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.