Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Minding Manipulation

It usually comes as a suprise to students to learn that in television, we, the viewers, are the product. That's right, us! Not the programs, not the products that are advertised, but the audience.

Television producers and executives make shows they hope will deliver enough product (audience) to make advertisers spend as much of their money as possible pitching their wares to us.

And selling our presence without being transparent and forthcoming about it isn't bad enough. We are subjected to manipulation, read that as marketing, through the creation of desires which, of course, product X will fulfill, and/or we are subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) shown how we just don't measure up to the make- believe world the advertisers create.

Magazines are the same.

It's everywhere - on television, radio, buses, blogs, websites, movies, taxis, billboards, magazines, and more. The basic methods may differ, but the goal is the same.

I am sick of advertising. No one ever asked me, or any of us, if all days, times, places could be filled up with advertising, if every time and space could be commercialized.

I've had enough. I am on a mission to endure as little advertising as possible.

It's not always possible - probably not best to close one's eyes while driving to avoid signage in various places!!! But there is a mute button on the remote or the option to not watch television at all (or to watch selectively), and there are computer programs that will block sidebar ads and pop-ups. I just won't buy some magazines, as I refuse to pay for all the ads.

I believe that many ads, images, and narratives affect us in negative ways; they certainly are manipulative, working around reason and critical thinking. One of my professors had research to show that we who think we are resisting ads are often the most susceptible.

Not all ads are bad. Some are funny, provocative, artistic, informative, enjoyable. I like those and will choose to watch.

But I am on a mission - I will no longer be a passive endurer of other people's manipulative attempts to sell me something.

To end on a lighter note, here is a Wendy's ad from the eighties, with Clara Peller - one of the famous "Where's the Beef?" ads. The slogan has become part of the culture.


askcherlock said...

That really was a funny commercial. You are so right about being a product. These days we rent films so when we do watch TV, we are shocked by the interruption. I have learned the art of selective hearing and just zoning out till the program returns. Guess I'm a bad product!

ChrisJ said...

Yes, maybe we are being bad consumers, too. Aren't we just awful!

Cooper said...

I've never seen that commercial..awesome.

I used to love "Real Simple" Magazine, mainly because it is aesthetically pleasing and it's cheap if subscribed to, but the ads made me not renew this year.
Even half the articles were selling me something.

ChrisJ said...


It is so very hard not to be "sold to." It's everywhere.

Trulyfool said...


They've almost sold me on the notion that to be a good citizen I have to keep up with what's current.

That means tapping into communications media and its anxiety-producing pitch of fear, nostalgia, envy, lust, and sentimentality.

And if all at once, all the better!

To be alive means to be exposed. But I swore off broadcast media decades ago, PBS and NPR this past year.

When I do 'watch' oddball 'guilty pleasures' like my wife's HGTV with its blatant real estate and diy promotions, I ride my 'mute' button as though I were commanding a frigate during a typhoon.

How can one avoid the attractions of becoming an elitist? That's the real question.

Weaning oneself off the quotidian means commitment to big, often old, books, and music heard originally by audiences who fired employees and mistreated servants.

I'm a democratic man for whom the system has generally 'worked' -- and the result is alienation from both the system that 'built' me and the populace that raised me.

Manipulators are only the wily versions of the bad taste we (I except you and me and your sharp readers here) promulgate in never-ending spew.

(vote for me?)


ChrisJ said...


Yes, it's hard to take a stance with any kind of rightness.

Loved the line about riding the remote!

Ciss B said...

I have come to place where I read on the reliability of an item if I need to buy something. I turn ads off, and listen to NPR on the radio to avoid any ads I can.

I don't care how funny some of the ads are - they're intrusive.

ChrisJ said...


The ads are intrusive - I think they are better seen (the good and funny ones) long after they are current; then we look with different eyes.

angelshair said...

I love this ad :)
I generally love intelligent ad, but like you I hate to have my movie interrupted for an ad.
As I never watch TV, I don't have this problem, and radio ads are sometimes really funny.
I would also say that mind manipulation in ads for me is not really a issue, because the goal is announced and clear. It is more an issue when it concerns information, and when people who are supposed to give you a objective information try to sell you an idea.

ChrisJ said...


TV is the worst. You're smart not to watch.

Owen Gray said...

It's very hard these days to find private space. We got caller ID on our telephone so that we could distinguish between "real" calls -- family and friends -- and "pitch" calls.

It's one thing to have instant communication. It's something else again to have ubiquitous communication.

ChrisJ said...


Yes, private space - pivate anything, really - is becoming more difficult.

One of The Guys said...

I remember those commercials well. Funny!

I took a bunch of advertising classes in college. I remember being shocked when I found out there were subliminal messages on saltine crackers. Seriously!

Advertising is everywhere. I think product placement is the most insidious, but it doesn't bother me because I'm aware that people don't randomly drink Coca Cola in the movies, or use an Apple Computer. It's all placement.

We could all use a little less advertising.

ChrisJ said...


Saltines? Really? We probably don't want to know what else.

angelshair said...

I so much regret that I can't acces your last post!