CH 6 â€śFaint-Green: Advertising and the Natural Worldâ€?
As has been recited throughout many of the articles as well as videos in this class, we are exposed to three thousand advertisements each day and these are, without a doubt, the ultimate pop culture message. What we might fail to notice while viewing these ads is that they often contain elements of the natural world â€“ usually in the form of a backdrop. Corbett describes these â€śNature-as-backdropâ€? ads as the majority of what we see in advertising, but often the least studied (148). Most research has been done recently on â€śgreen advertisementsâ€? which focus on promoting environmental sensitivity toward some aspect of the biophysical world, promote a â€śgreen lifestyleâ€? or present a company as environmentally responsible.
As an aside, I learned from this chapter what the difference between advertising and marketing is. This was something that has always plagued me, and since I am not a business or communications major I never really could differentiate between the two. Here, Advertising is defined as the task of producing discrete promotional messages about products, services, or organizations and paying to display them through mass media channels like newspapers and televisions and in public venues, like billboards. Marketing is concerned with the entire process of selling a product or service through pricing, distribution, positioning, and promotion. (149).
A theme throughout the book so far has been that people have an inclination to anthropomorphize elements of nature, including animals. This is why we see many ads or commercials like a recent one Iâ€™ve seen wherein the animals in a car begin singing along with the driver. Advertisers have us link the personality and cultural meaning of the animal to the product. In this case, all of the wild animals in the car are supposed to give us the feeling that the SUV the man is driving is rugged and is made for driving through a wild environment, and not only that, but you can have a fun time while doing it. Iâ€™m sure most people are familiar with recent green image ads of popular companies like Budweiser. Sometimes they donâ€™t even mention the product itself, but hope to have you associate with the environmental concern. This doesnâ€™t seem far off from the tactics developed to change ads in the 1920s when ads stopped focusing on the product description and began equating it with a consumer lifestyle instead. Corbett even notes â€śThe purpose of an ad is not to stress that the product functions properly, but that consumption of it will cure problems, whether loneliness, age, or even a desire to connect with the natural worldâ€? (165).
The important thing to remember is that these types of ads are subject to â€śgreenwashingâ€? when corporations pose as friends to the environment but their performance doesnâ€™t match the image (153). There is often a lack of regulation regarding the statements made by companies and no consistent way of measuring the truthfulness between companies. For example, a company might say that a product uses only recyclable materials in its production when, in fact, it never used non-recyclable materials to begin with. Ads encourage â€śthe promotion of a social order in which people are encouraged to think of themselves and their private worldsâ€? which contributes to a very anthropocentric and narcissistic perspective. The environment doesnâ€™t work well as our private space because it must exist in concert with other social institutions in a way that is mutually reinforcing. We are almost always taught that we can use products to control and dominate nature. Although we have a sense that nature somehow should counter consumerism and serve as an antidote to materialism, it is actually used for the opposite goal in advertising. While I think that individuals can educate themselves about the reality of nature in advertising, and this may serve to alleviate some of its influences, I donâ€™t know how likely it is that we can eliminate all of its power whether it occurs directly or indirectly. This is another major point of link between what Iâ€™ve learned from this project and the class itself. There may not be a direct causal relationship between what we see in media and what our behaviors and actions are, but there is definitely some kind of effect that is very difficult to separate from other factors that influence our lives.