Life of a person is characterized by consumption of commodities. It is the consumption of various goods and services that nourishes people, refreshes and perpetuates their living on earth. The aspect of consumption is what brought about divergent means of production, promotion, distribution, and retailing of the same commodities; all meant to satisfy consumer needs. As a result of this dynamic trend in a corporate sphere, entities resorted to devising means and ways of promoting their products, goods, and services with a hope of luring as many customers as possible into purchasing them. This is basically what gave rise to the culture jamming. This culture is a tactic, which is used by some anti-consumerist social movements to disrupt or subvert media culture and its mainstream cultural institutions, which include corporate advertising. Culture jamming usually seeks to expose all methods of domination of mass society as a way of fostering progressive change. A number of culture jams intend to expose dubious political assumptions that are associated with the culture of commercial entities. Some tactics, which are popularly adopted, include refiguring of logos, product images, and fashion statements, which are typically used as a means to challenge the idea of what is imperturbable. It often uses media to generate commentaries that are ironical in nature, concerning itself through the use of original medium of communication methods. This paper provides an exhaustive discussion of what culture jamming pursues and how it relates to other criticisms of consumer culture.
Just as one of the contemporary arts, culture jamming has intensely transformed existing mass media expression through perpetual rising of comments concerning the expression itself. This has been done using similar methods of communication, which were used by the original medium that seeks to enable people to consciously see the association that the product of culture jamming is a comment on the work done previously.
Culture jamming has ostensibly become a common topic within the advertising agencies, though it has a long way to go if it is to make a positive mark in the advertising industry. This is because the method undertakes to invade the advertising industry more than it seems to support it, eliciting much resistance from advertising agencies, which have hitherto seen it as a big threat in their promotional campaigns. In fact, there is a conspicuous boundary between culture jammers and conventional advertising agencies. In as much as the latters’ interest is to advance their products at people’s disposal to make sales at profit, the former employ their rebellious attitude and strength in protesting against erroneous advertisements as a way of trying to speak in favor of consumers (Crocker & Linden 261).
Culture jammers have been entrusted with the role of checking and moderating the adverts to alter elements that are deemed detrimental to consumers in case the adverts are to be exposed like that. More often than not certain adverts have been transformed in such a way that consumers repel instead of being enticed to purchase the products. This is what has been the main reason for abhor among popular advertising agencies, which, in their turn, view culture jammers as organizations trying to steal their original creativity only to disgrace it into something that cannot work for them. What fuels abhor more is time, money, and expertise that would have been employed in creating one advert only to be thwarted by culture jammers.
In some cases culture jammers have been fond of galvanizing consumers to go on rampage and demonstrate against the issues of popularizing certain products, especially those that are deemed to have adverse effects on health or morals. This consumerism has seen some manufactures sanctioned by the Bureau of Standards, and in the worst instances even withheld their licenses following public demand (Shteir 66). Despite the heated criticism against it, culture jammers, such as Kalle Lasn, would never relent in their effort of unveiling what they feel are indispensable verities about the industry of advertising (Lasn 105). Lasn has even gone as far as accusing advertising agencies and corporate marketing for breakdown of communication in the family structure. This is because a number of advertising agencies have been notorious of generating contents that typically violate social and cultural norms exposing children to what is morally unhealthy. More often this would trigger unwarranted discussion in families, where children would seem to embrace ads while parents totally reject them. Eventually, the family, which ought to be the factor on unity in the community, ends up in disarray.
Apparently, there have been common sentiments amongst culture jammers that the act of advertising has anesthetized people’s senses and intellect, especially among the youth who are just opening their eyebrows to the new horizon of life (Lasn 107). It has deprived them of their willpower to think, assess, and make individual rational decisions. Because of advertising, many consumers have been absorbed into a materialistic world to an extent that they have become oblivious of the value of morality, knowledge of good and right, and natural well-being. Following serious advertising and propaganda, which is coupled with marketing, people no longer have the guts to think for themselves, and they easily fall prey to this propaganda. According to them, the popular saying that ‘When the deal is too good, think twice’, no longer has any meaning to them. It is this widespread weakness portrayed by people that the media is taking advantages to its own convenience.
Amid numerous leftists within the advertising industry, culture jamming continues to become a conduit, through which certain organizations and even individual people convey their concerns to the public. One of the renowned organizations that frequently use culture jamming is Adbusters Media Foundation. Just like many other organizations of the same caliber, Adbusters is a non-profit, anti-consumerism organization, whose mission statement seemingly holds true, not just for its own operations but also for culture jamming as well. Adbusters Media Foundation (AMF) is a global network of student writers, artists, pranksters, educators, and entrepreneurs, who aim at advancing new social activist movements of the information age. Their purpose is to topple down the existing power structures and forge a major shift in the way people are supposed to live in the 21st century. Essentially, Adbusters is an organization that has high affinity for ecological improvement of the contemporary society. That is why it frequently observes how people interact with the environment they live in, with regard to their physical and mental wellbeing. According to Adbusters Media Foundation, conventional advertising is not only mass propaganda, but also an intrusion into people’s physical and mental space. Through this kind of criticism, Adbusters automatically fits to be the culture jammers’ headquarters, which seeks to inspire people to move upon their return to the real world from the ideal world, and from being spectators to real participants.
Besides Adbusters Media Foundation, other organizations, such as Creative Commons, Friends of the Earth, Free Culture, PETA, No Logo, and Greenpeace have equally embraced culture jamming in many occasions as a way of creating awareness within the society of socio-environmental issues. Since it is natural that mass media would often be deceptive, hyperbolic in popularizing potential benefits of products, as well as hiding or downplaying any negative effects that the same product might have, culture jamming makes intervention in these deceptive processes by displaying a different perspective, which permits people to be fully aware of any adverse effects. In this way, the aforementioned organizations protect customers’ interests alongside with exposing mass media advertisers.
It is worthy to be noted that although culture jamming is declared disgraceful to a mass media advertiser, it is equally respected and in most cases even applauded by people who are merely labeled as consumers by advertising agencies. Culture jamming rises for people’s rights by protecting them against mental exploitation. It represents the public more than advertising agencies, which indeed use people for self-gain. According to culture jammers, the best way to understand how culture jamming is of great benefit to people, the pubic ought to understand how advertising agencies have exploited them first. Effects of uncontrolled advertising to the audience are untold and with time people will be held hostage such that their own willpower to make decisions is put at bay as the media will be deciding what is suitable for them.
Furthermore, it is vital to not that through the undying efforts of culture jamming the initiative of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was born and has been instrumental in shaping the corporate sector to the required standards (Petracca & Sorapure 18). This program entails being cognizant of the welfare of employees, the environment, and community, within which the industry carries out its corporate operations. Incorporation of CSR programs in many entities has energized organizations in realizing their extra responsibilities beyond making profit from their product. First, they have woken up to the reality that the environmental conservation demands concerted efforts and that organic life is heavily dependent on the environmental wellbeing. Industries have adopted the requisite methods of manufacturing which are also geared towards mitigating environmental pollution. These also involve means of reducing carbon or greenhouse gas emission, which has in the past been the main reason behind global warming. Besides, many industries have also adopted methods of recycling products as a way of not just reducing the energy used to manufacture new products but also to avoid waste dumps, which harm the biotic factors as well as damage the aesthetic nature of the environment. Alongside with that, they have resorted to manufacturing biodegradable products, which can easily decompose when dumped, as compared to non-biodegradables, such as plastics and polyethylene products.
As they pertain to the communities, corporate entities have been obliged to ensure the betterment of people and amenities within their proximity. This has resulted into addition of value to the lives of people who have always endured the pollution of air, water, and even sound (Nadler & Nadler 79). The industries are to ensure that they formulate humanitarian programs, such as bursary programs for needy and bright students from within so that they also get enlightened. Culture jamming has also advocated for fair distribution of employment opportunities to people from within and to all those who qualify. Other facilities, such as roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, markets, and water and sewerage system among others have also been partly the responsibility of corporate entities. This has really made them to add great value to the environment and to the people around as well as the government because it stimulates general development and helps the government attain its development goals easily. Culture jamming has therefore not just concerned about regulated advertising only but also about general wellbeing of the entire humanity in all aspects of life.
However, skeptics say that a big number of people hardly pay attention to those advertisements, and therefore can hardly claim to be influenced by them in making decisions. A number of TV viewers and radio listeners believe that what is frequently advertised is faulty and will never be lured into making decisions basing merely on advertisements (Heath & Potter). In fact, analysts say that in most cases advertisements follow sales but it is hardly the other way round. The companies usually begin making numerous advertisements when their products are doing well on the market. This means that popularity of those products cannot therefore be attributed on advertisements but on the quality and other factors. It is also evident that companies, which register very minimal sale of their products, reduce the frequency of advertisements. Following this reasoning, one can therefore conclude that it is not absolutely advertisement that can influence the way people make their purchases but usually the quality and necessity which dictates. Other sources have also revealed that many companies indulge into advertisements, not necessarily to popularize their products but simply outdo their competitors. This means that without existence of that competition, perhaps, some companies would not see much need to advertise their products. Therefore, to some extent, advertising agencies may be justified in their vehemence against culture jammers’ interference in their activities because their main aims may be far from that, which jammers believe they have.
Furthermore, it is normal that in business language one has to apply tactics, which entice and in most cases involves exaggeration in order to win customers. Without this skill business will not be as thrilling as it has always been. Enticing even allows some kind of provoking of potential consumers for them to see sense in purchasing certain products. Perhaps, what culture jammers could be more concerned with are faulty products, which have potential harm when used by consumers; and that is the sole responsibility of the Bureau of Standards to regulate the quality in harmony with prices of commodities to eliminate customer exploitation (Holtzman & Sharpe 26). Once commodities have been ascertained to have no defects, whether they are advertised or not, it is not a bigger deal than if they all had defects and have not been advertised.
Culture jamming is a good initiative employed as a reaction against social conformity and protests. While it usually focuses on subverting or even critiquing political and advertising messages, a number of proponents focus more on positive forms, which bring together scholars, artists, as well as activists in seeking to create new types of cultural production that would transcend rather than merely dwell on criticizing the status quo. Organizations should team up with culture jammers in avocation for responsible advertising to eliminate the tendency of naïve consumer being adversely affected, especially with defective or exaggerated adverts. However, much focus should be on ensuring the quality standards of products because whether advertised or not, people can always learn of the existence of products and buy them. Too much attention on advertising may eventually seem to manufacturer that unadvertised products of compromised quality can as well be accepted on the market.