PR, Films and Fantasies

Half week through #mybrands

Posted on: November 19, 2010

On Monday I started the #mybrands experiment. I planned to observe all brands that I use and all brands which target me throughout this week in an auto-ethnographic research process for my Promotional Culture module.

The aim of it was to see how exposed I am to the promotional message daily, as many claim we are being bombarded with promotional discourse each second but also to see how much of this discourse is actually relevant to me. I was also curious how many of the the brands I use are are common with the ones which target me.

I tried to be as natural as possible since I started the experiment and to just go on with my daily activities like going to school, to the gym and to movies. I didn’t take into account adverts from magazines or newspapers unless they featured on multiple pages were or very creative and eye catching. I did however keep a track of articles or news pieces which I felt were pushed by PR campaigns.

Also, as I live close to the Bullring (a huuuge shopping centre through which I have to pass every day) I didn’t put down all the promotional messages inside it unless they persuaded me into actually buying something or visit the store. I am not sure if this approach was appropriate yet and if it could influence my research in any way.

A few conclusions I got to after the first 4 days:

1. I am actually not as bombarded as I thought. On a regular day when I would wake-up, probably go to university by train, spend there a few hours, come back home, go out to the gym, a film or a restaurant and then to bed with as much social media as possible in between, I would say that the number of brands I notice is quite small to what I expected.

2. However, yesterday I travelled to London, meaning a change in my daily routine, and I suddenly felt suffocated. On the tube, the streets and even the conference venue I went to, advertising was yelling at me for some attention. I am still to interpret this issue…

3. I honestly did my best NOT to constantly search for ads around me and it worked. However, I had a few problems with people who know about the project and kept pointing things out to me.

4. I realised that in the UK (meaning Birmingham and London for now) a huge percentage of posters and billboards refer to cultural commodities. I was surprised to see that almost all promotional messages on the tube stations, the tube itself, the train and many public places had ads for books, musicals, theatre and films. I have obviously seen them before, just that I never compared their numbers to the consumer-goods ones.

5. Twitter hastag was the best way to keep a diary of all of the brands as it is very simple to put them in. Also, it generated a bit of curiosity from my followers and some extra views for my blog… which is always a good thing 🙂

6. Some brands keep appearing over and over again on different channels (TV, billboards, print, content generated by PR, direct mail and e-mail, twitter promoted trends etc). I still have to investigate whether this was due to ongoing campaigns (although it didn’t really seem like that) or they are just very big brands constantly present on the market. I am quite amazed by this as until now the number of brands which target me is not that high, but the ways in which they do it are so many. Also, I noticed that certain industries have loads more adverts than others… and I’m talking about major consumer ones, not specialist sectors… for example banking…

7. Not many of the brands that I use daily make any effort to actually push more promotional message towards me. The exception to this are those who keep sending me offers through the post (as they KNOW where I live) or the ones spamming my online inbox.

8. I made a special lists with brands which use ideal moments to promote themselves. Like Lloyds in the break of Sky News, the evening the royal wedding was announced… Or the X Factor or Apprentice ads which seems to have become the new Super Bowl.

9. I kept wondering today if being aware of the power of advertising and promotion and having studied it for so long, gave me a special ability to tune out their messages. I was trying to think whether or not I missed something on my way home from New Street yesterday and I realised that if I chose not to engage in the promotional game and world, I could easily do it. If I chose to avoid the Bullring, not watch national television and not read print magazines, I could live in a quiet and peaceful advertising-free environment. Also, if I did chose to play by their rules and become a more active consumer, I could still skip ads which seemed irrelevant and big bright windows of stores I was not interested in. I am still trying to understand if this is something personal or if it happens to all elevated consumers. One thing is for sure, if we are looking for promotional messages we will find them. If we want to buy, there will always be a brand saying that it’s better than another and show us how!

3 more days ahead and then I’ll start my literature review 🙂

Please let me know what you think about these issues, if you think I’m going crazy or if they do have a pinch of truth in there!!!

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