A culture based on consumption. Consumption culture David Potter has called modern American advertising the “institution of abundance” He states, “It

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  • A culture based on consumption

  • Consumption cultureDavid Potter has called modern American advertising the institution of abundanceHe states, It dominates the media, it has vast power in the shaping of popular standards, and it is really one of the very limited group of institutions which exercise social control.

  • Americans and the consumption of natural resourcesUS residents consume at a level unprecedented in human historyLiving at a level reserved for the rich in the pastMass prosperityHuge levels of waste

  • The United Nations Development Programmes (UNDP) Human Development Report 1998 (HDR 1998)provides some of the most striking statistics:The ratios of consumption levels of 20 percent of the people who live in the richest countries to the 20 percent who live in the poorest countries are: Eleven times for meat, Seventeen times for energy, Seven times for fish, Forty-nine times for telephone lines, One hundred forty five times for cars, and Sixteen times in the overall.

  • What are the outcomes?Huge wasteGarbage PollutionResource depletionDomestic unrestInternational conflictHappiness? (high standard of living)Worldly populationInvestment in consumables rather than capital

  • Features of materialismDesire to own things that does not reflect actual need (wants)Dissatisfaction with ones current material conditionsJealousy toward those with greater levels of material wealthWillingness to exchange non-material values for material valuesEvaluation of others based on their material wealth

  • Where does materialism come from?Nature?Is it natural to want more than you need?Nurture?If so, what in the culture leads to a materialist attitude?

  • Themes of advertisingYou are inadequateProducts exist to make you betterYou will be admired for owning somethingCommodities can make you happyThey solve your problemsThey make up for your inadequaciesConsumption is a competitionWhoever has the most stuff when he dies, wins

  • Export of consumption ideologyCountries that are receiving Western media images and advertising experience an increase in wasteful consumptionRevolution of rising expectationsEven in poor countries, the population expects greater levels of consumer goods, lifestyle improvementMay contribute to Third World instability

  • Center for Sustainable Production and Consumption,1999) Advertising, though not targeted as such, does influence the very poor (the destitutes) to forsake some of their basic needs and buy/choose commodities not required immediately. Invillagesacross India we can find TV sets that run on generators (as there is no regular electricity supply) but no such arrangement that village children may read or write in the evenings. Even the very poor of the villages gettosee(and enjoy) the programmes and the advertisements on these TV sets and make slow changes in their consumption patterns.

  • Stuart EwenThe development of manufacturing capacity in excess of native want created a demand for a force that would teach people to consumeto use up the excess capacity.Advertising was developed to provide that educationConsumption levels that were reserved for the rich were now expanding to include the middle class.Fashion industryPlanned obsolescenceManufactured wants

  • Consumer socializationChildren are taught how to consume at a very early ageAdvertising to young childrenIn-school advertisingPeer evaluation based on physical appearance, branded clothes, etc.Parents emphasis on material goods

  • SchudsonWe have always wanted to consume at high levels, but economic scarcity has frustrated us

  • How does commercial communication lead to consumption ethic?Takes real problems and proposes profit-based solutions to themHeadache: Best solution, lie down till it goes away (though migraine may be another matter)Turns natural conditions into a problemHuman smells, wrinklesMakes individual feel inadequate, proposes a solution based on a purchase[Excessive narcissism]Skin not perfectEyebrow hair continues over noseFigureHair

  • Stay Free! (no author, date)What these explanations miss, however, is that the forces behind ambient are inherent in the advertising process. Advertising works somewhat like bacteria: After its hosts (consumers) are exposed, they become immune, so new strains of ads must develop and grow. These new strains are quickly copied, adding clutter, requiring new strains to emerge. Over time, advertising clutter leads to diminishing returns for individual campaigns. The more advertising grows, the more it must grow. The cycle accelerates and what was formerly considered unethical, offensive, or gauche is gradually mainstreamed out of necessity.

  • The invasion of the sacred by the profaneEven sacred parts of our culture and our lives have been colonized by the marketing imperativeJesus jeansThe use of sacred symbols in advertisingMarketing in the schoolsMarketing strategy for political campaignsMarketing strategy for fundraising for good worksThe commercialization of artPaintingMusicCinemaStage

  • Pre-packaged personalitiesCues for individual behavior drawn from communications aimed at sellingImage advertisingImage-conscious consumersCultural promotion of image-consciousnessYou are what you wearTransfer of brand image to brand wearer/purchaserTransformation of consumption experience according to brand image

  • Is there a loss of authentic, meaningful life?Communication and expression that are not tied to commerce?Individual meaning and expression that has nothing to do with conspicuous consumption?The things people say they want may not be things we can purchase.Is it true that Money cant buy happiness?

  • ResistanceThe consumption ethic has become an area of concern in relatively recent timesAdBusters, Cultural Environment MovementActions taken:Buy Nothing DayCulture jammingBoycotts, etc.

  • Dont it always seem to go that you dont know what youve got till its gone?Rarely does social action predate disaster.Need to hope for small disaster


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