The images we consume…

I would like to discuss how people perceive images in the media and the affects those images have on society.  Most of the images that we view have been altered to create an ideal or a fantasy, as opposed to a reality. Most Americans are probably aware that advertising images are altered, but that does not protect them from the messages that images send. Each picture a person views sends them a message of what perfection looks like. When someone sees a picture in an ad, they don’t just see a model displaying a perfume bottle, for example. They see beauty. They see what it looks like to be seductive. They see an ideal. They might recognize that the model in the picture is airbrushed, but it doesn’t prevent them from defining human beauty according to the altered image. People reflect themselves back into images and depict their world through those images, as opposed to understanding them at face value. Rather, people use these images to define themselves and the world around them. For example one might view an image and personally relate to it, or they might view an image and want to relate to it, asking how they could change themselves to closer reach the ideal depicted in the image.

The multitude of images that we consume in American culture has many affects. First of all, it causes people to constantly compare themselves to often impossible ideals. For instance, women might look to magazines to determine how they should look. Some might follow a path towards trying to become and image, in which the actual self can be lost.  Many people measure celebrities and others according to their images. For instance, how many images one sees of a person might be positively correlated to how relevant and important they perceive that person to be. I would say that people today also use social media to measure celebrities and non-celebrities according to their images. For example if a “friend” on Facebook only posts pictures of herself in full make-up, wearing heels and on vacation, one could perceive her living a very glamorous life, even though this is really just a highlight reel of images she wants seen. People are more mindful of their image (both in person and online) and the messages that it sends because we live in a society that is so consumed with, and aware of images.

Understanding people based on their images also plays a role in politics in our society. The general population tends to care more about who a politician is than what his or her policies are. For example, when surveyed, people rated President Regan highly, but didn’t typically agree with the actual policies he endorsed. People often want to vote for who they observe to be the better person. I think it would be safe to say that people determine who the better person is, based (at least partially) on the images of that person that they are exposed to. I imagine that if Americans were surveyed today and asked to describe our current president, many would list attributes of his personality or character; based on how they perceive the images they’ve been exposed to of him, as opposed to his political decisions or policies.

When it comes to images in the media, one could argue both that they are good and that they are not. Regarding this, I think that there is somewhat of a paradoxical situation. On the one hand, we don’t want to see real images, and studies indicate that they wouldn’t sell products nearly as well as an altered, fantastical ideal. At the same time though, we hate these images for setting in our minds an unachievable standard of perfection. Many say that advertising force-feeds us these images, but we are the ones buying the magazines in which to consume the images. I do think that images in advertising have an effect on society; however I also believe that society has an effect on advertising. I don’t think that we can blame one or the other, but that the two perpetuate each other.

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Corporate Sponsorship: Advertising & Ethics in Relation to Academia

Purdue is contracted with various brands whose products and promotions can be found around campus and at various events. This is a topic that was brought up for discussion in one of my advertising classes recently. The question was brought up in one of my classes regarding whether or not corporations could/should begin to dictate activities and/or curriculum within a school. This was my response:

Companies have been sponsoring sporting and other events for a while now. I see no problem with corporate sponsorship; however I do not think that a company should be able to dictate activities within a school. I think that it is probably effective and beneficial for a company to sponsor, advertise, or promote itself at a football game for instance; and I see no problem with this at any academic level.

On the other hand, if a company takes their marketing plan beyond sponsorship and promotion at events (where this sort of thing is culturally accepted/expected), I think that it could be a problem. For example if Nike’s promotional agenda was woven into a physical education program at a school, this could be perceived as deceptive advertising. If an education professional is “teaching” children about the benefits of Nike over other sporting brands, there is research to support that students would naturally take the teachers word for it and mold their opinions based on that education. While that would likely be an effective tactic, I do not feel that it would be an ethical one. Under this scenario students would not have received an unbiased or comprehensive education about all available sporting brands. I also feel that such “education” would detract from the class and lessen the educational experience for students.

Outside of the classroom is, in my opinion, the best place for advertising. I see no problem with a school contracting with certain brands for vending machines or promoting a sponsor brand at an event. But taking advertising messages into the classroom or altering curriculum around an advertising agenda does not seem ethical to me. I believe that advertising should never be deceptive and that education should be anchored in academia and not in corporate promotion.

Advertising in the World of Social Media: Problems & a Proposal

There has been controversy and some trouble with finding the best way to monetize the internet. Part of the problem in advertising today is that people feel bombarded by unwanted advertising messages.  Ads seen by people who are not potential prospects result in wasted exposure. And ads seen by people who feel forced to view unwanted advertising can carry a negative valance.

In the digital world of mobile media that we live in, people want choose what they see and when they see it. This creates a problem for advertisers. Some would argue that any exposure is good exposure, but I disagree. For example, I personally have been irritated when I want to watch a short YouTube clip and first have to sit through a 30 second commercial. Advertising should never be something that people consider a nuisance.

If only there were a way to get people to want to view an advertisement; something that people would actually seek out. While the CPM may be higher, the ad would only be reaching actual prospects. It is unlikely that someone who has sought out an advertisement would feel negatively about viewing it.

I think that one possible solution here would be to use Pinterest. The site has become very popular and is continuing to grow and stand strong in the world of social media. So before you write this off and stop reading, hear me out and then comment to let me know what you think.

Pinterest could add a section of categories specifically designed for advertisers (ex: Cleaning Supplies & Tips, DIY Home Projects, & Women’s Apparel). While I realize that Pinterest already has categories for the public to post in, these would be separate categories clearly designated to advertisers. People could then search for new products and ideas according to their interests. Advertisers could be charged per click, per “like”, and per “re-pin”. These categories may need to be a little more specific than the broad ones that currently exist. But there could be a lot of potential to this idea. These categories would also need to make clear that they were for advertising so that people do not feel as though they are being deceived. People could also subscribe to advertisers or categories that were of interest to them, so that whenever they log in the latest ads would appear in their “following” section.

If this seems confusing still, I will give an example of what this experience might be like to a user. Say I am interested in DIY Home Projects. I would check out that category and see an ad for how to build your own book-shelf. I could then click on that ad and it would take me to say Home Depot’s site, where I could perhaps print off a step-by-step and a list of the necessary items to purchase at the store.

While some may argue that companies could do that now for free as PR, it is my opinion that there are more possibilities for this concept as an advertising initiative. The site could feature ad “pins” based on one’s interest and there is no deception involved. People would be seeking out the advertising themselves and only finding things that they are at least a potential prospect for.