertising. Children are often viewed as consumer trainees and are considered particularly vulnerable to commercialism.
  • By the mid-1990s, the top advertisers during children’s programming were Kellogg’s, Mattel, Hasbro, McDonald’s, General Foods, Quaker Oats, Mars, Disney, Burger King, and Nintendo.
  • A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey on very young children and media/advertising analyzes the explosion in electronic media marketed directly at the very youngest children in our society. They document “a booming market of videotape and DVDs aimed at infants one to eighteen months, the launching of the first TV show specifically targeting children as young as twelve months, and a multi-million-dollar industry selling computer games and even special keyboard toppers for children as young as nine months old.”
  • Here are some of the findings about children age birth to six years in the United States:

• 36 percent have a TV in their bedroom.
• 73 percent have a computer at home.
• 49 percent have a videogame player.
• 97 percent have products (clothes, toys, and the like) based on characters from TV
shows or the movies.
• 30 percent have played video games.
• They spend an average of two hours a day with on-screen media (that’s three times as
much as they spend reading or being read to).
• 65 percent live in a home where the TV is on at least half the time.
• 77 percent are turning on the TV themselves.
• 67 percent are asking for particular shows.
• 62 percent use the remote to change channels.
• 68 percent of all children under age two will spend an average of two hours and five
minutes per day in front of a screen.
• 26 percent of all children under age two have a TV in their bedroom.
• Ad portrayals of girls as princesses and in relation to cosmetics and shopping continue to draw criticism. According to Colby College professor Sharon Lamb, here are some of the worst marketing messages targeted to girls in the mid-2000s:

  1. Dora the Princess: Dora has a makeover from adventurer to little princess (Dora’s hair grows and shortens at the touch of a jewel in her crown).
  2. Bratz party plane with “juice bar”: “Rock Angelz” Bratz use the on-plane hot tub; primp at the primping station with the supplied makeup kit; play a board game about fashion runways; watch movies on the plane’s flat-screen TV; and read a magazine that glorifies drinking cosmos, flirting with boys, and clubbing.
  3. American Girl (purchased by Mattel in 2006) is now partnered with Bath and Body Works to sell body lotion, fragrances, and lip gloss to American Girl doll owners.
  4. Victoria’s Secret: As part of its Pink line, Victoria’s Secret sells stuffed animals in front of its stores, to get younger girls inside the door.

Advertising in Schools

  • Exclusive marketing contracts with public schools are increasingly more common, particularly with soft-drink companies. Pepsi, for example, pays a school a nominal fee for placing soft-drink machines on school property; schools are asked to encourage soft-drink consumption and to discourage the consumption of competing beverages, such as Titan water. Pepsi and Coke (as well as other companies) also purchase school property–naming rights. They’ll supply the school with a football scoreboard, for example, while prominently displaying the company logo. Meanwhile, childhood and teenage obesity rates are soaring. An estimated 25 percent of U.S. children are overweight, and 11 percent are obese. About two-thirds of U.S. children drink soda every day. Boys drink nineteen ounces of soda a day, compared with twelve ounces for girls.

3. Health and Advertising
a. Eating Disorders. A long-standing concern is the effect of ultrathin female models on the self-image of girls.

b. Tobacco. Numerous ad campaigns have appealed to teenage consumers of cigarettes.
c. Alcohol. Many of the same complaints about tobacco ads are also being directed at alcohol ads.

  • In late 2001, NBC broke a fifty-four-year-old taboo by accepting liquor advertising—a series of ads for Diageo’s Smirnoff Vodka—on network television. Beer and wine ads were already acceptable to broadcasters, generating more than $1 billion of revenue a year. Moreover, 400 local broadcast stations across the country, as well as thirty national cable net-works, have run ads for spirits since 1996. However, congressional leaders argued that broadcasting liquor advertisements is an entirely different matter, and in 2002 legislators announced that Congress would hold hearings to examine the propriety of liquor product promotions. Consequently, just a few months after introducing liquor ads on network TV, NBC pulled the ads, worried that all alcoholic beverage ads would come under scrutiny during the proposed hearings.

d. Prescription Drugs. Direct-to-consumer advertising on television has translated into big sales for certain prescription drugs.

College student trends:

  • College students like socially conscious products:
  • One in four college students purchased a product in the last year because it was viewed as socially conscious.
    About 33 percent prefer brands that give back to the community, that are environmentally safe, or that are connected to a cause.
  • The 2007 Alloy U Award winners for “Top Socially Responsible Brands” as recognized by college students are

1. Ben & Jerry’s
2. Walmart
3. Coca-Cola
4. Newman’s Own
5. Target
6. Yoplait
7. Whole Foods Market
8. Burt’s Bees
9. Starbucks
10. Kashi


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s