It is difficult, as a person who has grown up surrounded by advertisements in magazines, on television and on the internet, to discern where I begin and where advertising ends. I have began to ask the question lately: how many of my aspirations, feelings and ideas have sprung up truly from my own mind, and how many have been planted there by the images and words I have consumed throughout my life?
Advertising plays a crucial role in todays society, more than it ever has before. There is not just an importance placed on objects as products, but as yourself as a product. From applying to University when I wrote a personal statement that would ‘sell’ me as a person worthy of a place, to writing my CV, to creating a blog or changing my cover photo on Facebook - all of these things are a type of advertising used to advertise myself and they affect how others will see me.
On a surface level, good advertising ignites our interest and makes us want to learn more about or buy a product. But what about the role advertising plays on a more subconscious level, that we are not always aware of?
It is difficult when you are consistently bombarded with images to really notice any of them - as a society we have become almost immune to shock or surprise. Anti smoking adverts on television and safe sex campaigns on Spotify, for example, confront us with shocking, off-putting images or stories that aim to change the way we live our lives. Although it may not stop us from having that cigarette on a night out or make us monks, an image says a thousand words and, if done well, the message will stick in our heads.
When I was ten, I was asked to design a chocolate bar as part of a school project and market it to the class. It was fun, because I was ten, but it was also a creative exercise that I loved because I could use all my ideas and show them off. Advertising is so crucial because it can make us believe a product is what we need in our life to make it better, to help us be the best version of ourselves. Myself and millions of other girls have spent hours poring over images in magazines, cutting out our favourite outfits and bookmarking artistic images of models to look at later and to fashion ourselves around. This is only a small fragment of the impact the fashion industry has on our day to day lives.
What, then, is the overall role of advertising today? It is impossible to sum up in a sentence, or even a paragraph. The role is seismic, intrinsic to our society’s tendency towards consumerism that trying to say ‘advertising does this and only this’ would be wrong. Advertising feeds us on a daily basis, it provides me with ideas and in a sense, we have all seen a version of ourselves advertised somewhere, by someone we want to be.
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