PR, Films and Fantasies

I Consume … I exist – Consumer Culture

Posted on: May 2, 2010

This week’s Media Culture covered consumerism… It’s nothing new, nothing shocking but still, it makes me realise how much our lives are influenced by acquisitions.

In the 2003 ‘Practices of Looking’ – chapter on ‘Consumer Culture and the Manufacturing of Desire’ – Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright talk about the impact of advertising focusing on its ability to tell us what to eat, what to wear, how to behave and obviously how to spend. They investigate the power of images and prove how easy it is to influence the weak, desperate consumer.

With the rise of mass production, the Industrial Revolution, the development of major urban centres (especially Paris in the 1850s) and the birth of department stores (and yes, the first one was in Paris) consumer culture emerges in the context of modernity and in a society where the need to shop becomes part of its ideology as leisure, pleasure and therapy.

According to Marxist theories, advertising’s role is to create the demand for products making people buy more than they can possibly consume. This leads to a great difference between the exchange value (the actual cost) and the use value (the function and importance for survival) of products, a difference that most of times dictates the certain social status and respect a person gets by getting that particular thing (the obvious example: cars… a Ferrari versus a Renault).

Through this, products get new meanings and become fetish objects. We need to buy as advertising knows us what is best for each and one of us! They speak to us in a million ways: through nostalgia, emphasising tradition, focusing on differences or the feeling of belonging, on the cool or the uncool… We buy because we hope to enter that fantasy world, have that amazing body and have that particular reaction on others.

Overall, the conclusion is that adverts are one of the key texts that influence cultures through their logo, slogan and trademark policies in a constant struggle for meaning and attention.

Anyway, I plan to start my research paper on the TESCO ad… I want to show how much of the ad influences culture and how much of the cultural changes are reflected in the ad. Are we all becoming pure materialists? Or the reason we are shocked by this approach is because money isn’t the main and only concern we have?


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