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        What do Will Ferrell, a rapping family, and hover boards have in common? Oddly enough these examples were used to promote automobiles. These advertisements are quite different from the typical picturesque clips of cars driving over rugged terrains or depicting the performance capabilities of the vehicles on closed roadways. So why would automotive markets decide to use such unusual advertising tactics? The answer is surprisingly simple; it was culturally relevant at the time. Anchorman 2 was about to be released, young suburban families wanted to be seen by society as still being hip, and Back to the Future Part II had just opened in theaters. (Gill, 2015) The characters that these automotive companies chose to depict in their advertisements spoke volumes as to who their target audiences are and even who they would like their target audiences to be. For instance, Dodge’s decision to promote the new Dodge Durango with Will Ferrell suggests that the company is interested in targeting a younger generation, perhaps new drivers or those who have only been driving for a few years.

Toyota’s campaign “Swagger Wagon” depicts a mid-30 year old couple rapping with their two young children about how cool and trendy they still are. Families that own minivans need extra reassurance and Toyota is there to give it to their consumers in a catchy song.   Lexus wanted to target those that grew up with the cult classic, Back to the Future. Associating a nostalgic moment of watching Back to the Future and wondering if hover boards would really be the ultimate form of transportation and realizing that you have something better; the Lexus. These advertisements are “combining data from important real-time and historical moments in the consumer’s journey with demographic targeting to drive consumer engagement.” (Gill, 2015) The campaigns did engage their consumers but were only effective to a point. When looking at the long run did these ads truly interact with their viewers and create loyal consumers or did they just get a few chuckles? Although David Meerman Scott was referring to automotive websites when stating, “these sites were advertising to me, not building a relationship with me.” (Meerman Scott, 2013) This quote can be used to describe what all three of these advertising campaigns lacked; they were creating a connection but not a relationship. The advertisements are culturally relevant, especially to their target audience but are the ads humor and timeliness enough to be remembered or sway someone to purchase such a costly item? These advertisements are more entertaining than informative and for what the companies are trying to sell there should be a mix. The connection that was formed was due to the fact that the companies knew what their target audience enjoyed. However, a relationship is built after that initial connection was made. For instance, if the “Toyota Swagger Wagon’s” next advertisement consisted of the same family but discussed how they felt protected in their new Toyota or relate the car’s benefits to another type of intrinsic value could enhance the viewers opinion of the brand and then start to from a relationship.

        Companies should look at these types of adverts and realize that consumers need to see advertisements “upwards of 20 times” (Dietrich, Livingston, 2012) in order to digest the information. Thus, if the consumer is viewing an advertisement that is relevant or relates to their intrinsic values and ideal self, companies may have the chance to not only gain eyes on their advertisements but viewers may actually start to absorb, understand, and remember the messages. By engaging consumers with information that is culturally relevant or even just pertains to their ideal selves, could form a connection that may become a loyal relationship between consumer and brand.


Doritios for the W

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Are you ready for some football? More importantly, are you ready to win a million dollars? The Super Bowl is approaching and once again, Doritos is launching the “Crash the Super Bowl” contest for it’s 8th year.

In the “Crash the Super Bowl” contest, consumers compete to have their own ad broadcasted to an audience of millions during Super Bowl XLVIII. However, PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay has threw a few curve balls this year. The winner not only receives a million dollars but also wins the opportunity to work with Marvel Studio on the “Avengers: Age of Ultron” set. Oh, and this year PepsiCo is taking the challenge global. Yes, global. So everyone needs to get ready to step up their game because the competition is out of this world.

Since 2007, more than 20,000 homemade ads have been submitted by consumers in the U.S.  Once again we find Doritos looking to the public to create and produce 30-second Super Bowl commercials, only this time they are allowing consumers from all 46 countries that Doritos are sold to compete.  Incredible content has no geographical boundaries, said Ann Mukherjee, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division.  “With Crash the Super Bowl, we’re now delivering an unprecedented opportunity for fans around the globe to share their talent and creativity on one of the world’s largest advertising stages.”

Consumer engagement is one of the key branding trends of the last several years and stems from the idea that consumers aren’t just passive recipients of messaging but active producers of brand content of all kinds.  This contest continues to work because Doritos gets it. They understand that lovers of Doritos all around the world want to engage and feel as though they play an active role with the brand. What better way to do this than by allowing their consumers the opportunity to have their own commercial aired during the Super Bowl! Plus the chance of winning a million dollars doesn’t sound bad either. Starting Oct. 8, people can submit their entries in the contest here.

This is the winner from last year. It makes me laugh out loud.

As you can see, you have some big cleats to fill.  So what are you waiting for? Go get started!  Practice makes perfect and this is the Super Bowl after all.

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Gap Makes the Season Bright

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The holiday’s are right around the corner and many advertisers are doing their part to make this holiday season extra bright. Advertisers are making strides to better showcase the uniqueness of individuals. Gap’s 2012 holiday campaign is making an effort this winter season to debunk negative stereotypes by celebrating various, positive views on family and the many forms love can take.

Gap’s campaign includes a commercial and colorful print ads that feature celebrities including Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan. The campaign uses the tagline “Love Comes in Every Shade” and showcases a variety of couples of various races and sexual orientations. The campaign also shows fathers in a positive light.

According to Gerbner’s cultivation theory, over time and repeated exposure to similar images, the media and ads cultivate the reality we come to believe. Gap’s holiday campaign uses images in their ads that reflect a wide range of ideas about our current society. The ad shows people that all families are unique and different and influences them to view this as a positive thing.

If the media does not tell you what to think, but rather what to think about then the ads in the Gap holiday campaign are ones everyone should take a moment to reflect on. By reflecting multiple ideas and perspectives this campaign has the ability to reach and affect a much larger audience.

Gap’s ads are not only something consumers should reflect on but other advertisers as well. By keeping up with the current trends in our society, Gap is not only able to maintain or move market share over the holidays, but is also potentially able to reach and maintain relationships with new consumer groups that have not made purchases because they did not previously relate to Gap.

Gap uses the ads in this campaign to go above and beyond their obligations by not only selling clothes but also showing diverse, optimistic and positive views on family and love.

Coors Light Busboy Ad

The Better Business Bureau, the organization that presides over the Beer Institute, recently ruled that the Coors Light Bus Boy ad unintentionally violated the Beer Institute’s Advertising and Marketing Code. According to the code, “Beer advertising and marketing materials should not portray or imply illegal activity of any kind.” In the ad, there is a male that is constantly picking up Coors Light beers in a bar setting. After a while, a waitress notes that the “new bus boy” is doing a great job of cleaning off beers on the tables, to which the boss responds “I didn’t hire a bus boy”. While the underlying or intended meaning of the ad is that Coors Light is so good that people will go to crazy resorts to get it, an additional meaning that Coors Light is worth stealing is the reason for the criticism towards the ad.

While I wouldn’t have really taken such a literal meaning from the ad, I believe the rationale of the Beer Institute is understandable. While Coors itself doesn’t really believe that they have done wrong, they have agreed to stop running the ad as a result of the Better Business Bureau’s ruling. Alcohol advertising is a part of the overall institute of advertising that gets a lot of criticism for unethical advertising. I commend the Beer Institute for creating a non-legal but authoritative ethical standard in an attempt to change this reputation. If we as advertisers continue to create standards for ourselves and regulate ourselves, I believe we will be able to eventually gain credibility and positively impact people’s attitudes towards advertising while performing our business related roles.

I also believe that as advertisers we must look at our ads from several perspectives before we publish the work. While Coors intended to sell their product using a humorous story, there are ways to use humor without portraying or romanticizing illegal activities. If we could really scrutinize our work from an ethical point of view, we could avoid wasting time and money airing ads that won’t be approved our self-regulating structures. By taking time at the forefront to view the ethical impact of our advertising messages, I believe we can avoid a lot of time wasted and financial loss in the future.


Miracle on 34th Street

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Walk into any major department store or any retailer for that matter, a consumer will know that the holiday season is approaching, specifically Christmas.  There might be a small section dedicated to those who are still intending on celebrating Thanksgiving, but all in all, Christmas music, trees, lights, ribbons, garlands, and snowmen abound in many stores.

Macy’s is one such retailer that has been specifically tied to the holiday season through its long-standing name in the retail business, movies (namely Miracle on 34th Street), and the classic Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.  To reflect their years of bringing the holiday spirit, two years ago, Macy’s Department store advertised their brand through nostalgic marketing.  Footage in the commercial showed clips from the late 1800s, the parade, movies that have used their name, and reality TV shows.   The end of the commercial states, “Only one store has been part of your life for 150 years.  That’s the Magic of Macy’s.  This commercial works so well, because Macy’s has successfully branded their name by allowing people to remember a particular association with the store.  It even allows for consumers to reinterpret their own memories of when they first saw or heard  the original referenced clips. Even if a consumer was not there to walk into Macy’s in the late 1800s, they may remember a memory of watching the parade or watching a holiday classic such as Miracle on 34th street.  This ad does appeal to consumers who have high MAO, because it allows the consumer to create a persona and image of what this brand represents and has done over the past 150 years.  It allows the viewer to be part of the experience and to create a prototype of the Macy’s brand.

In terms of social responsibility, especially around the holiday seasons, in the past few years, Macy’s created a campaign called “Believe” and paired their name with Make-A-Wish.   In every Macy’s department store, there was a mail box for Santa, and for each letter that was mailed, one dollar was given to the Make-A-Wish foundation.  Essentially, the company would give up to $,1,000,000 to the foundation.  There were a couple of commercials that were produced borrowing from the story, Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus. 



The campaign was effective, because it  reached the $1 million goal of giving to Make-A-Wish.  This campaign not only captures a positive aspect of the season through giving, especially if child knows that by mailing their letter to Santa through Macy’s mailbox, they are helping other children, but it also gives a positive message to believing.  The store is also promoting the idea that it is okay to believe and to be a kid.

Macy’s department store is placed in a positive light because it looks like a store that believes in the spirit of the season, even if they (the department store) are in the business of making money.  The “Believe” campaign is currently underway and can be followed through the Macy’s Believe website.

It will be interesting to see how other companies will compete and roll out good tidings to all in this holiday season.


If You Let Me Play

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This ad from Nike is fairly old (1995) but still an excellent example of how to sell a product while keeping in mind a socially responsible agenda. Although its arguable that you’re more likely today to see ads for sports products that show women in a positive light, many ads still follow the same tired format of associating sports superstars with products or showing gym addicts striving in their quest for the (impossibly) perfect body. The ad below however, presents a strong argument against the stereotype that ‘sports are for boys’.



This TV spot by Wieden+Kennedy however, simply presents factual real-world benefits associated with young girls playing sports, such as reduced risk of breast cancer or increased likelihood of leaving an abusive partner. The strong, simple message is proof that you can effectively sell products for women without resorting to gender stereotyping or exploiting body image fears.

By talking to parents about the benefits of girls’ participation in sports, the company is pushing a positive social agenda and effectively selling their product at the same time. From a practical standpoint, presenting sports as a way of empowering girls is a great way to achieve that all important relevance between the company and the cause, since research has indicated that with cause related advertising the better the fit between the company and the cause, the more effective it is likely to be with the consumer. Rather than simply tack on an unrelated social concern in a transparent attempt to boost sales, Nike has addressed a social issue directly related to their core business in a positive way while also effectively advertising their company. By attacking the stereotype that girls shouldn’t play sports, Nike is helping girls and themselves. After all more girls playing sports means better health and self esteem for those girls and an increased market for Nike.

Although there have of course been problems over the years with Nike’s treatment of labor, with all the exploitative advertising out there, it’s still nice to see something like this as a reminder that selling a product and promoting a positive social change aren’t mutually exclusive.

For most all consumers, the process of choosing among the numerous car brands and models and ultimately purchasing a car is a long one, which entails lots of information search, due to the high financial risk inherent in spending thousands on a car. Thus, although single car commercials are regarded as relatively weak in changing consumers’ attitudes, the collective force of all the commercials created for each brand is moderately powerful in helping to shape the brand image in consumers’ minds. The average consumer usually uses both cognitive and affective decision making when purchasing a car, with cognitive ultimately playing a more dominant role. Therefore, the attributes that advertisers highlight in commercials for cars can influence how consumers categorize different brands in their memories, which can then play a role in their decision-making process when the time comes for them to purchase a car. Acknowledging that car commercials do affect consumers’ consumption, be it in the near or distant future, the sponsorship of NBC’s Green Week by car manufacturer Subaru has major implications for viewers of NBC prime time, as well as NBCU-owned cable networks CNBC, MSNBC, NBC News, NBC Sports, SciFi Channel, Sundance Channel, Bravo, USA, Syfy. Part of its “Green is Universal program”, NBC’s Green Week is a two-week initiative which airs twice a year, during which green topics are integrated into the network’s shows. Though critics may call it a grand marketing scheme, Green Week does in fact do a lot of good. The integration of “green” storylines and topics into most all of the network’s programs – which represent a substantial group when all of the cable networks NBC owns are taken into account – at the very least raise awareness among TV viewers of “green” issues. As consumer behavior tells us, the first step to changing attitudes is to have the information be perceived, paid attention to, to then have consumers be motivated, able to, and have the opportunity to change their attitudes.

The sponsorship of Green Week by Subaru (as outlined in an article on, costing the car manufacturer a rumored $10 million, raises concern for future sponsorships of Green Week, or similar social issue initiatives, due to the effectiveness of the commercials as seen by the direct increase of likelihood of exposure. NBCU created the commercials for Subaru, which feature environmentally conscious Subaru owners, and seamlessly integrate the commercials into the beginning or end of the commercial breaks by somehow connecting the copy or dialogue used by the Subaru owners to the given NBC-owned network on which the commercial aired. Consumer behavior tells us that such a tactic can increase consumer’s exposure to a commercial for consumers will be more likely to watch a commercial at the beginning or end of the commercial break, as well as thinking the commercial is part of the show if the network’s logo is incorporated into the visuals. Subaru also benefits by being one of the few car manufacturers sponsoring Green Week, not allowing consumers to compare similarly environmentally-friendly car models manufactured by competing brands. In these Green Week commercials, Subaru frames its brand of cars as “environmentally-friendly,” specifically around the goal-derived category held by a growing number of consumers of decreasing their ecological footprint. By priming the “green” attributes of its cars in these commercials, which are so ingeniously integrated into a number of NBC’s extensive line-up of shows, Subaru frames its brand as being superior in that frame of mind (environmentally-friendly). Though the Toyota Prius has developed such a strong brand image as an environmentally friendly car, as well as the Smart Car, Subaru clearly foresees a stronger brand image and ultimately increases in sales – legitimate ends to justify the means of spending millions on this sponsorship. Subaru’s sponsorship of Green Week is an incredibly genius move by all those involved in its brand development and media planning. As media planners are constantly being forced to craft new ways of reaching consumers through ever-evolving mediums, this sponsorship is genius in both the increase in likelihood of exposure of consumers to Subaru’s Green Week commercials, as well as creation of a strong brand image in alignment with this green initiative. Consumers are lazy and do not pay attention to details, so merely seeing the Subaru logo as they fast-forward through the commercials of a program during Green Week can create the association between Subaru and their goal-derived category of “environmentally-friendly”.

The subtle yet important issue of responsibility herein is the agenda setting employed by Subaru of aligning itself with a green initiative to be associated with consumers’ goal-derived category of “environmentally-friendly” or similar associations in consumers’ minds. The sponsorship of Green Week has, according to an NBC analysis of Nielsen IAG data, brought Subaru increased recall of commercials by consumers, speaking to the effectiveness of the advertisements run during Green Week. Subaru therefore has a great responsibility to deliver on the brand image they are building so effectively through their Green Week sponsorship. Though one would hope that NBC conducts rigorous research in its selection of sponsors for Green Week to select those who are in fact “green,” it is possible for sponsors to be chosen due to greater financial offers to the network rather than on truly being “green.” This year’s Green Week sponsors all seem to practice what they preach in terms of employing “green” practices to be worthy of “green” images. But there lies a possibility for deception of consumers in similar initiatives by other networks or perhaps other companies outside the media world through sponsorship thereof by sponsors who do not truly deserve the “ruboff” the initiative’s image will have on their own brand image. This has major implications for consumers, who very well may make consumption decisions based on the associations they form about sponsors of initiatives like Green Week and “green.”

A link to one of the Subaru Green Week commercials posted on Facebook:

A PSA airing during Green Week:

As October draws to a close and the trick-or-treaters make their last-ditch, mad grab at whatever remains of the Halloween candy, we (as consumers) know it’s coming. We can feel it…

Of course I’m talking about the annual, November 1st roll out of the holiday decorations and marketing material. From here on out it’s going to be nothing but evergreen wreaths, twinkle-lights and jolly men in red suits charging twenty bucks for a picture with the kids. And while some still manage to be enamored with festive cheer, most of us with ages in the double digits just bristle and steel ourselves in preparation for the onslaught of the holiday hustle and bustle, green and red price points, the must have items of the season, and two dozen of the same pop-singer-reengineered carol songs on repeat in every retail outlet. Tis the season for yuletide consumerism and its full swing, (Santa) baby!

However, I must digress from my traditional holiday humbugging to mention the one thing I do look forward to: the ads. This small stretch of the year between November and December has managed to produce some fairly iconic advertisements and commercials over the past decades. So much so, that some are even pulled out of the vault, dusted off and re-aired annually to inspire a sense of nostalgia in the consumer. For example, and my personal favorite, the Hershey’s Kisses holiday bells.

For others it’s the one where the M&Ms have a run-in with Mr. Claus resulting in Red and Santa fainting in shock. But I think for most of America, through-out the years, it’s always been the Coca-cola classic Commercials that are anticipated.

Starting in the 1920s with the iconic tin signs for Santa drinking a Coke Classic, Coca-Cola has established themselves as a brand with an annual holiday campaign, chalk full of memorable images and characters. As the years have rolled on, some of the other noteworthy holiday ads include the Coca-Cola Trucks in the 80s and of course most recently the Polar Bears (and subsequent penguins) campaign that’s been the Coca-Cola Christmas staple over the past handful of holidays.

This, in my opinion, is a great tactic because Coca-Cola Classic has not only managed to further their brand image, but establish long-term memory recall in the consumer base. When you think about it, the Coca-Cola commercials have, in some ways, woven themselves into the autobiographical memory of their target by purchasing key media slots so that the iconic commercials are seen during the seasonal, family get-togethers, traditional holiday parades such as the Macy’s Day, and of course on Christmas eve.

This year, Reuters is reporting that the brand is going to step away from the polar bears they have recently depended on. This year, Coca-Cola has partnered with the musical group “Train” and aim to produce a song akin in fame to the “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” campaign that ran in the 70s. They are banking on, if the song is a hit, to have audio memory recall of the brand whenever the song is played (on their commercial OR on the radio) in hopes that such a substantial recirculation and repetition will lock Coca-Cola in the #1 awareness slot of the consumers mind.

So, now the question is, since Train is a pre-established band that has a history of declining CD sales, will this go down in history as another Coke holiday hit? Or will it be an ill received, flash in the pan ad when compared against the likes of the classic polar bears? Only the iTunes download numbers will tell.

Reuters Article


It’s a New Barbie World

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Remember those lyrics – “I’m a Barbie Girl, in a Barbie World . . . Life in plastic, it’s fantastic”?  Sure, I’ll admit that I do.  But I spent most of my childhood years playing with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers action figures.  I was more concerned with Master Splinters and Megatrons than with Kens and Dream Houses.  Yet I still know the song, and I’d venture to guess that most everyone does.  If not, they definitely know Barbie.  From toddlers to grandparents, all of us – regardless of age or gender – know who she is.  And that’s the point: We really do live in a Barbie World.  Whether we’re active participants, or casual by-standers, we are indeed living in it.  Well hey, haven’t you heard?  That world is changing, and it won’t be the same again.

 (a snapshot of the interactive Barbie Channel)

Please say hello to the newest Barbie for our digital age.  An article from Advertising Age explains how since October 2008, Mattel – the company that produces the Barbie dolls – has been running an interactive “channel” (more of an interactive web portal) on cable television that is all things Barbie.  This channel functions as a one-stop-shop where viewers can get videos of Barbie on demand, play games, and immerse themselves in the “Barbie World” experience.  Now Mattel is gearing up to launch yet another Barbie Channel on AT&T’s U-Verse starting this October.  One channel; now another.  So why the forward progression?  Mattel has found that between September 2009 and April 2010 they were effectively reaching their targeted audience of girls, and they’ve got the numbers to prove it.  Girls were spending about seventeen minutes per day interacting with the Barbie channel and 17.7 million consumers were viewing the Barbie webpage.  Of course, their 2010 sales were looking pretty good, too.  With such strong numbers backing up their efforts, the new Barbie Channel is estimated to reach an expected 19 million people.  Don’t be surprised if in the near future you witness more marketers turning to this new trend of interactive television.  This same article shows how according to the findings of a survey of 100 national marketers conducted by the Association for National Advertisers and Forrester Research, 75% of the respondents said they thought interactive television would be the next big source of marketing and advertising.  Break out the Dream Houses everyone ‘cause Barbie’s coming home.

So what are the potential implications of such an expanded Barbie World?  If things shift from being a Barbie World to a Barbie Universe, where does that leave us?  Barbie, and her maker Mattel, have for years come under fire, with concerned parents and advocacy groups questioning whether Barbie is a responsible role model for young girls.  For the most part, we’ve all heard the basic general complaint that Barbie is too perfect and that this causes lower self-esteem among girls who wish to, but can’t (for obvious physiological reasons) emulate her appearance.  It seems only natural that citizens of this new digital Barbie World will again pose the same questions.  That’s not to say that people shouldn’t do so.  It is vital for consumers, especially parents, to examine this new trend of interactive television – not limited to solely Barbie, mind you, but everything their children may potentially watch.

Was the creation of the Barbie Channel a responsible decision on the part of Mattel?  On the one hand, one cannot blame Mattel for doing business; it’s what they are, after all.  Does anyone blame Apple for creating the iPhone?  Most likely the answer is no.  However, it probably won’t be too surprising if Mattel and the Barbie Channel come under attack yet again.  “They’re targeting children in a whole new way, which will in turn make them feel bad because they don’t look like Barbie.”  “Mattel is invading our homes with ads for products and toys to make themselves richer.”  These may be two hypothetical complaints regarding the launch of the new Barbie Channel.  Is Mattel is doing at least one thing right, though?  In one instance, they are bringing parents into the process and offering a way for them to request information about Barbie through the interactive channel with the click of a button.  They want everyone to be involved in the Barbie experience.  Win the parents over, win the kids – that’s their mentality.  Should Mattel be congratulated?  It’s difficult to say.  While they do provide parents with requested information about Barbie and her products, Mattel is providing a host of other things – products, ideas, and feelings – to the children who, one could argue, do most of the actual television viewing.  And these offerings are loaded with potentials risks – risks that will soon be accessible with the press of a button on the remote control.  Is this responsibility?  Providing children with an interactive channel that seemingly fulfills their every Barbie desire, while promoting Barbie products within an inclusive Barbie world comes close to resembling a kind of hypnotism.  There’s got to be some lasting effects from all this Barbie exposure at such a high, interactive level.  So is this healthy for kids?  They might as well be making their products with poisoned plastic parts.

Earlier it was mentioned that the usual questions of self-esteem will again surface in the face of a new digital Barbie.  Let’s examine some of the potential risks.  First off, with increased interactive exposure to Barbie through various means such as videos and games, one must be sure to monitor the self-concept of the channel’s viewers, which have the potential to be altered.  Children watching the new digital Barbie may be more inclined to create a negative self-concept of themselves due to the highly interactive nature of the channel.  Negative self-concepts existed back when it was only toys, so imagine how it will be in the new world of on-demand videos and interactive play: the effects of these risks may be multiplied in their strength and influence.  These kids may wonder if they are pretty enough, or why they aren’t blonde.  In addition, there may be increased desires to fulfill symbolic needs – this includes everything from purchasing the latest Barbie products and toys to even buying make-up so as to look like Barbie – so that these girls will feel pretty enough.  An increased motivation to acquire these products will eventually occur.  Wanting new toys in not inherently bad, of course.  Yet if this desire becomes paramount to a child’s maintaining high self-esteem, a line has been crossed, and a psychological risk could potentially develop.  In the short-term, it may be that parents spend a little extra money on Barbie products so their kids stay happy; in the long-term, however, the cost may be a question of more than mere dollars and cents.  As will be seen next, the risks do not stop once children reach adulthood.  In fact, they may become life-long ghosts that haunt Barbie-stricken individuals.

Issues of low self-concept, unfulfilled symbolic needs, and psychological risks that stem from Barbie exposure can extend into adulthood and cause people to drastically alter their outward appearance.  There is even a term of this affliction known as the Barbie Syndrome.  An article from CBS News illustrates how in one case, a woman was reported as having undergone 31 plastic surgeries over the course of 14 years (the cost coming close to $100,000) in order to come closer to resembling Barbie.  Spending over $100,000 on 31 surgeries!  When is it too much?  The woman who underwent these procedures stated that at age 6 she looked at a Barbie doll and wanted to be like her, seeing Barbie as glamorous.  The article states, according to the woman who had the surgeries, “’I just wanted to look better,’” she says.  “’Barbie was the blank canvas I filled in all those years ago.  It was still my role model.’”  Bull’s-eye, folks!  When Barbie becomes the role model for looks for any person – there is a Ken Syndrome, too, gents – there is an inherent problem with the values it is sending to consumers.  This case occurred years ago, before the advent of the interactive Barbie Channel.  With a result like this that speaks for itself, what does it say about the implications of an entire channel devoted to Barbie that’s targeting girls ages 2 and up?  Well, for one, plastic surgeons may soon be cashing larger checks.  Here’s the overarching issue of the interactive Barbie Channel: it increases the ability for young girls to immerse themselves in Barbie, and come out of the experience with feelings of inadequacy.  Before, one had to actually acquire the doll, open it, and play with it for this psychological process to take place.  Now it’s as easy as clicking a button.  Less time can have major implications for the young generations.  This isn’t a Barbie you can hide in the toy box anymore.

Tomorrow’s Barbie World is here.  Like it or hate it, there is no real escaping it.  There hasn’t been any escaping from Barbie since it was first created back in 1959.  It’s part of our culture, and world culture for that matter.  But does that mean we should lower our defenses just because something is familiar?  I know my neighborhood, but I still lock my doors at night.  The implication is simple: a life in plastic is NOT so fantastic.

Public Service Announcements. We have been seeing them for decades and many of them have famously educated us on important information about safety, health and societal concerns: if you lock your doors at night you’ll take a bite out of crime; Mr. Yuck means poison; by ten o’clock at night you should know where your children are; this is your brain on drugs… and it’s fried.

However, a new trend seems to be emerging in the PSA genre. Gone are the days of Smokey-the-Bear-type “safety mascots” and crying Native Americans on the side of littered highways. Instead, these somewhat conscientious and prudent methods of distributing information to the public seem to be taking a backseat to more realistic, graphic, no holds barred approaches. The previous appeal to subtlety and implied undesirable consequences has dissipated. And now, more than ever, it has become acceptable to portray violent behavior and physical trauma as a suitable means to drive home a point.

As one might expect, some of these more gritty Public Service Announcements have garnered media attention for their arguably flagrant use of violence. One such television spot that made waves in the social media community and graced the headlines of CNN, FOX News and TODAY was a PSA released in 2009 titled “COW – The Film That Will Stop You Texting and Driving.” Produced by the police department of Gwent, Wales, the short film realistically depicts an intense traffic collision, graphic injury to children, and death.  Yet another was a PSA for Women’s Aid called “Cut Movie” where actress Keira Knightly was shown being brutally beaten to spread awareness of domestic violence against women.  (The PSAs can be viewed through these links. WARNING: graphic images of violence and abuse. Please view at your own discretion.

So, herein lies the problem. Is it ethical feed into the media machine of realistic violence on television just to reach the public? Have the values and behaviors of society been altered to the point where a PSA requires tragedy and gore to obtain the attention necessary to educate? Or is it just easy?

Despite the appearance that shocking images and scare tactics are the new standard for disseminating public awareness, a PSA released by the Sussex Safer Road Partnership in early 2010 has done much to combat that notion. The announcement, titled “Embrace Life” tackles the serious issue of seatbelt safety. Interestingly enough, though, the ad is not filmed in a car, but rather at a child-sized table and chair in a living room. This setting gives the spot elements of whimsy and abstraction, but when the message is delivered, it is received powerfully and clearly.

The “Embrace Life” campaign assumes a component of responsibility lacking in the aforementioned graphic ads. It does not alienate a part of the market by being potentially disturbing for children to view, or too intense for people who abhor violence. Nor does it make the viewer want to tune out, which researcher are discovering is happening in ads using scare tactics. Recent studies suggest violent PSA are not effective and even counterproductive because they cause some viewers to take on feelings of defensiveness instead of receptiveness. While other ads are throwing physical pain, personal anguish and damnation in the face of the viewer, the “Embrace Life” PSA influences the greater public by suggesting that loved-ones care. They want you to be safe and will suffer if you are gone, which is much more impactful and positively received.

Overall, it is refreshing to know that responsible advertising can still carry some clout in regards to information dissemination. And, with this emerging information about the potential damage and ineffectiveness of fear-centric “shockvertising,” it is a wonder if advertisers will regress and pursue a different, more appropriate creative avenue. Or will they continue their current path of trauma as means of reinforcement because society claims it’s necessary in order to make a lasting impression? All I know is, we’ve come a long way from Vince and Larry the crash test dummies, folks.

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