Week 2 Reflection: Advertising in Media


On the web, on television, and on the big screen, advertising has become a recognized element of pop culture, specifically in media. We cannot go a day without seeing or hearing an ad. The moment we wake up to check the news on our phone, there’s an ad playing on the side of the screen. As we crawl downstairs to the living room to turn on the TV, there’s the weather forecast and shortly after, more ads. Even when we turn on the radio while sitting through traffic in our cars, what do we hear? Another ad. Over the centuries, advertisements have evolved and more importantly, escalated.

Commercials not only play during their designated commercial break, but they also make subtle appearances in television shows. In Emily Nussman’s “The Price Is Right,” I am bombarded with examples of how advertising influences the plots of our beloved TV shows. It astonishes me to know that there are brands with more control over the way characters act than the writers themselves. But according to Nussman, product placement is specific to the United States. Why don’t other countries allow the same marketing technique? Or perhaps there’s a better question: why does our country use this technique when advertisements already find ways to appear frequently in our daily life?

Reading “The Price Is Right” was the perfect warm-up for The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, because both highlight just how significant advertising is in both television shows and films. After seeing Morgan Spurlock used as a puppet in his own movie, I became more aware of the power that advertising holds over much of the media we see. The Hollywood Reporter’s review of the movie suggested that the most shocking revelation was not of the mass advertising in our society but of São Paulo, a Brazilian city that recently banned all forms of outdoor advertising. I personally agree on this point. Prior to this film, my impression was that most modern countries used the same advertising techniques. Product placement and blatant advertising are common sights in both the digital and real world, which is why it is so shocking yet pleasing to know that there are places where you can reside in without having to deal with someone trying to sell you a product (besides the forest, as demonstrated by Spurlock himself).

Another person unimpressed with the amount of advertising in the film industry is the founder and president of Aggregate, Alison Byrne Fields. Aggregate is a group that works with filmmakers to create social change, which is why Fields argues that “films should not be reduced to advertisements, no matter how worthy the cause.” In her article, “The Downside of Measuring the Social Impact of Documentary Films,” she discusses how films should be used to encourage social change while working alongside advocates to figure out how to create that change. I do appreciate films with progressive ideas; they bring in large audiences, which make them one of the best platforms for change. These types of films should not be promoting brands, because doing so lessens the individuality of the film and its message.

Movies and shows are just as relevant in popular culture today as they were back in the day. The same goes for advertising, but mostly because they keep appearing on screen. Hopefully this industry takes a hint soon, because most of us prefer to watch our protagonist in action instead of in a commercial.


One thought on “Week 2 Reflection: Advertising in Media

  1. Really nice work here, Sharon. Well done! I think because we are such a consumer society, I think China might be right there with us in terms of advertising perhaps, that we have a history of advertising and marketing that goes back to the 1800s. We are a consumer driven society with a history of things like sensationalism and “yellow journalism”, we will do whatever we have to do to get our stories, products, opinions out there. Our libel laws are also less strict than England, so we can say and do things in the media that other places don’t allow. We are a corporate driven society, and with that comes all of the positives and negatives including our use of copious amounts of advertising. In the 1980s, the whole issue was subliminal advertising, which eventually was banned due to consumer outrage once they knew that it was happening. Integrated ads can be very funny and clever, but I wonder if in some cases they aren’t another form of subliminal advertising if you can have characters who wear Nike shoes and drink from a white cup with a green circle. They don’t even need to say Nike or Starbucks, but we see the logos, we see our favorite characters wear/using a product, and we want to be like them. It’s not much different except that we can, if we look, see what is happening. In that instance it is more transparent than subliminal advertising.

    I like Byrne’s article, I just wonder if it is the responsibility of the filmmaker to make sure change happens in the audience, or if done well, the film opens the space for the audience to make their own choices? I have had several students ban Sea World after seeing Blackfish, and several become vegan/vegetarian after watching Food, Inc. They made those choices on their own without help from the filmmaker. The filmmaker just make a very compelling documentary. That is why I find the idea of assessing documentaries interesting, and I wonder if it is really possible?



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