Examining the Negative Effects of Advertising
In “The Political Economy of Culture,” Sut Jhally makes the distinction that Americans are free from government control over speech, but that control can come from other sources. The author asks, “[i]s there a contradiction between expecting the marketplace to provide genuine diversity while at the same time treating ideas as economic goods to be bought and sold?” Because those in power work toward perpetuating the status quo, Jhally writes, the industries that produce culture attempt to instill a particular consciousness in the public.
This consciousness “work[s] to legitimate the existing distribution of power by controlling the context within which people think and define social problems and their possible solutions.” In other words, the mental framework of the masses is established by movies, television, and literature. All of these are privately produced. Advertising is the engine that runs the apparatus.
Jhally surveys various points of view on the “consciousness industry.” Media venues do not sell entertainment or information: They sell audiences to advertisers. The consolidation of newspapers is one consequence of this model. According to the author this is the marketplace moving in “to replace older forms of cultural activity,” which were displaced by urbanization.
How to Avoid the Negative Effects of Advertising
One impact is that culture is reduced from art to pure entertainment. It serves, then, only to distract from the deficiencies of interpersonal relationships in a capitalist society. Jhally criticizes the view that this is a conspiracy, and argues that it is driven more by the profit motive. Ultimately, communications must pass through the prism of advertiser influence and have mutated into the trite and glib; into the “imagistic modes rather than verbal, audio, and textual ones.”
Charles Eckert uses a narrower scope of real world examples to convey his message in “The Carole Lombard in Macy’s Window.” Honing in on the relationship between the Hollywood film industry and corporations, Eckert describes forces that arose at the beginning of the 20th Century, which produced a synergy that defines the American people’s relationship with mass entertainment and consumer goods. Realizing the money to be made from using films to advertise goods, corporations that would otherwise have little to do with the culture industry that Jhally describes are now responsible for the content of the media people consume.
Actually, this situation is multifaceted. Films display products prominently in order to raise public consciousness, and thus sales. Companies market products that allow people to mimic their movie idols. Because movies and products are tailored based on the machinations of corporations, popular culture has not only descended from art to pure entertainment, as Jhally argues, but from an organic entity to a synthetic one. Because advertisers need to place their products in a realistic setting, period pieces go out of fashion and modern films take the fore.
How to Reverse the Negative Effects of Advertising
The above authorities are essentially in agreement that only a switch to a social order modeled on Marxism can possibly begin to recover what has been taken over by the phenomenon of advertising. Corporations are powerless to improve the situation as they are compelled to be the vehicles of all the deleterious effects of advertising by their mandate to maximize shareholder profit.
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