The marketing paradigm suggests that even centuries ago, those people, who were selling goods or commodities, had been aware that advertising their product would make people want to buy it, regardless of the initial desire. Although advertising industry would not appear for hundreds of years, even then some of the techniques were adopted and brought into the business. Today commercials follow people on every step, subconsciously priming them and making them vulnerable to media manipulation.
The documentary named The Persuaders provides an in-depth look into the world of advertising. The contemporary advertising paradigm, reflected in the film, suggests that modern life is cluttered with commercials, which are bombarding a person from every direction. Simultaneously to peoples attempts to abstract from intrusive PR technologies, advertisers are competing for their attention by increasing the amount and quality of commercials. Hence, an advertising clutter is formed, stipulated by the desire of companies to make a truly unforgettable commercial that will impact human cognition. Since by no means all advertisements are successful, the metaphorical clutter is being constantly enlarged by the daily supply of the new commercials. Along with the aforesaid process, the documentary highlights the development of manipulative strategies, with the main focus of attention shifting from advertising products to the promotion of ideas, goals, and emotion behind those goods. Furthermore, film creators unravel the methods of integration of advertising into popular entertainment fields, such as movies and television series, as well as news, which is generally regarded as an objective source of information.
The documentary makes the advertising processes more comprehensible with the help of the two dominant strategies. First, filmmakers explain the key methods of advertising, as exemplified by Song Airline, a new company that attempts to pave its way into the world of sophisticated commercial marketing and established business. Thus, by presenting an inside look at focus groups, the effect of immersion is created, making viewers feel involved into the process of strategic advertising management. Second, a wide spectrum of experts in the field of advertising was invited as commentators of the film, including Mark Crispin Miller, an author of a series of renowned books and articles in the sphere of advertising, such as Free the Media critique. These guest speakers not only comment on the contemporary state of events, but also illustrate the way PR technologies are incorporated. Some of the experts are widely recognized and respected in the sphere of advertising, such as Dr. Clotaire Rapaille, Kevin Roberts, and Frank Luntz, whose opinion towards the issue attributes to the authenticity of the information presented in the film.
Apart from the commercial focus, the documentary pays significant attention to the phenomenon of political advertising, especially the power of word manipulation. One of the techniques developed by Frank Luntz was examined closely, providing the viewer with a close look on the way the proper words, appealing to the public, are selected. Furthermore, political advertising discourse, unlike commercial language, is legitimately permitted to convey any type of information, truthful or erroneous. Thus, one of the dominant strategies of political verbal manipulation described in the documentary is interpersonal advertising, which allows transmitting certain information directly applying to a particular person in a specified dosage. Information that has nothing to do with an individual, or the one that may somehow ruin the impression, is purposefully omitted. Personal profiles compiled by the large companies are incorporated with the purpose of obtaining target information about the potential voter.
Another piece of information devoted primarily to political manipulation is the chapter Reach Out and Elect Someone written by Neil Postman. The writing compares politics to show businesses approximating politicians image to that of entertainment personas. In this case, politics are similar to products, which may be bought in accordance with the image they create by voting. Hence, this image has to be as appealing to public as possible; thus, candidates have to be presented as honest, hardworking, well-rounded, and respectable in order to gain the electorates trust. Media is a leading instrument of image creation. Postman states that we are inclined to vote for those whose personality, family life, and style are the most favorable among the candidates. The author also mentions that television commercials are the dominant source of political manipulation, since people can like or dislike it, but they are incapable of ignoring it. Thus, advertising impacts a person regardless of his/her desire, and the message transferred via commercials is received inevitably.
Moreover, advertising, in Postmans opinion, is deprived of the categories of truth and falsity. Instead, it creates a mythology, offering the public a potential reality, which originates in the minds of consumers, rather than sellers. Ergo, the phenomenon leaves no place for rational processes. The same model is adopted in the contemporary political advertising. The ideas similar to the key properties of the product have to be delivered in a limited time frame; otherwise, the desired effect will not be achieved. Thus, candidates are not attempting to convey particular aspects of their political program; instead, analogous to ancient gods, they try to embody a particular feature or virtue. At the same time, commercials aim at momentary information processing, rather than at encouraging thorough historical analysis, while developing personal opinion concerning a particular politician. Thus, people tend to evaluate candidates based on momentary emotions brought in by commercials, instead of looking behind the image created by the successful PR agents. Paralleling modern situation with Huxley/Orwell dichotomy, Postman makes a pessimistic prognosis by mentioning that people adhere to television voluntarily; thus, consciously transforming into TV-dependent ignorant mass that is willing to absorb disinformation and political propaganda.
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With These Words I Can Sell You Anything, an article written by William Lutz, is another example of uncovering the essence of advertising. Unlike the Postmans chapter, Lutzs writing predominantly deals with linguistic aspect of advertising, revealing hidden messages beneath conventional commercial slogans. The article is abundant with numbers and statistical information concerning the prices of television commercials during prime time, as well as overall cost of TV advertising. The author regards advertisements as an integral and unavoidable phenomenon that accompanies viewers as a price they have to pay for entertainment they receive. He declares that commercials are one of the main sources of revenue for television channels; thus, no obvious possibility of avoiding advertising exists at the moment. Hence, education on advertising appears as the only healthy strategy of reducing the priming effect it produces on the viewers cognition.
The author accentuates the power of words people hear from the screen and decodes them. Hence, the true meaning Lutz demonstrates in the article appears different from the traditional viewers interpretation. Similar to Postman and the documentary, Lutz highlights the fact that commercials have little to do with the actual reality. Since commercial companies are lawfully restricted from transmitting embellished information straightforwardly, they have developed a particular advertising code. Thus, the words heard in the advertisements are often nothing more than mere containers; ergo, viewers interpret the message in accordance with their personal set of beliefs, metaphorically filling the containers with the meaning that corresponds to their worldview.
Lutz describes parity products, which are essentially the same, and illustrates their traditional on-screen characterization. He introduces the category of weasel words, which appear to say one thing when, in fact, they say the opposite, or nothing at all. The author provides plenty of examples of these words, such as new and improved, help, act/work, like, virtually, and fast. In case of the aforesaid words, Lutz demonstrates the shift of meaning from the conventional sense to the idea actually implemented in the advertising discourse. Hence, by including personal remarks, the author, metaphorically speaking, aims at opening the consumers eyes. The effect is intensified by Lutzs explanatory incorporation of the advertisements many people are familiar with.
Therefore, both articles and the documentary aim at exposing the downside of the commercial business by revealing its goals, methods, and effects it produces on the public. To some extent, each of the aforesaid pieces regards advertising as a socially negative phenomenon that, if cannot be eliminated, should be controlled. Hence, substantial education on the subject can help to develop personal awareness; thus, reduce the priming effect. Given the fact that when the writings were created the internet did not occupy the niche it does today, barely anything was said about internet advertising. However, logical analysis of the situation, along with the examination of the current situation, leads to the idea that the internet has transformed to the main commercial arena, gradually outliving television.