Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Are You Worth It? OR How Advertising Impacts Our Values

Are you worth it? Do you worry that you won't amount to anything? Or instead, do you feel like a winner, like a million?

Our commercial, consuming society is obsessed with numbers, commodities, contests, and celebrities. After a hundred years or so of intense consumerism, expressions and values that reflect this have become part of our thinking, so much so we hardly notice.

People say things like, "I've got too much invested in my marriage to give it up." Some educators have even gone so far as to say, "Children are our most precious commodity."

These are, of course, all metaphors. But why only imagery that deals with dollar values and stardom? There are plenty of other expressions such as, "our marriage is on the rocks" which invokes a nautical metaphor or "a person has a sunny disposition" that refers to the weather. And while these sayings are still used and understood, the imagery of money seems to be taking over: "The cost of loving her was too high" for example.

Advertising, naturally, appeals to this modern way of thinking. Ads often say things like "buy this product because you're worth it;" the implication being that if you are a loser and believe you have less value, you won't buy it. Talk about manipulation! Ads that use this approach often sell more expensive stuff and use the 'worth it' pitch as a way of justifying a higher price.

But what's wrong with this? Do these expressions really make a difference? I believe so. They are an indication of what the society thinks is important. And today money is important.

There are plenty of other metaphors such as those about nurturing, growth and growing, steadfastness, commitment, pleasure in simple things, friendship and closeness. Oddly many of these disappearing values are now used in advertisements as a nostalgic appeal to the 'good old days'. So if you still want a taste of this 'old fashioned lifestyle', there are now products you can buy that will evoke days gone bye. Ain't the consumer culture great!

So let me ask: do you really count? Do you think you'll make it to the top? If you've read my article to this point, you know the score. What I've written here is as good as gold. And you can take that to the bank.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

How To Unplug The Effects Of Advertising OR Turn Off The Sound

Are we helpless beings subjected to the onslaught of advertising or can we do something? Maybe something simple but very effective?

While it is easy to rant and rave about how bad advertising has become, much of the responsibility for dealing with it lies with us, the consumers. If you don't like ads, don't just sit there and take it. Do something.

The most powerful thing you can do when watching television is to turn off the sound when an ad comes on. Doing this is very effective because it defeats the coordinated sound-picture combination so carefully crafted by advertisers. Sound with picture is much more that one plus one. In a sense its: one (sound) plus one (picture) equals three (the powerful combination of the two). So by turning off the sound you have reduced the effect of advertising by two-thirds.

David Lynch, the director-writer of movies such as Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive, has spoken about how effective this combination can be when used for artistic purpose: "Sound and picture moving together in time is a magical thing. And sound does so many things. You can have a scene and introduce the right sounds and the scene changes before your eyes and ears, a whole other world opens up, moods sweep in and those sounds can march us through and indicate so many things as we go. And it's one of the elements that's the most critical to the whole."

Advertising words and music are designed to stay in our heads. They are a major part of the conditioning that marketing employs. They are designed to be carried internally by consumers into the stores when they shop. I suspect many people hear an associated jingle when they buy a product. So by turning off the sound, you have thwarted this intrusion. You have accomplished more than avoiding the noise of ads at the moment, you have prevented them from continuing inside your mind.

If you haven't used the mute button regularly, it will take a while to get into the habit and may seem like a lot of effort at first. But simply picking up a remote and hitting mute is not all that hard! And it even burns a few calories while you are veging on the couch.

I have been doing this for at least thirty years. It has become so habitual that I don't notice. But I do notice when an ad comes on with sound. It is quite annoying, grating and irritating.

And turning off the sound is an active positive step we all can take. We can teach our children and keep others in the next room from hearing the ad. We can add to the silence instead of to the noise.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Honey, We're Killing The Kids OR How Advertising To Children Has Led To Obesity Problems

Children are eating too much sugary, fattening, high calorie foods and that's a fact. The consequences of this diet will stay with them for their entire lives resulting in problems with diabetes, cancer and heart disease along with a reduced life expectancy. The Learning Channel (TLC) is presenting a new series called Honey, We're Killing The Kids showing a family how to reverse this lifestyle. The show is a kind of emergency diet makeover.

As I pointed out in my blog article, Super Size And Save!, there are a number of factors that have lead to this health crisis. But especially with children, advertising and marketing are a major part of the problem.

Our children are getting the hard sell. Food ads make up the largest category of advertising on TV shows aimed at kids. These ads feature bowls brimming with cereal, overstuffed sandwiches, and youngsters happily gulping down humongous drinks. The package design of these products often displays a favorite cartoon character.

The hard sell continues at the supermarket. What parent has not been nagged by a child to buy a certain toaster pastry or candy? These highly advertised products are often placed on the shelves at child's eye level so that a son or daughter will see the brightly colored package pitched on TV and nag parents until they buy (known as the "nag factor" by consumer watchers).

But is this just conjecture? A study done at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill looked at government data dealing with 21,000 children from 2 to 18 years old during the time period of 1977 to the mid-1990s. They discovered that young people in recent years were getting 25% of their calories from sugary, fattening snacks vs. 18% in 1977. All this adds up to about 150 extra calories a day.

Marketers know that children are vulnerable, easily swayed and impressionable. At the supermarket, there are a full range of television-advertised meal choices for kids from morning to night. A child can eat sugary cereals for breakfast, a "lunch kit" with their favorite action hero on the package, a frozen special kids meal for dinner and then crackers, cookies, candies and sodas for snacks. This category of food is also expanding rapidly. New products include breakfast bars of popular cereals, microwavable pasta dishes just for kids and munchy mixes of chips, pretzels, candy and sugar-coated cereals.

Even the food choices presented at school can be troubling. Many vending machines only offer large portions, such as 20 oz. soft drinks and gigantic candy bars so that if a child is hungry, he or she must accept this too large size. In addition the Center For Science in the Public Interest stated that, "A nationwide survey of vending machines in middle schools and high schools finds that 75 percent of the drinks and 85 percent of the snacks sold are of poor nutritional value."

Recent studies now are beginning to prove conclusively that such marketing and advertising are bad for our kids. For example, Commercial Alert, a non-profit organization, reports, "Research into the dietary and viewing habits of more than 162,000 children in 35 countries has revealed that their consumption of sweets and fizzy drinks rises with each hour they spend in front of the box. By contrast, the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables falls."

So it all comes back to the same basic question: Are we going to let advertisers have unbridled access to our children or are we going to do something?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

ADVERTISING AND VALUES: The Impact Of The Consumer Mentality On Marriage And Family

Marriage aint what it used to be. Couples tie the knot and then break up after a year or two or three. First marriages that last five years or less with no children have been dubbed 'starter marriages' or 'rehearsal marriages' by the media. And they're even cool. Angelina Jolie, Drew Barrymore, Uma Thurman, and Jennifer Lopez were married and divorced while still young. If the stars are doing it, in our celebrity obsessed culture, it must be okay!

The word 'starter' is a commercial word usually attached to products such as 'starter homes' or 'starter hobby kits'. Marketing departments like to 'bundle' stuff together into packages. This gives the appearance of making things easier by removing difficult consumer choices and allowing marketers to sell more at the same time. The implication with the word 'starter' is that you will soon outgrow it and move on, but it is a good and low cost introduction.

Like many commercial ideas, the prevalence of 'starter' this and that has now invaded our thinking. Moreover, we live in a 'throw-away' culture with new models becoming available regularly. Ads are always tempting us to try another product or trade-up or improve ourselves. So if things don't work out, do like you do with your automobile or your toaster, dump the old one and get the latest and the greatest.

But wait there's more! The consumer culture breeds dissatisfaction. The proliferation of merchandise means that long term decisions are hard to make. 'Post-purchase depression' (PPD) often follows many consumer buys because with so many choices, how do you know you got the right one at the right price?

On the Simple Living With Wanda Urbanska TV show which airs on PBS, Ms. Urbanska referred to a study designed to measure satisfaction when a commitment was made or not made. Those who made a commitment which could not be changed were more satisfied with their choice than those who were allowed to change their minds. This study reflects our consumer society. No matter what the choice there might always be something better made, easier to use, prettier or less costly. Real commitments are hard because so many other choices are available.

As a result this way of thinking is changing people's expectations about marriage. If it doesn't work out, just trade-in your wife or husband and get a new model.

And it's not just marriage, it's children. If you don't like your kids, throw them away. There are a slew of youngsters neglected by their parents because the kids are too demanding or take up too much time or are too much trouble or who have become 'damaged goods'. They're known as 'throw away kids'.

I believe a society's attitude toward commitment, marriage, children and divorce speaks volumes about the depth of shared values and the quality of our culture.

Now don't get me wrong. There are certainly times when divorce is appropriate and necessary. No man or woman should be forced to stay in a marriage that is abusive, for example, or one in which the partners are no longer compatible.

I know. I was involved in such a ten year marriage. However, before I ended it, I spent years exploring every option. My wife and I went to marriage counseling, to individual therapy and we tried to start fresh with a new understanding between us. After struggling for three years, it became clear that our marriage was broken and could not be repaired. Although it was painful and exhausting, I am glad we spent that amount of time because our choice to divorce was not taken lightly.

Search the Web Site
search web site

Main Links: Home | Blog | Articles | All Topics Index | Calculators | Annual Sales Calendar | Consumer Links | Newsletter Signup | Current Newsletter | Newsletter Archive | Personal Finance Section
Discount Products: Discount Telephone Services | Free Discount Drug Prescription Card | List Of Discount Products
More About Us: Media Info | Ad Info | About Us | Contact | Sitemap |
eXTReMe Tracker