Monday, May 12, 2008

After All Tomarrow is Another Day

(Watch title video link)

Advertisement: the action of making generally known; a calling to the attention of the public.

How does something so factually defined in a dictionary, become an integral part of our seemingly organic lives?
From as early as 4000 BCE ads have been influencing mankind: Ancient Arabia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and South America were some of the earliest places to actively involve advertising in their daily lives. Some of the first advertisements were implemented in the persuasion of government. This presented a choice: a purpose for advertising. When people could identify with the Ad, a part of them was instantly defined. In our society, it is apparent that we are increasingly defined by the brands we support. We have become members of genres, symbols, prices, and fashions. We have been defined like a product because we have neglected to maintain definition. We are told to "network ourselves" and "sell ourselves": words that are used to encourage us to a path of success.

What is the cost to mankind?
My sister is 12, and she is in sixth grade, an average student. This week she was doing a project about Rome and Greece. She was copying down notes from her textbook and adding them to the brochure she was assigned to make, but it seemed that every five minutes she would ask me for the answers. When I sent her back to the book to find the answer she would give up. She continued to give up throughout the day. Overall, it took her about five hours to do this simple task because she did not take the time previously to familiarize herself with the material. As soon as we got in my car a Hip Hop song came on and she knew every line. I saw this as more than just interest in music over school work; I saw it was an issue with priorities. Schools as well as children are neglecting true education. It is estimated that most kids from ages 6-17 spend about 20% of their time on academics, 30% sleeping, about 10% of their time watching TV or being on the computer, and the other 40% being around peers and adults. Thanks to advertisers working 100% of the time to reach out to these children they spend about 70% of their time being marketed to. This creates an unfair, and intentional, advantage for marketers. It also creates a type of planned obsolescence that prohibits children from making the transition from consumers to innovators. In the city that I grew up, the number of teachers and schools are dropping because of insufficient funding. Our schools do not have the option of competing with our advertisers because of this deficit in public schooling. However, if anything deserves the attention of the pubic it is this. It is as if we a battling for our youths education. When they are defined by genres, symbols, prices, and fashions 70% of the time, they lose insight to the past and foresight that we rely on for the future, and this is the dangerous affect this human branding has on society.

Outside the box:
There is a comedy "Idiocracy" that pokes fun at this idea, but there is an undertone that is very possible. Our "average American" could easily be one of the most intelligent people in the world in 500 years. It is my belief that marketing is dumbing-down our personal intelligence. By requiring nothing from us, other than support. Marketers want to make a brand experience, but what if we recognized experiences as something that is owned intrinsically and were able to identify marketing as a process. In this case I don't feel that the lines of importance would be blurred between education and consumption, or any other human crisis. (This graph show a slowed increase of both academic involvement as well as public providers)

How can I help?
I feel passionately about marketing in the sense that I would like to help in redirecting where I feel marketing is guiding society. By small strides and support of meaningful integration of marketing we have the opportunity to make all ads meaningful. People can be defined intrinsically and intelligently, and we can value the experiences that have made us rather than the brands that make define us.


Ali Abdallah said...

"It also creates a type of planned obsolescence that prohibits children from making the transition from consumers to innovators"

You hit the nail right on the head.

I see this happening with my younger siblings as well, but there's some interesting factors at play too. For example, Arab-Americans rank above average in America when it comes to education, economic status, etc.
Now I'm not trying to show off or anything,
the reason I mention this is because I am pretty sure it is due to the fact that they spend less time being distracted and consumed by adculture,
they have stronger ties to their own native cultures while incorporating American values and strengths that have really put this country in the lead.
You are right about America and our intelligence, the resources that you are provided with in this country are astounding.
My family and relatives are definitely living the American dream,
and heck, within one generation we have gone from the poorest of the poor (my parents first lived in low-income housing by the Ford factory)
to now where nearly all the first-generation born in the U.S. from my family are in the top 10% income level.
That is a testament to how great this country is.

but unfortunately McDonald's also needs to sell 10 billion McChicken Sandwiches a year, and how are you going to get that from a population that is entirely educated and empowered?

FancyJane said...

well, I am aware that there is a social order of things and we need every "level" to effectivly function in a society, but my concern is that those who would typically excell because of an educated family are turning the other cheek. You make a valid point when you say that the Arab-American population is progressing because it is the average American that feels comfortable enough with their surroundings that they don't know, or care, to protect themselves from manipulative advertising.

Dishonesty is a fact of life with advertising, but there are some companies that "redeem" themselves by giving charitibly, such as McDonalds. There are actually a lot more companies than you would expect that give charitibly, like Northwestern Mutual Finance is the largest supporter of the United Way in the U.S., but they don't advertise this publicly, so people stay focused on the money.

Even in my marketing classes we don't focus on non-profits, or charitable giving: not even a chapter. This is just a concern for me because the less we care, the less we innovate, and the less we develop as a culture, race, and other ways.