Advertisements: a negative Influence on the American Culture



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Szaflarski

Diane Szaflarski
Professor Oguine
English 1201-ZHC
Analytical Essay I
October 11, 2006
Advertisements: A Negative Influence on the American Culture
In our contemporary American culture, advertisements have a major influence on the decisions people make and how they live their everyday lives. To sell and publicize their products, marketing companies use different techniques to enhance the appeal of the products and to increase the impact the advertisements have on the viewers. These simple pictures, which are displayed almost everywhere one goes, use the elements of emotional appeal and our strong fascination with celebrities to grasp the attention of the viewers. In particular, three advertisements which take advantage of these elements for a negative purpose are: Dave Thomas serving a tray of food to a happy customer in a “Wendy’s” advertisement, a “Budweiser” advertisement displaying a man biking in China with an enormous Budweiser billboard in the background, and a picture of a confident Arnold Schwarzenegger in the “amendforarnold.com” campaign. The messages being conveyed by these advertisements can be detrimental to the audience and our culture because they help spread harmful habits, such as eating fast food or drinking alcohol, and even contribute to unlawful thoughts like disregard for American law. Taking advantage of the spread of media and technology in our culture, advertisers such as “Wendy’s,” “Budweiser,” and “amendforarnold.com” are ingeniously deploying their imagery to persuade and attract viewers into engaging in negative habits which the advertisements are promoting.

“Wendy’s”, a popular fast food chain in America, exploits the emotional technique of sympathy in order to attract customers to their business. In the “Wendy’s” advertisement (540-541), Dave Thomas is shown handing a hungry and excited customer a tray filled with delicious food made from the restaurant. The tray of food is purposely located at the center of the advertisement so that it is the first thing the viewers’ eyes will notice. Also, viewers who know that Thomas passed away not long ago may look at this advertisement and feel a sense of empathy, which they believe they can alleviate by purchasing food from Thomas’ restaurant. Furthermore, to lure customers into purchasing their food, advertisers from “Wendy’s” not only manipulate the viewers’ emotions but also depict satisfied customers in their advertisements. Showing how pleased the customer is with the hamburger, fries, and soda being served to him on the tray encourages people to eat at “Wendy’s” and also contributes to the growing obesity epidemic in our nation. Shrewd advertisers disregard the fact that by publicizing unhealthy food, they are also tempting the audience to buy and eat it at the same time. Thus, this advertisement not only supports eating fast food, but also destructively promotes obesity by stimulating unhealthy eating habits in American culture.

Furthermore, international companies, such as Budweiser, have taken the spread of their influential power beyond our American boundaries to overseas countries like China. In this particular international billboard for “Budweiser” (540-541), America’s supremacy over other countries such as China is symbolized by the cap of the beer being placed upside down on top of the bottle to resemble a crown. Also, the very large bottle of Budweiser beer is depicted on a bold red background to make American image more powerful by standing out, towering over and above a Chinese little man on a bike. In addition, international power advertising its product in a foreign country where people desire to become Americanized is a major advantage to the company, as Dave Barry puts it in his article, “Red, White, and Beer,” Budweiser is “an American beer, born and brewed in the U.S.A, and the men who drink it are American men” (546). While these beer companies prosper from overseas marketing, the viewers are exposed to the negative messages which come along with advertisements like the giant Budweiser billboard in China. Because this advertisement is visible to viewers of all ages, it is not only influencing adults to engage in the harmful habit of drinking beer, but it is also exposing younger children to its product. Constant exposure to beer advertisements from a young age has a destructive effect on children, instilling in them a desire for drinking beer before they legally should. By using the American appeal in other countries, advertisers, like “Budweiser,” are sending out negative messages to attract people into the unhealthy world of alcohol.

Moreover, change is not always a good thing, especially if the change lies within our American Constitution, which is the main focus of the advertisement for “amendforarnold.com.” The advertisers of “amendforarnold.com” (540-541) use a prominent and confident looking picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger for their campaign to help convince the audience to support their battle of making Arnold a future President of America. However, “the amendforarnold.com” campaign is fighting against an important rule in our country which our forefathers have established centuries ago, the rule that all American Presidents must be born in America. Despite their campaign against this major law, the advertisers attempt to make Arnold look like a patriotic figure by placing his picture on a background of an American flag and the Capitol building. Furthermore, the campaign advertisement uses our strong fascination with celebrities to shape our opinion on whether or not a non-American born man should become President just because he is well liked and famous. Images, such as the picture of a proud Arnold, help to shape our thoughts and beliefs; because the images in our society as Todd Gitlin describes it in his essay, “Supersaturation, or, the Media Torrent and Disposable Feeling,” “are capable of attracting our attention during much of the day” (559). Thus, the message which the “amendforarnold.com” campaign is sending out through its use of a visual advertisement of Arnold is persuading viewers to unlawfully go against an imperative law of American Constitution.

Finally, in our modern day society, it is almost impossible to escape from the impact of advertisements, which are presented in various forms, such as television commercials, billboards, newspaper advertisements, and even internet pop-ups. The thoughts and decisions of people in the American culture are constantly being shaped by the messages from these advertisements because, “when we are not at work or asleep, we are in the media torrent” (Gitlin 563). Many of the advertisements seen in our culture do not benefit us, but rather they support and spread negative habits and ideas, such as contributing to unhealthy lifestyles and disregard for fundamental American laws and beliefs. As long as marketing companies prosper, it does not matter to them what type of messages they are sending to their audience, which also includes children that are “uniquely impressionable” (Gitlin 561). Unfortunately, in our American culture, morals and values are not considered as important as money or fame, and advertisers take this to their greatest advantage.

Works Cited

“Amendforarnold.com.” Advertisement. The McGraw-Hill Reader: Issues Across the

Disciplines, 9th Edition. Ed. James Doepke. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006.

540-541.


Barry, Dave. “Red, White, and Beer.” The McGraw-Hill Reader: Issues Across the

Disciplines, 9th Edition. Ed. James Doepke. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006.

545-547.


“Budweiser in China.” Advertisement. The McGraw-Hill Reader: Issues Across the

Disciplines, 9th Edition. Ed. James Doepke. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006.

540-541.


Gitlin, Todd. “Supersaturation, or, The Media Torrent and Disposable Feeling.” The

McGraw-Hill Reader: Issues Across the Disciplines, 9th Edition. Ed. James

Doepke. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006. 557-563.



“Wendy’s ad featuring its founder.” Advertisement. The McGraw-Hill Reader: Issues

Across the Disciplines, 9th Edition. Ed. James Doepke. New York: McGraw-Hill,

2006. 540-541.


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