Topic 4: Commodity and the culture of possession


This topic is about how we are sold products, using imagery, and as symbols rather than needs.

Advertising generates feelings of inferiority, fear of being different, and the assuaging of these feelings via the purchase of particular products and services.  Even though we know that advertisements are just that, they are still extremely powerful in changing how we think.  Advertising is propoganda whose only purpose is to generate profits from consumers purchasing specific items.

Definitions of key terms (see also glossary at the back of Ways of Looking: Visual Culture)

Semiotics, signs, media representation, representation as process (Thematically – e.g. class, age, gender; Generically – bias in news, class in soap operas etc.; Media-specifically; Keythemes in Racial Representations.

Studying Advertising as an example of how we are deliberately manipulated.

Short video (no sound in Cloud version) – about how we are exposed to ads, and how they give an idealised view of the products they sell, also about the subtexts and hidden meanings.  Use of stereotypes, gender stereotypes, sex and beauty/youth/affluence to sell.  Product placement in films etc.

Commodity Culture and Desire

Elements of ads:

Graphic – the picture, what is it?  Describe any people, gender, age, beautiful?, race, dress, what are they doing?

Text – where/what?  May be a slogan or just a brand – type face/logo design.

Colour range – why choose these colours?

If sound – is it voice over, music (what sort – for what purpose – e.g. classical is often used to show products are classy/expensive/high end)

What is the brief?  What is it selling?  Who is it targeting?

What elements (above) make this successful/or not.

Political advertising

Same elements as above – purpose is to promote a person/party line.

  • added to this are the negative campaigns (muck raking) about political rivals – the real or implied misdemeanors, the slogans (Stop the boats, Border security, broken economy, people smugglers, illegal immigrants (enemy aliens), union corruption, Death Cult)
  • Activity is to produce political posters – of a fictitious candidate – with the pollie pic on one and a political agenda/slogan on the other.

CCC agenda web CCC peter Rabbit poster web


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