Thursday, 27 October 2011

Public Relations:

This week in the module 'Consumerism', we covered Raymond Williams theory of Public Relations.

Public Relations is a result of advertising, Williams argues that "Advertising was developed to sell goods, in a particular kind of economy, however publicity has been developed to sell persons, in particular a kind of culture". (Williams, R 1980). For example well established members of society e.g Celebrities often have PR agents who specialise in 'arranging' (often through payment) a situation which either portrays a celebrity in a specific way, or helps to sell an idea/lifestyle/commodity. Williams refers to this method of advertising as 'Magic', ".... a highly organised and professional system of magical inducements and satisfactions, functionally very similar to magical systems in simpler societies, but rather strangely coexistent with a highly developed scientific technology".

Previous examples of PR stunts are:

Edward Bernays.  In the 1920s, working for the American Tobacco Company, he sent a group of young models to march in the New York City parade. He informed the media that a group of women’s rights marchers would light “Torches of Freedom”. On his signal, the models lit Lucky Strike cigarettes in front of the eager photographers. The New York Times (1 April 1929) printed: “Group of Girls Puff at Cigarettes as a Gesture of ‘Freedom’”.

PETA. The animal rights campaign group are renowned for their highly visible, frequently controversial campaigns. From young women dressed in lettuce bikinis to the annual "Running of the Nudes" PR stunt which sees PETA activists run naked through Pamplona, Spain in a parody of the bull run tradition. The organisation has managed to win the celebrity vote – as such Christy Turlington, Eva Mendes and Naomi Campbell have posed naked on billboards supporting the slogan “I’d Rather Go Naked than Wear Fur.”

Williams, R. (1980) 'Advertising: the magic system', in Problems in Materialism and Culture, London: Verso.

Monday, 17 October 2011

SuperMarket Sweep Activity

Visit a well-known supermarket (ie. Tesco/ Asda) buy two food products from different ranges e.g. (Value/ Finest). Using a semiotic analysis, analyse both products, thinking about the way social differences are created through supermarket goods. 

"Semiotics is concerned with everything that can be taken as a sign". (Eco 1976 in Chandler D, Semiotics: The Basics). 
After visiting the supermarket Tesco, I have chosen to do a semiotic analysis on a strawberry Tesco value yogurt and a strawberry finest yogurt. 

The first image shows Tesco own brand 'Value' strawberry yogurt. The plain (white) plastic packaging and blue colours reflect that this product is part of the Tesco range, the use of the word ‘Value’, also signifies that the product is good value for money. The red 'Value' also connotes the products cheap prize. The plain bold writing, along with the lack of images also suggest a cheap price range. 
(fig 2)

In contrast the second image of Tesco finest range of yogurts have connotations of wealth and have a higher status value reflecting marx's idea of 'Goods being socially valued', as the packaging is silver and black, also with a large image of a strawberry reinforcing the desirability of the product, with bright vibrant colours. 
Veblen's theory of consumption relies on Marxian analysis of social difference as people amass socially valued goods to portray identity and achieve social status. Again this also suggests Lasch's idea of grandiosity with reference to narcissism as a result of capitalism. For example 'shoppers' believe Tesco finest range has higher social class/value as a result of distinction with capitalism. 
Baurdrillard believes that consumerism is made through a 'system of signs', for example using Barthes theory of semiotics, the Tesco Value range yogurt and Tesco finest range yogurt's main difference is through visual signs such as colour of packaging and the packaging itself, as the white, blue and red connotes the supermarket Tesco, where as the silver and black packaging along with the pictures on the luxury yogurt pot connotes wealth as silver has associations with money. Tesco Finest generally targets the higher class consumers, for example as a stereotype lower class consumers have a lower income, therefore higher social class consumers earn more, and as a result social difference is created through the price and marketing of a product. Reflecting Bourdieu's theory of three types of capital as stars (celebrities) often endorse a brand e.g. Stacey Solomon and 'Iceland', therefore suggesting that 'Icelands' products are highly prized like the celebrity. This suggests that supermarkets create social differences through the advertisement of different brands, i.e value and luxury items. "I shop for things that make me 'better' than you."