What do adverts tell us about society

by Peter Rose 30 days ago in opinion

Has politics been taken over by the advertising industry

What do adverts tell us about society

What do adverts tell us about society?

Has politics been taken over by the advertising industry?

A casual glance at any form of advertising, from the web to P.O.S displays; from “sophisticated “ features in the press, (that look like news items,) to cereal packets. You can see that the key words are: --- quick, easy, simple, no effort required, instant, ready, just heat, half price, two for one, automated, new, latest. improved, celebrity endorsed; and in food stuffs, Spicy, salty, caramelised.

It should be noted that the advertiser's definitions of some of their own “key” words, often seem at variance from any dictionary. They also seem variable, for example a ready meal described as “spicy” this could mean that subtle gentle spices have been added to enhance natural flavours but usually means the natural flavours have been drowned by adding chemicals to mimic chilli. Politics and political ideology seems to be following the same pathways as advertising.

What do these words tell us about modern society? The concepts of hard wearing, long lasting, permanent, dependable, seem to have been lost. Is this because society no longer values such things? or, is it that the media, which is so dependent of payments from advertisers, is generating the image of a society locked into transience? We are constantly facing demands that we replace the existing with the new. Even the vital debates about pollution, carbon emissions and the future of planet earth, get distorted. Claims that scrapping your old car and buying a new one will reduce carbon foot prints, need much more careful scrutiny than any advertising reliant media will give. The carbon emissions involved in the production, distribution and sale of any vehicle are enormous. Include the batteries, tyres, paint etc. as well as the body and mechanical parts, and it can be seen that even the latest “green” cars will need many years of useful life, to justify their production. The Lithium based batteries of the present generation of electric cars, have a short life relative to a diesel engine. Spread the carbon foot print made by the manufacture of a diesel engine, over 200,000 miles (321,800 Kilometres) and compare the result with that of Lithium batteries that have to be replaced after 50,000 miles (80,450 Kilometres) then you have a better basis for comparison than the adverts lead us to believe.

The advertisers of mass produced foods in particular, are only interested in supermarket sales of very large quantities and the designers of these advertisements are probably influenced by public surveys that are similar to the following.

A press report of a study, said to have been carried out by an organisation called the Mushroom Bureau, claims that 5% of the British population believe potatoes grow on trees and even more think parsnips also grow on trees, with over a third saying apples are tropical fruit and 5% thinking pineapples grow naturally in UK. Over 10% say green beans are root vegetables. It was claimed that this was a poll of 2,000 shoppers.

It has to be assumed these shoppers were all city dwellers who had never gown their own vegetables. It would be expected that a poll of 2,000 rural dwelling people, would throw up very different results. So are the advertisers wrong, or is society really ignorant of the truth? Are politicians also being misled by market surveys and advertising methods of generating votes? Is society in the majority, really devoted to constant change of material goods, to change of ideology and even relationships?

This view of a society, that regards easy and instant as being the most important factors in any choice, and any decision; is going much deeper than just fast foods and the latest cell phones. It is relevant to the whole basic attitude to life. If the easy way, the path of least effort and never studying the facts or the possible outcomes; is a realistic description of how the majority make choices then it is actually a political issue. If a politician claims, just as an example, they will give all students free university education, then if the basis for a voters decision on who to vote for, is really based on what is easy, what is apparently free, what is instant gratification, with no thought as to all that is involved; then that politician will win votes. If the real society is different from the advertisers version of it, then greater consideration is given to the how, the consequences and the long term effects; then that politician will fail. Take this to an absurd level. A politician who claims they can reduce tax by disbanding the police and all the military forces; will appeal to the quick fix, easy, bring in new ideas simply because they are new, voters; but will totally alienate anybody who thinks things through.

The politics of the climate change and global warming debates, has apparently, unfortunately, been taken over by the politics of the quick fix, the instant action. Instead of rational debate we have the politics of hysteria, of exaggeration and of ridiculous claims of instant solutions. Geology and history prove that climate change has always been occurring. It is probable that human activity over the last 100 years, has changed the rate at which it is occurring, but seeking instant, minimum effort solutions and claims that global warming can be stopped, are from the advertisers catalogue of things that sell to the masses. Never mind the truth, never mind the quality, never mind the long term effect; get a quick sale, get a market share of people who will vote for stopping climate change, never mind the false nature of the claim. Tomorrow we can sell them the next new idea, not enough will notice, we will keep winning.

Politics and governance, the democratically agreed policies that will affect the lives of future generations, are much too important to be left to the tricks and manipulations of advertising. Voters and politicians need to turn away from the instant quick fix and focus on rational long term solutions.

opinion
Peter Rose
Peter Rose
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