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Rethinking Globalization

I think advertising is not only a form of education it's one of the most powerful forms of education in our society, and one of the reasons that it's so powerful is that it is not considered educational.

Jean Kilbourne
Lecturer, featured in the video, Still Killing Us Softly

The problem, of course, is that the ads are encouraging people to participate in cycles of disposal which represent, on an ecological level, some of the most fundamental crises of contemporary life.

Stuart Ewen
Hunter College, author, Captains of Consciousness

Advertising sells products but it also sells a great deal more than products. It sells values, it sell images, it sells concepts of love and sexuality, of romance, of success, and perhaps above all, of normalcy. To a very great extent it tells us who we are and who we should be. However I think that advertising is often overlooked, or is considered too trivial to really be examined. Because the individual ads are stupid and trivial, people assume that the whole phenomenon is a stupid and trivial one.

Jean Kilbourne

That's one of advertisement's most brilliant accomplishments, to get us to believe that we're not affected by advertising.

Bernard McGrane
Chapman University

In addition to selling individual products, advertising teaches all of us to be, above all, consumers. It teaches us that happiness can be bought, that there are instant solutions to life's complex problems, and that products can fulfill us, can meet our deepest human needs.

Jean Kilbourne

The function of advertising became the production of discontent in human beings. One of the sub-texts in all advertising is you're not OK, you're not OK the way you are, things are bad, you need help, you need salvation. And in that sense advertising is designed to generate endless self criticism, to generate all sorts of anxieties, all sorts of doubts, and then to offer the entire world of consumer goods as salvation. That's where salvation rests, anything and everything that you can buy.

Bernard McGrane

The bulk of today's advertising doesn't make explicit verbal assertions about the product that are true or false. In fact, truth and falsity is almost a moot point in a lot of advertising. It just creates an image, an aura around the product, a portrayal of a certain lifestyle, a certain contentment. The best example of that might be something like the Marlboro campaign. It uses this whole mythology of independence, autonomy, and self-reliance, and does so, of course, with the classic mythology of the cowboy, says absolutely nothing about the cigarette, makes no true or false claims about the quality of the cigarette, the health consequences of the cigarette.

Richard Pollay
University of British Columbia

The very processes which may endanger human survival are often portrayed as, you know, intense sensual experiences, and there's a whole industry which is involved, in fact, in translating the process of consumption into an erotic spectacle. . . . Part of what advertising does, I mean, if you want to talk about what are the messages embedded within advertising as a whole, I would say the number one thing is the very principle of consumption, that is to say, making beautiful and desirable the using up of resources. . . . Consumer culture is predicated on premeditated waste, that is to say, the health of the consumer economy is intimately connected to the sickness of the environmental structure.

Stuart Ewen

One of the numbers that continues to shock me is that there are as many cars in America as there are people. I mean think of that, this is the one country in the world where we manufacture, literally, these machines to carry us around that are expensive, that require these mass industrial infrastructures, requires this huge energy industry, highly inefficient, incredibly polluting. We pay an incredible price in terms of quality of life and health instead of committing ourselves to mass transportation options, and we do that to the extent that there are literally as many of these machines around as there are people. Now what do you think is going to happen today when China, with 1.2 billion people, follows that same development knowledge, when China becomes laced-over with ribbons of freeways and every Chinese is driving a car, 1.2 billion people. You have to understand that there are currently only about 4 or 5 million cars in China. Now, to a capitalist, to a business man, that's an opportunity, it's a chance to create the world's biggest car market, it's a chance to cash in on the big one. There's not going to be a larger car market in the world, and that mentality is blind to the fact that it also means the death of the planet.

Herbert Chao Gunther
President, Public Media Center

Americans have a very strange notion of freedom. Americans seem to think that if you're free from government, that you're free, which overlooks the fact that there can be other opponents of freedom, like corporations who have immense power within that cultural space. And that censor other voices. I think we have to now think about not only of what government shouldn't do, but about what any other large scale organization should not be allowed to do, which is monopolize the means of communication, the means of cultural structure, which is what corporations do at the present time.

Sut Jhally
University of Massachusetts

Democracy is about an engaged public interacting with one another, a situation where all voices are heard, respected. And the only way that can happen is if the means of communications stop being held by five transnational corporations and start being something which is the common property of people, which is a birthright.... We need to be visionaries, and I think it's only when people start becoming visionaries, and only when sort of alternative media become an arena in which that sort of vision is being given breathing room, that in fact we may discover that commercial culture isn't about satisfaction, it's about dissatisfaction. And in fact satisfaction is not necessarily related to the disposing of resources.

Stuart Ewen

You know, no matter how many products you buy, how many things you have, if you're feeling empty inside, these things aren't going to make any difference or they're going to make a difference in a very short term way. What makes a difference in our lives is the quality of our relationships and the meaningfulness of our work, and that's, you know, that has nothing to do with buying things.

Jean Kilbourne

So we're stuck with this, we're stuck with selling things. And advertisers use our dreams, our desires, our emotions, which are real, which are powerful, to sell us things which we don't really want. It's not as though we're tricked into buying them. But they're not the sources of happiness. Happiness and satisfaction flow from other things. Our society simply can't quite provide those things right now.

Sut Jhally

Last Updated Spring 2002