Research Proposal on Advertising
Advertising is a destructive force that looks to exploit the ideals that this country was founded on. Jack Solomon’s essay, “Master of Desire: The Culture of American Advertising,” analyzes American advertising and its fallacy.
Because of the freedom allowed in a democratic society, social mobility has always been a part of American culture. Through hard work and/or just plain luck, a person of lower class can become one of upper class in a very short time. This is very different than the majority of European societies, where the social classes are static, or mainly aristocratic. American advertising looks to exploit this characteristic of American society.
Jack Solomon and David Ogilvy both perceive advertising as something different than the other. Jack Solomon uses semiology, the study of signs, to analyze the American culture. He believes that the American paradox or the American dream is seen as being contradicted within advertisements. His main idea of advertising is that the reader is being “manipulated” into buying their particular item(s). Fear to fit in or to have a certain status within society, sex, and unrealistic fantasies have lied within advertisements for years. Solomon thinks that advertising companies use certain ideas to modify certain body behaviors and to create frenzy about a particular good. On the other hand, there is David Ogilvy, who sees advertising as a way of living, and that people like Jack Solomon are just reading too deep into the ads. He believes that there are too many laws that regulate the kind of advertising that is false, and that advertising is not manipulative due to this. He believes that the consumer can decipher whether or not to purchase a certain good based on his own intuition. The two authors have completely different views about advertising and the way it is represented.
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The social mobility enjoyed by Americans has created the American dream. The American dream is the idea that a poor person can earn a fortune and make it big in a very short time. Because of the American dream, many Americans strive to better themselves and move up on the social hierarchy. The advertising for higher end products has targeted this dream for manyof its advertising campaigns. Americans who want to show off their wealth generally look for a product that only wealthy American’s can buy. This creates the envy of lower class people who only dream of owning a product of such high prestige. The wealthy American does not need a super fast car, or a car with many high tech features. They feed off of the image of the car, and the envy of the lower classes. Both the image and the envy are both created by the advertising for that product. In an ad for Mercedes-Benz, it says “You won’t believe what’s under the hood.” The Mercedes looks very classy, and to add to that it is considered a “beast.” People who see a man driving a luxury car automatically think that that man is wealthy or important. If it wasn’t for that car, that man might look like everyone else, and you would have no idea that he made over $200,000 a year. Solomon makes this point in his piece of work by stating, “If it weren’t for his Mercedes-Benz and Manhattan townhouse, the parvenu Wall Street millionaire often couldn’t be distinguished from the man who tailors his suits (49).
Upper class people who can afford to buy expensive cars or expensive clothing are not part of the destruction that is caused by this type kind of advertising. Although they are still influence by advertising, they have the money to spend on products that they don’t really need. The problem lies in the middle and/or lower class. If a middle or lower class person wants to feel important or prestigious, they will look to emulate what these advertisements portray. This often leads to a person trying to live above his or her means. A middle or lower class individual might not be able to realistically afford a Merced-Benz or Lexus, but the illusion that was created by the advertising company is too great. That middle or lower class person gets together all the money he can and buys an expensive car, just for the status it hypothetically would bring. This is often at the cost of some other essential item, such as food, basic clothing, or schooling. There is another scenario where the illusion created by advertising holds a destructive role. In the very poor parts of the country, such as the inner-city, the urge created by advertising is often too great. This urge leads people to do everything in their power to acquire these products that create the illusion that one is upper class. This often leads people into drug dealing, or various other forms of crime. If it wasn’t for the image that advertising creates then this urge might not be as strong as it is.
Another aspect of advertising that is a destructive force in American society is sex. Solomon says that, “Sex never fails as an attention-getter, and in a particularly competitive, and expensive, era for American marketing, advertisers like to bet on a sure thing (54)”. In respect to morals and religion, sex is being used far too much in advertising and it is corrupting our culture. Sex is something that is meant to be and remain private, but it is the exact opposite when used by advertising companies, who publicize it. The advertisers try and portray the image that a certain product can make you attractive and sexy. Even products that have no relation with sex at all, such as beer or Doritos, try to sell with sex. These advertisements are complete lies. At least a Mercedes-Benz actually does bring you attention and prestige, though maybe not in a sexual way. In the Doritos commercial, a beautiful, young woman appears with a bag of Doritos and seems to be the superhero. But the reality is that women won’t want you because you are drinking a cert type of beer. Beautiful women won’t appear just because you are eating Doritos and drinking a Pepsi. Attractive men aren’t going to want a woman just because she is wearing a certain brand of jeans, such as Calvin Klein. The billboard ads for Calvin Klein represent people who feel sexy and feel the same way about themselves because of the tone in which it sets equality and success. Ogilvy says that while these ads make up only two percent of advertising, it itself makes business while causing accidents, “Highways with billboards have three times as many accidents as highways without billboards (101).” Most ads want the reader to bring their fantasies to the surface, and let the advertisement hypnotize them, and these misconceptions that advertisers are creating are corrupting our minds into thinking the way they would expect us to.
Presently in American, the majority of the public knows and sees the fallacy of advertisements. This has brought about another form of advertising that looks to feed off the emotions of the public. These advertisements look to present their products in a realistic way, hoping to fool the public into believe it. These advertisements often target the common person, by showing actors that look like normal, everyday people. The advertisements often lack special effects, skillful camera work, or even color. The purpose of these advertisements is that they hope the average American will relate to the commercial and eventually purchase the product because of that.
Advertising brings out the worst in the American society. Other forms of media, such as movies or music add to this destructive force. The Americans’ urge to live the American dream and drive a luxury car while everyone who admires them is one of many examples. The lengths that some people go to get this admiration or status in life, is where the results of this corruption show. Advertising not only exploits the American dream, but it also lies to us. It mostly targets younger people who don’t realize that a type of soda isn’t going to make you attractive.
Americans need to be aware of the fallacy that lies within American advertising. Within is work, Solomon tries to make it clear that advertisement is indeed “manipulative” and fictitious, while Ogilvy tries to contradict him in saying that it is not “manipulative”, but merely a “reasonably efficient way to sell (96).” In the end these lies and misconceptions are destroying our conception of reality and turning America into a fantasy land.
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Masters of Desire: The Culture of American Advertising
- Length: 378 words (1.1 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
'Masters of Desire: The Culture of American Advertising';
'Always Real: Coke chillin' in the Hood';
How would these two guys analyze an advertisement?
Evidently, these two guys know how to sell something. When I see an advertisement, I see them like Solomon and Charles did. They are like businessmen trying to sell a product. The advertisements aren't just selling a product to Americans, but rather the advertisements are directed towards a targeted market. For example; a commercial that wants to sell a regular beer will show normal guys hanging out. They could be at a bar, fishing, or having a picnic. The people will be having a fun time. The targeted market would be mostly men because in the commercials it's mostly men with the exception of a beautiful woman here and there.
Other commercials, according to Solomon, thrive on fitting in. The Chevrolet commercials have a slogan that makes one feel to be American, one must by American. Chevrolet's slogan is 'The Heartbeat of America.'; Car commercials also have targeted markets also. For a truck commercial, they will show a truck getting all dirty and going through an obstacle. This is targeted towards men because most men find these things appealing. For a luxury car commercial the mood or the commercial is nice and pleasant, the car is on a country road (representing one driving to there country home). These cars were once targeted towards upper class people, but now they are targeted towards everyone according to Solomon. A commercial strives on the ever so enduring drive for Americans to have better things and climb up the social status ladder. Marketers know this, so they place normal, average, everyday looking people in their commercials to let middle class people know that they can have the car, too.
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Solomon and Charles know that an advertisement should be aired when the targeted market is watching. A commercial for Bud Light would be worthless to Anhuiser Bush if they aired it on a Saturday morning during cartoon time.
The last thing that Solomon and Charles would analyze, would be the fear of not fitting in. So, some commercials try to make people feel like they have to buy a product just to fit in.