Advertising is a kind of communication that is aimed at persuading the audience to buy a product, service or even a simple idea (Fog). Mass production of goods in the 20th century spurred the increase of advertising. Traditional forms of media where advertising is carried out include magazines, television, radio, direct mail. The advent of the internet and websites has seen the increase on the use of mail services. In the 2010 financial year, the United States spent $ 350 billion on advertising alone (Pontifical Council for Social Communications). However, the advertisements have gone to a level where they are able to shape the culture of the audience.
Advertisements are on the rise in our society today more than ever. Advertising uses the media as a means of expression. The powerful force of advertising shapes the behaviors, attitudes, and social norms of the world. Although an advertisement aims at persuading the audience to buy and idea, product or service, it also has an explicit and implicit message (Pontifical Council for Social Communications).
An explicit message can be defined as the written messages that are aimed at persuading the audience. These messages are aimed at shaping the choice of an individual especially in the purchasing decision. These kinds of messages are simple, direct, and do not require interpretation or thinking. The other messages are the implicit kind. This refers to the actions that the audience does irrespective of the communicated messages. These messages are imparted to the audience with or without will but in any way, they are very potent and often pass the message (Pontifical Council for Social Communications). The Marlboro Cigarette advertisement will be used to display how the media shapes the culture of the audience.
In this advertisement, different colors are used to advertise the cigarettes. These colors include green for the Marlboro Menthol, Golden for the Marlboro Lights and Red for Marlboro. Marlboro that is advertised in red is a symbol of daring and virility. The advertisement of Marlboro Light emphasizes on the lightness of the cigar just like the golden sunlight color in the background. The green color of the menthol shows the way it is cool and fresh just like nature.
The cowboys in the advertisement are looking strong and are on well-bred horses. This is a show of strength, power, and courage. The use of male symbols in the advertisement is to target the male consumer. These symbols evoke a sense of power and masculinity of the man. Cowboys are one of the natural symbols of America as a nation. They are thought to be brave, innocent, and strong-willed. This implies that Marlboro is a natural American brand. These cigarettes show the creativity that is part of the identity of the American people. In general, this cigarette sells itself through “warping” itself in the identity of America.
Marlboro attempts to sell it is the maleness and the American identity through its slogans. One of the most famous slogans “Come to Marlboro Country.” This slogan has two meanings. The first one is the implied countryside on the West and the other is the American Nation. These cigarettes do not represent the real behavior of the Americans. They attempt to construct illusions about the American identity.
This advertisement reflects partially the cultural behavior of Americans. It shows materialism, manipulation, and creativity. The colors used show dominance, one of the most outstanding features of the popular American culture. The use of male symbols promotes and reflects the stereotypes that are dominant within the society. Men are a show of strength, power, and virility while women are soft, less powerful, and submissive. The cowboys reflect the culture of individualism that is persistent among many Americans.
The media uses false ideas to communicate to the audience. In this advertisement, they build illusions on various aspects of smoking. The colors used in the advertisement elicit the need to taste the product.
The Marlboro Menthol Advertisement (Newsweek)
In the Marlboro Menthol, the colour green is dominant in the background. This green can be interpreted to mean the nature, beauty, and freshness. Although this explicit message implies that this product is right from the reserves of nature, its deadly effects are concealed within the same color. This is communication of a false idea. A consumer may be misled to think that this product is cool and natural while in reality it has nicotine and other cancer causing substances that endanger lives of the smoker and non-smokers.
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This advertisement aims at persuading the audience to take the cigarettes by helping them to identify with the powerful and masculine cowboys. In reality, there are no powerful and healthy smokers. This is the implicit message. Smokers are people who are less powerful because they are susceptible to respiratory diseases and cancer. Nicotine in cigarettes makes smokers to lose appetite. As a result, smokers are thin and small because they rarely eat. This advertisement does not promote any value or norm. It promotes smoking and its deleterious consequences like cancer, respiratory disease, and even death.
It is important to note that the cowboys in this advertisement do not smoke the cigarette. They just pose with the cigarettes and look like they have been smoking it but in the real sense they are not. This means that this product is not consumed in America rather it is made for the foreign market. The health, power, and vigor of the cowboys show that they are not smokers.
The target audience of this advertisement is the males and children. This advertisement identifies with the gender stereotype that males are powerful and stronger that their female counterparts. This advertisement uses false images to lure the audience into smoking. People should know that irrespective of the name, slogan, or package, smoking is very harmful to the health of the smokers and the non-smoker.
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Advertisements like these are very common in our media. According to the Agenda Setting theory of the media, such advertisements shape our thoughts on issues like gender and stereotypes. The use of male symbols in this advertisement means that this product is meant only for the strong and powerful in society-men. They impart knowledge on various stereotypes especially on gender. Such advertisements emphasize on the “normalness” of our thinking. People who design such advertisements are knowledgeable on gender stereotypes in society and often exploit them to their advantage.
Children are the most important part of society and they bridge generations. As they grow, they should be left to develop self-concepts, comprehend, and meet the demands of society without being deviated by such advertisements. The maleness or femaleness of a person is based on social grounds. Advertisements like the Marlboro Cigarettes often distort and limit child development and involuntarily transfer stereotypes into their lives denying them the chance of interpreting life as they develop. In spite of the fact that physical sexual differences are obvious, advertisement culture shapes the responsibilities that women and men play in society.
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In conclusion, the potential impacts of these explicit and implicit messages are very powerful and harmful to the society as a whole. These messages distort the views on gender stereotypes. These messages also enhance and encourage smoking whose effects are obvious and well known to the audience that is at times held by the advertisements.