The past few classes have really struck a chord with me. Not simply because the material is interesting and relates to what I want to study, but more so because it makes me feel like my eyes have been opened to a separate realm of knowledge that I have previously been unaware of. It kind of makes me feel like I am apart of some exclusive informed society. However, why do I have to feel this way only now? Why can’t I feel like I am an informed member of the public simply because I am? The material presented by Sut-Jhally in “Image Based Culture: Advertising and Popular Culture” really made me understand the content. In this piece, Jhally phrased ideas that sounded familliar, but ones I never understood completely. His words regarding our cultures “Visual-Image system” and the changing visual landscape in regard to advertising is something right in front of our faces, but more often then not, we’re just too stupid to realize that it’s happening. I’ll admit, I’m one of the stupid ones. For the most part, we all classify as one of the stupid ones. Does that not piss anyone else off? Something is wrong with the system of objective happiness and the fragmented culture we live in, and something needs to change it.
“Money can’t buy happiness” is a phrase one knows basically since birth. However, the way our media portrays objects and the pleasure they bring is the total opposite. As Jhally describes in his piece, versions of happiness are connected with products. So, a more accurate phrase for our culture has to be “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can get you close”. Jhally uses the example of diamonds in his article. He explained that diamonds meant nothing to people and were losing value pre-1920’s, and marketing was able to change peoples perceptions of the product. Using the phrase “Diamond’s are forever”, marketing firms were able to convince people that their partner’s happiness relied on a diamond. Now, diamond rings are thought of as essential items for anyone that will be engaged. Another modern day example is found within advertisements for food. Kashi foods, the makers of GoLean cereal, are immensely guilty of using the idea of happiness to sell their products. In a commercial for their vanilla crunch cereal (found here: http://youtu.be/JZVhqCUfZfI), the CEO promises that eating this cereal will make you “healthier and happier”, using images of surfing as a metaphor for the freedom one feels when eating Kashi cereal. These types of ads are rampant on our markets, however it seems as though outrage is not a solution to the problem, it only prolongs the pain of knowing one is being lied to.
Our fragmented culture is one thats unrelenting. We have moved from a culture from one of buy what you need, to one of buy everything and anything and buy it now, then buy something after that. We look here, there, and are not able to control it because that is how we are programmed. In “Image Based Culture”, Jhally calls this phenomenon the result of an “ADD generation”. The example he used related to the reduction in television ad times. From 60, to 30, to eventually 15, advertisers have changed their strategies from long, informative messages to short, concentrated, and filled with stimulating images. In 2009 during the Super Bowl, the beer company Miller took this idea of concentrated messages to the next level. A one second advertisement (seen here: http://youtu.be/EaY7SVToYQQ). In the ad, a “worker” for Miller stood in a warehouse, shouted “High Life!” then ended. This advertisement is the perfect representation of the mentality companies have. Show everything that a consumer needs to know in the least amount of time possible. The ad generated more publicity beyond just the one second as well. The one second ad which promoted “common sense and value” generated acclaim from media outlets and 79 thousand views on Youtube. The purpose of advertisements such as this, according to Jhally, is to “replace[ed] narrative and rational response with images and emotional response” (Jhally 203). In other words, the fast paced images and ads have become too short to form a reaction other than an immediate and emotional one. This emotional response often connects products with a positive image in ones mind, like with sexually appealing images. The rise in an “ADD Culture” has proven successful for companies in charge.
With the rise in objective happiness and a fragmented culture, one probably asks themselves, “Why is this happening?”. Well, it works, that is why it is happening. In a study preformed by the Selig Center for Economic Growth, researchers have found that consumer spending has risen 141 percent from 1990 to 2014, rising from $4.1 trillion to $13.1 trillion. Needless to say, the aggressive marketing techniques used by companies have worked. Given the current state of the US economy, it seems unlikely the aggressive marketing will be stopped anytime soon. It seems as though the best way to fix the problem facing americans today is to be aware of the strategies being utilized against them. Nonetheless, advertising is an American past time, and whether the trend continues to become more and more aggressive or calms down and returns to the narrative of a product’s use, it is here to stay.
Dines, Gail, and Jean McMahon Humez. “Image Based Culture: Advertising and Popular Culture.” Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Critical Reader. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2011. 199-203. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.
3, Volume 69 Number, •, The University Of Georgia, and •. THIRD QUARTER 2009 The Multicultural Economy 2009 (n.d.): n. pag. The University of Georgia. Web. 21 Sept. 2014.