20 Apr

Note: This essay is written using manual American Psychological Association (APA) Format

according to Purdue University Online Writing Lab(OWL)



Running head:  ADVERTISING





Advertısıng As An Effıcıent Cause on People’s choıces:

When A Truth Totally Changes













The paper will argue how commercial advertising as an important issue of visual culture can be seen as an efficient cause on people’s choices during their everyday lives. The advertiser makes categorization on his/ her field as covert advertising, television commercials, infomercials and newer media and advertising approaches and this creates the outfall to occur interaction that involves public perception of the medium.

The aim of the writing in the visual culture context is a process of exemplification on advertising sector and its effects based on memories and behavior as psychological concepts. That means the past experience and state of mind of the person subjected to advertising may determine the impact that advertising has. Advertising is a way of communication which creates a public and at the same time personal sense that aims to persuade potential customers to consume more of a particular brand of product or service.

The complexion of the writing can be shaped on improving new media techniques and advertisers’ approaches. Mobile telephone screens, billboards, street furniture components, radio, cinema and television ads, web banners, web pop-ups, bus stop benches, magazines, newspapers etc. can be given as examples of developing media techniques which facilitates advertisers’ job to persuade potential customers. Public perception of the medium can be seen as an important fact in the success of advertising just as cited in Jean Kilbourne’s work(2006), “As advertising critic Sut Jhally put it: ‘To not be influenced by advertising would be to live outside of culture. No human being lives outside of culture.’’ For the best result there comes front some necessities such as the usage of language, colors, signs, shapes, fonts etc.

The paper will conclude by discussing the influence of advertising on culture and as a last step it will be connected to the popular culture’s daily lives and their approaches to the advertisement sector during the continued era.

Keywords: advertisement, visual language, media techniques, public sense

Advertısıng As An Effıcıent Cause on People’s choıces:

When A Truth Totally Changes


An Introduction To Visual Culture By Advertising




Advertising is a way of communication which creates a public and at the same time personal sense that aims to persuade potential customers to consume more of a particular brand of product or service. It is a field that people can use their visual language as much impressive as possible. So what means visual language and in what ways this language can be used to create efficient influences on public? A visual language is a set of practices by which images can be used to communicate concepts. Think about your daily life. To persuade your parents to go out at night or to make believe your boyfriend or girlfriend that you love him/ her you try to use your language more impressive than any other times. Just like in your daily lives in the field of advertisement you need to use your both daily life language and visual language together. Besides that it is also important that you create your work according to your target group. After the association of these elements, audience will pay more attention on your product or service that you supply. In opposition to that as informed in Kilbourne’s work(2006) most people feel that advertising is not something to take serious. Although much more attention has been paid to the cultural impact of advertising in recent years than ever before, just about everyone still feels personally exempt from its influence. He exemplifies this diagnosis by giving place to what he hears from his scholars (2006),  “I hear more than anything else at my lectures is: ‘I don’t pay attention to ads… I just tune them out… they have no effect on me.’ I hear this most from people wearing clothes emblazoned with logos.” In his example he tries to attract attention to the point that even if someone argues that he/she doesn’t care about advertisements, is also under the effect of them. Kilbourne(2006) continues his argument  saying that there is no way to tune out this much information, especially when it is designed to break through the ‘tuning out’ process. At that point it is obvious that public’s perception of medium is the most important fact that make an advertisement successful. As advertising critic Sut Jhally puts it, ‘To not be influenced by advertising would be to live outside of culture. No human being lives outside of culture.’(Kilbourne, 2006)

The way that advertisers choose is such kind of propaganda tactics. As Joseph Goebbels says, “This is the secret of propaganda: those who are to be persuaded by it should be completely immersed in the ideas of the propaganda, without ever noticing that they are being immersed in it.”(Kilbourne, 2006) In that sense Kilbourne(2006) supports his claim as, “While we’re laughing, sometimes sneering, the commercial does its work.”

Mobile telephone screens, billboards, street furniture components, radio, cinema and television ads, web banners, web pop-ups, bus stop benches, magazines, newspapers etc. can be given as examples of developing media techniques which facilitates advertisers’ job to persuade potential customers. Under these categorizes there come some other tactics that advertisers use to redound the viewer sympathy to the product. Creating a relationship between a product and the customer by using artificial needs and human desires is one of common tactics that advertisers prefer to use.  Kilbourne(2006) summarizes this belief in his work as:

 “It may be that there is no other way to depict relationships when the ultimate goal is to sell products. But this apparently bottomless consumerism not only depletes the world’s resources, it also depletes our inner resources. It leads inevitably to narcissism and solipsism. It becomes difficult to imagine a way of relating that isn’t objectifying and exploitative.”

By depending on his generalization it can be said that the past experience and state of mind of the person subjected to advertising may determine the impact that advertising has.


A Brief History of Advertising



In todays popular culture all consumers want companies to tell what they stand for and what makes them unique. In that sense advertising idea is a huge field to talk about. If aim is to understand the development of that field, there occurs a need to learn a bit about history of advertising. This brief history is totally connected with the development of language and people’s effort to tell their self-expressions. Related to that invention of print, radio, TV and internet come front in the sense of sonic and visual language which is important materials of advertising field. So it makes us to turn back to Sumerians era when trade can be seen as the outfall of advertising sector. About 3000 BC Sumerians are the first inventors of pictograms scratched on clay tablets and these cuneiforms which represent sound and ideas, become the language of trade; in other words advertisement. Then thousand years later Egyptians continue to speak in that language and with hieroglyphics they develop word and sound concepts. They invent outdoor advertising, carving public notices on stelae. Phoenician traders make this language to spread all over the world by taking the cuneiform writing to the Greeks who are the creators of 22 character alphabet. Then long time later world’s first sonic logo is created by Greek ladies who produce “come hither” sound effects by tapping nails into their shoes. So language earns a different quality and sonic language is formed. These developments are followed by the invention of paper in China which really facilitates trade. 1140s are the important years to talk about one more different quality of language and visual language occurs with the invention of metal type and printing by Gutenberg. After that invention in 1631, French “La Gazette” prints the first classified newspaper ads. In continuing period new form of newspapers occurred and in 1719 “Tatler” becomes the world’s first magazine. With the movement of Jacob Christian Le Blon to London in 1719, color print service using red, blue and yellow is bunched. Here it is important to remind color is a very useful element while forming an ad and the colors red, blue and yellow are classified as the main ones in the scale. During that era there comes out some ideas about advertising fact one of them comes from Dr. Samuel Johnson who is the creator of the world’s first dictionary and he says, “Promise, large promise, is the soul of advertisement.” In 1750 it becomes obvious that Britain is the leading country of the world in advertising field. In following years there occurs some developments in print technology but one of the most important inventions in visual sense is the birth of photography. It is a new step for people to express themselves better.1841 is an important year in that time line because in that year in Philadelphia the first ad agency is set up by Volney Palmer. After 1860s many innovations are realized in communication area such as the invention of telegraph, telephone, phonograph, cinematographic camera and projector etc. In last decades of 19th century trade shows itself one more time in advertising area and in 1892 direct marketing is born. In 20th century advertising becomes really important. In 1914 The Federal Trade Commission regulates ads and after three years later The American Association of Advertising Agencies is founded. These foundations are followed by Frank Conrad in 1920 and he founds KDKA the world’s first commercial radio station. After radio becomes an important device for advertising A.C Neilson Research is made which is the first time radio audiences are observed and measured. In 1925 Scottish inventor John Logie Baird ushers in the TV era with the world’s first real TV picture in his laboratory and TV is first shown to the British public in 1926. Then the TV commercials are started to be made and the first commercial is shot in 1930. 1940s are the propaganda era which is caused by Second World War. Two decades later David Ogilvy ushers in the modern advertising age with a little advice for marketing men. By the time internet is conceived and Thomas Marill and Lavrence Roberts publish the first paper on Network Experiments: “Towards a Cooperative Network of Time- Shared Computers”. Advertising is not always a free path to reach consumers because advertisers are faced with some obstacles. One of them is faced in 1971; Congress bans cigarette ads from TV and radio. Three years before millennium e-commerce is invented. Then in 2004 search giant Google goes public. The business is valued at $23 billion. Two years later in UK, online advertising takes 11% of media expenditure around €2 billion and outstrips press advertising for the first time since the launch of The Daily Courant in 1702. In present Haptics is the touchy feely science that gives physical feedback in gaming. The development of new computer illusions feels so close you can touch it. It will probably become leading technique in advertisement field to get attention of public.

Standardized Tactics Used By Advertisers

 After developing our knowledge on historical background of advertising field, it should be interrogated that the qualities and techniques that are used to impress audiences and consumers socially. In advertising sector 5M is very important to reach that impressive effect. Money you think to spend for the advertisement, message that you want to give, mission which expresses the aim while making it, measurement which observes the effect of advertisement on public and the last one usage of media such as TV, radio, newspaper, magazine etc. Besides those necessities an advertisement should be interesting, impressive, original and creative. However creativity depends on some standards. Most of the companies follow their rivals while creating their own product and its advertisement. For example to reach people’s desires usage of sexuality, related to that gender roles and human bodies are used extensively.

Figure 1 BMW Car Advertisement


This BMW car advertisement includes a young couple in bed making love to each other. However, her face is completely covered by a magazine, open to a double-page photo of a car. The man is gazing passionately at the car. The copy reads, ‘The ultimate attraction.’ In this example woman is equalized with a car image and the passion of love used to show the passion of men to cars.

As Kilbourne(2006) states in his work we are surrounded by hundreds, thousands of messages every day that link our deepest emotions to products, that objectify people and trivialize our most heartfelt moments and relationships. Every emotion is used to sell us something. According to Alfred(1981) :

“The power of advertising may take the form of influence or the less desirable form of manipulation. Advertising that manipulates can create artificial wishes and needs. Hidden persuaders in advertising can encourage thoughtless and wasteful spending, such as buying a new car every year.”

With his statements Kilbourne(2006) also supports him. As he says our wish to protect our children is leveraged to make us buy an expensive car. A long marriage simply provides the occasion for a diamond necklace. A painful reunion between a father and his estranged daughter is dramatized to sell us a phone system. Everything in the world; nature, animals, people are just so much stuff to be consumed or to be used to sell us something..

Figure 2 Chupa Chups Advertisement


In that example a sexy woman body is used to get    attention of the consumers. Both the girl image and the pink color which express sweet feeling get people interested in the candy and make them want to try it. It is obvious that advertisers turn people into objects. Women’s bodies and men’s bodies are packaged and used to sell everything from chainsaws to chewing gum, champagne to shampoo. In that sense Kilbourne(2006) points out that self-image is deeply affected and he says, “The self-esteem of girls plummets as they reach adolescence partly because they cannot possibly escape the message that their bodies are objects, and imperfect objects at that. Boys learn that masculinity requires a kind of ruthlessness, even brutality.”  Research by Martin and Genry(1997) propose that young girls compare their physical attractiveness with that of advertising models and subsequently, their self- perceptions and self-esteem may be affected, depending on the motive for social comparison. The nature of physical attractiveness differs for male and female adolescents. Girls tend to view their bodies as ‘objects’, and their physical beauty determines how they and others judge their overall value. Boys tend to view their bodies as ‘process’ and power and function are more important criteria for evaluating their physical self (Franzoi 1995) In Allen’s paper(2001) same situation is stated as :

While physical attractiveness certainly impacts how persons view other people and objects, recent studies have examined the notion of gender stereotypes (Deaux and Lewis 1984). Research by Broverman et al (1972) found that women tend to be perceived as warmer and more expressive than men and men tend to be perceived as more competent and rational.”

Advertising encourages us not only to objectify each other but to feel passion for products rather than our partners so it makes them addictive. Depending on that, Kilbourne(2006) names addict as the ideal consumer. Advertisers spend enormous amounts of money on psychological research and understand addiction well.

Figur  3A jewel advertisement                                                                   Figure 4 A vodka ad.

culture6                                      culture9



 Figure 5 Calvin Klein Perfume Advertisement

Advertisers use these addictions in different ways while aiming different targets. In reaction Rossi(2001) points out, “Consumers are apt to draw hard lines between supportive and unsupportive imagery, and those who air it.” For example in figure 3 we see a woman trying to bite her fingers which all have different rings on. Here advertiser tries to point out the women’s jewel passion. Figure 4 totally calls different target group; alcohol lovers. It seems problematic but the advertiser prefers to use religion while making an alcoholic drink advertisement and make connection with addiction to alcohol and religion. It shows us that advertising is not only our physical environment, it is increasingly our spiritual environment as well but   interested in materialistic values only. There are some examples from advertisements: Eternity is a perfume by Calvin Klein (Figure 5). Infiniti is an automobile, and Hydra Zen a moisturizer. Jesus is a brand of jeans. Media critic Neil Postman referred to this as ‘cultural rape’.

Influence of Advertising On Culture



According to Greenberg’s article in Adweek(2007), “When messages were the most important thing we could convey as an industry, we created a fantastic body of work. The collective reel of the era of traditional advertising displays an amazing range of ideas, craftsmanship and exemplary execution.” Some argue that advertising simply reflects societal values rather than affecting them. As cited in Kilbourne’s research (2006) a former editor-in-chief of Advertising Age, the leading advertising publication in North America, once claims, “Only eight percent of an ad’s message is received by the conscious mind. The rest is worked and re-worked deep within, in the recesses of the brain.” 

Although it is virtually impossible to measure the influence of advertising on a culture, we can learn something by looking at cultures only recently exposed to it. Today in all over the world it is obvious that people become coffee lovers. What is the outfall of that addiction then? The answer is probably so clear: Increasing number of Starbucks and Gloria Jean’s Coffee Shops. On the streets it is possible to see one of them in every corner. Kilbourne(2006) generalizes this situation as, “As multinational chains replace local character, we end up in a world in which everyone is Gapped and Starbucked.” (Figure 6 & Figure 7)





Figure 6: Starbucks logo                                            Figure 7: Gap logo


According to him advertising creates a world view that is based upon cynicism, dissatisfaction and craving.

We can say today’s popular culture is living their lives according to the advertisers imagination of world. They are not only affected by advertisements but change their lives depending on the path that advertisers draw for them.





  • Bob Greenberg (2007, October). Add and Subtract. Adweek, 48(36), 18.  Retrieved January 17, 2009, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 1366698951).


  • Dom Rossi (2001, October). New media metric: What’s the point here? Brandweek, 42(39), 26.  Retrieved January 17, 2009, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 85705252).


  • Allen, Charlotte Ann (2001) Stereotypes in retail print advertising: The effects of gender and physical appearance on consumer perceptions. Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Texas, United States — Texas. Retrieved January 17, 2009, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Publication No. AAT 3073697).


  • Mary C Martin,  James W Gentry. (1997). Stuck in the model trap: The effects of beautiful models in ads on female pre-adolescents and adolescents. Journal of Advertising, 26(2), 19-33.  Retrieved January 17, 2009, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 13652501).



·         Kilbourne, J. (2006, September). Jesus is a Brand of Jeans.


·         Nonline Agency. Retrieved January 10, 2009 from Nonline Agency Web site:

  • Grosser, Alfred (1981, October). Political, Moral, Social Impact of Advertising. Direct Marketing, 44(6), 94.  Retrieved January 17, 2009, from ABI/INFORM Global database. (Document ID: 1054721)








  1. Ben Waugh April 20, 2009 at 17:54 #

    Great post. I will read your posts frequently. Added you to the RSS reader.

    • Ezgi Didem Dağcı April 20, 2009 at 18:42 #

      Thanks a lot. Happy to be appreciated.

  2. Alan April 20, 2009 at 19:44 #

    Great article! Have you read Mind Programming by Eldon Taylor? The book provides a really seamy inside look at both the avarice of many involved in thought (culture) control and the extent to which it has been done by not just the ad world but governments. politicians, educational organizations (schools) and more.

    • Ezgi Didem Dağcı April 20, 2009 at 19:53 #

      Thank you! I haven’t read that book but I would like to. This was my final paper for visual culture lesson and while I’m writing about it I really feel interested in the topic so i’m extremely wonder about the content of the book.

  3. _joey_ April 21, 2009 at 18:08 #

    This blog’s where its happenning. Keep up the good work.

  4. mrred April 21, 2009 at 22:41 #

    Love this blog I’ll be back when I have more time.

  5. barisertufan April 22, 2009 at 14:01 #

    oh my oh my great article.
    adding to rss reader

  6. JingYi Yuan April 28, 2009 at 08:47 #

    Here is a fabulous TV commercial!!! Have a look! It’s gougers!

  7. Virginie August 31, 2009 at 03:24 #

    I never ever post but this time I will,Thanks alot for the great blog.

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