“advertising and global culture"

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Isabella Fassi

Dr. Jeff Bennett


Memo 8

6/12/11Isabella Fassi

Dr. Jeff Bennett


Memo 8


In Advertising and Global Culture, Noreene Janus explains the emergence of transnational culture as intentionally brought about through the omnipresent and precisely directed advertising undertaken by multinational corporations. Janus describes the use of certain themes, namely youthfulness, beauty, success, happiness, and whiteness, as the marketing tools that transmit the primary message of transnational corporations: if you want the good life, i.e. the life we sell, consume - and then consume some more. Although the use of the same advertisements across the globe saves corporations time and money, it has also seriously disrupted the identities of localized cultures. These ubiquitous advertising campaigns do the most damage in developing nations where the products being advertised are frequently desired and rarely obtained. On an economic level, this emphasis on the Western and the new has eroded the ability of developing nations to sustain themselves, resulting in a new form of colonialism. On social and psychological levels, these advertisements have threatened the cultural and personal identities of the people on which they are imposed. Janus ends by reinforcing the notion that the targets of transnational marketing, materially impoverished peoples, are those who make the strongest associations between consumption and happiness, and thus, are most likely to value Western goods over locally produced goods.

The film Life and Debt reflects much of Januss article, particularly the idea that economic self-reliance within developing nations is discouraged in a global free market. The film also comments on the philosophy of neoliberalism that has spawned neocolonialism, which has, in turn, crippled many nations economies (with the example in the film being Jamaica). The case of imported milk powder overtaking the milk industry within Jamaica serves as the example par excellence of Januss insight that developing nations come to value industrialized goods over their locally produced ones. However, in the milk powder example, the foreign item was chosen over the locally produced one not due to the power of advertising, but due to the power of the government, in the form of subsidies that made the milk powder cheaper. Here the film acknowledges a piece of the globalization puzzle that Janus misses - the important role of not just transnational corporations, but of government (in cahoots with the World Bank and the IMF).