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.


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