Stephen M. DeBock536 Ridgeview CourtToms River, NJ 08753(732) 286-2169 (H)(732) 462-1156 (W)
MEDIA POLLUTION: A Survival Course Designed by Stephen M. DeBock
Simple test for power of advertis ing: how easily are you
influenced? Is one or more of the following in your medicine
All aspirin is 5 grains of acetylsalicylic acid. Bayer
costs more because it advertises more.
Would you want to buy your aspirin from the same
company that invented heroin? (Bayer invented heroin as a cough syrup in the late 19thcentury. They knew it was addictive before they began shipping it to the United Statesfrom their plant in Germany.
It's acetaminophen. Generic is cheaper. Made for
people whose stomachs are upset by the acid in aspirin.
"Hospitals trust Tylenol." Why?(1)
They get it free (or at low cost) from themanufacturer.
They trust it not to thin your blood the wayaspirin does. Doctors don't like to operate oncopious bleeders. (So pain relief isn't whyhospitals trust Tylenol, although that's theimplication.)
It's 6.23 grains of acetylsalicylic acid (plain aspirin)
plus the amount of caffeine found in a quarter cup of brewed coffee.
Cheap Anacin: take two and a half generic aspirin
tablets and drink a half cup of coffee.
It's 3 grains of aspirin and 1.5 grains of
acetaminophen (an aspirin substitute-which is like spreading butter and margarine on the
same ear of corn). A total of 4.5 grains of pain reliever, or 10% less than the cheapestaspirin.
Also contains tiny amounts of a depressant and a
stimulant. (Can you figure out what they do to each other? Can you say cancel?)
Ads call Excedrin "the extra-strength pain reliever."
Magnesium salicylate, another pain reliever.
"For headaches, take aspirin. For lower back pain,
take Doan's Pills." Does this little pill get to the stomach and say, "Pardon me, can youdirect me to the back?" Isn't all pain registered in the brain? Isn't that where all painrelievers do their work?
Bufferin-aspirin with buffering agents to remove the
Advil-ibuprofen, another expensive alternative to aspirin.
It's aspirin plus sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).
If you want bicarb to calm a stomach, you might not
If you're on a low-salt diet, you shouldn't take
Proofs of power of advertising. 1.
Even as the Titanic was sinking, people refused to get in
lifeboats. Ship was advertised as unsinkable; 1500 people bet their lives on truth inadvertising-and lost.
Today, TV commercials are 3rd most believed medium
(after TV news & newspaper headlines).
We get consumer education from people who
"teach" us only what will serve their own ends.
country's problems. He was jailed. In jail, he wrote a book about his struggle.
more people willing to listen to him.
known for his love of children and animals. He even had a soldier jailed for kicking astray dog.
Analogy: Would you put the goat in charge
of watching the garbage? Or the fox in charge of the henhouse?
Ads are done so well and with such conviction that
people tend to believe them without question.
We are amateur buyers pitted against professional
sellers. And we have about as much chance of winning as does a Pop Warner footballteam against this year's Super Bowl champions.
Government doesn't protect us from deception & danger. 1.
Carter's Little Liver Pills scandal. a.
Advertised ambiguously as tonic; really laxative.
Took gov't 16 years to get Liver off label.
Carter's only one of 500,000 OTC drugs.
Expand concept to whole world of products & services. a.
Chevrolet Corvair-Ralph Nader & beyond.
Chrysler's Iacocca against air bags until mandated.
Advertising is both science & art. It works by keeping youfrom thinking. (Look at the "walking billboards" on kids' clothing. 1.
Not interested in individuals but numbers (statistics).
Makes just about all of us react just about the same way
Does "steamrolls" mean "kills"?
Don't have to make you buy; just predispose you to
When products are basically similar, only course is to out-
Product that is advertised more will sell more-even
Proof: pain relievers mentioned earlier.
Tools of the trade (from I Can Sell You Anything ). a.
Weasel words: helps, can (may), the look (feel,
smell, taste) of (or -y suffix), virtually, quality, like, fights, acts, works, up to, as much as,fortified, enriched, different, weasel of omission.
Claims: reason for being. (Mr. Clean & Top Job
vegetable oil), Shell's Platformate (an ingredient found in all gasolines), etc.
cover axles accidentally made too long).
Say something flattering (but empty) about
Motherhood: greatest emotional force.
Buzz words to create positive response. (a)
Legalisms. FTC only gov't agency to police ad
When better is better than best . (a)
this is comparative. It must be better than the other best ones.
Improved doesn't necessarily mean better .
advertising, next to free)can be on label only 6 months. Weasels:
Define advertising : any communication designed to inform
Promote political causes (e.g., "sell" candidates).
Public interest campaigns (e.g., anti-drugs, anti-furs).
Raise funds for charitable, political, other causes.
Where ad messages are found (divergent thinking exercise). A.
Ask students to tell five ways they experience advertising. 1.
They'll be quick to volunteer TV commercials, magazine
spots, movie previews, billboards, etc.
More subtle: state slogans on license plates, celebrity
appearances on talk shows when they have a movie or book to sell, prizes on gameshows (which aren't awarded unless/until the show is aired), etc.
Ask a volunteer to write down responses.
When five are given, ask for five more.
Continue asking for five more. Students should have no trouble
citing at least 100 sources of advertising.
Conclude that we experience ca. 3,000 persuasive messagesper day
After perceiving an ad, consumer should feel, either singly or in combination:A.
This product will make me attractive or popular. Without it
I'd better buy now , or I'll lose out.
If I care for my family, I'd better buy this.
If I use this I might be as successful as (or have something in
common with) the person who endorses it.
That must be a very nice company. (Product plugs on PBS, e.g.)
Brief history of advertising. A.
Original purpose: to inform public product was available,where & how to get it. Competition led to hyperbole and
Surveys to spot audiences and target markets failed.
Psycho-sell: pitch an image instead of a product. 1.
"Take tea and see" campaign changed image of tea drinker. a.
From: spinster living in third-floor walk-up, sitting
in rocker with kitten on her lap, doily on her head, sipping tea while looking out thewindow.
To: strong, decisive, assertive, masculine person.
(Consider the strong alliteration: "Make it hefty, hot, and hearty." It takes energy toproduce those strong, exhaling H sounds.)
"All-wise mother" dramatization succeeded.
What images appeal to largest number of people?1.
Everyone has four basic wants. a.
So get out and get away (variety) to McDonald's;
Pitch on healthful qualities of their sodium- and fat-
rich factory food (life). Why is required nutrition labeling absent from McD's packaging?(It's available in a pamphlet. You must ask for it.)
Today most products are pitched by image, exploiting at least one of fourbasic wants. A.
Life: Porcelana fade cream, Grecian Formula, the Pepsi generation,
Importance: Loreal, because I'm worth it; Lincoln-the final step up;
the few, the proud, the Marines-snob appeal, famous people say, an expert says.
Love: sex appeal, happy family, bandwagon, ecology/public
service (esp Campbell's "Labels for Education," a marketing ploy to turn children into unpaid soup salespeople and schools into corporate profit centers).
Variety: new styles & fashions, annual car model cha nges,
vacations, restaurants/hotels-something new/improved.
Other approaches: symbols, statistics, humor, slogans, special
offer, humble approach, eye appeal, straightforward approach.
Introduce left (logical) and right (intuitive) halves of brain. 1.
Both process the same info in different ways. a.
Left-by reason. Math, science, engineering,
grammar, anything analytical geared to left brain dominance.
Right-by feelings. Art, music, literature,
appreciation for beauty come from right brain.
School geared more toward left brain, but advertising more
toward right: sells images, feelings, etc.
Two areas of mind also affected by advertising. 1.
Conscious (overt techniques mentioned above).
Subconscious (or covert techniques).
Part of brain is data base for information storage.
Nothing is forgotten; it is stored in subconscious (subliminal) mind.
Conscious mind determines what is important
(remembered) and what is to be stored away ("forgotten").
Subconscious mind receives all perceptions. (1)
Cannot analyze or make value judgments.
Can be keyed to stimulate conscious mind,
e.g., through post-hypnotic suggestion.
Persuasive messages can be placed into subconscious without
channeling them through the conscious-if one knows the proper technique.
The Becker Box-"shoplifting is a crime." (Subliminal
messages played under piped-in music in department/food stores.)
Shoplifting has decreased in stores using box.
Studies as early as 1917 suggest subliminal messages work
They stay in unconscious mind until cued.
Even mild suggestion can last for weeks. No
Subliminal messages in The Exorcist . a.
Tension-building: pre-publicity ("The most
shocking thing that will ever happen to you!") Before film, audiences apprehensive,quiet, nervous coughs, sitting erect and forward.
Fainting, nausea, vomiting, nightmares.
patients claiming fear of possession or actual possession.
Psychiatrists reported influx of patients as
Cf. IMAX-type thrill rides on giant projection
screens-no lasting effect: appeal is to conscious mind, which knows it's an effect, not areality. No conscious stimulation could produce results of Exorcist .Ergo, results muststem from unconscious stimulation.
Director Wm. Friedkin went to subconscious to
inspire terror, thereby to spread film's reputation by word of mouth, thereby to makemore money.
Recorded sounds of pigs in sla ughterhouse,
inaudibly) at key points. (Won Oscar for sound.)
film for first few times reported distress.
Sight of pig in background graffiti.
able to be seen; yet 2/3 didn't notice. Why? Tension blocks conscious perceptions. Thosewho didn't notice reported strongest reactions to film. (In the film, the death maskappears during Karras's dream sequence as he sees his mother walking up city subwaysteps, and also later during the exorcism when Regan's bed levitates. In close-up, sheturns her head and the death mask flashes in and out. On a video, slow motion and/orframe advance allow detailed study.)
In-Flight Motion Pictures offers subliminal advertising in
films on planes (as in tachistoscoped messages of yore), and advertisers are trying toconvince Dr. Becker of Tulane University ("the Becker Box") to let them use his box foraiming ad messages to subconscious.
Why should advertisers want to use subliminals?a.
All's fair in love and war. "Do what you
person's subconscious mind not an issue. Ethical people would call this mental rape.
Subs are perceived instantly. Most people only skim
ads, so advertisers take that into account with subliminal stimulation. (Cf. speed withwhich ballplayer's mind computes the calculus as he chases a fly ball.)
Ad costs are so expensive advertisers must be sure
their message reaches as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
In 1968, Time back cover cost $68,450 for
If only 5% of all people seeing the ad try the
product, cost of ad is more than paid for.
Subliminals have lasting effect. (Cf. 1917
Alvin Eicoff (in Broadcasting ): "Advertising is, [by
definition], an attempt at hypnosis. [As such,] it is important that the consumer be subjectto exposure during the periods when he is most easily hypnotized. Under theseconditions, the advertising message can best plant the suggestion in the subconsciouswithout prior evaluation by the conscious."
What are subliminals in print ads?a.
Usually subtle suggestions designed to appeal to
normally suppressed desires, anxieties, etc.
Sex and death are major stimulants at present (with
animals a distant third). Stimulation may be pleasant or repulsive, no matter, so long as itis strong . It will act as a cue to behavior whenever product is seen and may result in a
person's buying a product with out really knowing (or consciously thinking about) why. Harmless?
Find ads in magazines, especially for alcohol and
images of death airbrushed in ice cubes,
symbolism in both foreground and background. Teacher can
prepare his/her own gallery of slides and transparencies from these
to show to future classes. See Wilson Bryan Key's Subliminal Se-
duction, Media Sexploitation, The Clam Plate Orgy,
Brand-name products pay ca. $50,000 to >
Mars and Hershey bid on what candy would be
used in the movie E.T. When the bidding reached
Mars dropped out, and Hershey's Reese's Pieces
Result: boost in sales. (If it didn't work, they
Cf. Superman 2 . Marlboros are shown 12 times,
Lane. Target: teen and pre-teen girls. Lois
role model. She's attractive, brave, and gets herself a super man.
Pre-teen and teenage girls typically have horrible self images. But
there is one thing they can do that Lois does: smoke Marlboros. Is
this a subtle form of child abuse? (The Tobacco
their product placed in the film. A subse
Senate investigation proved that PM did indeed pay.)
Messages embedded below threshold of hearing.
Song lyrics with implications of "forbidden fruit."
"Bridge over Troubled Water." Study lyrics
lay me down." (Hint: silvergirl is slang for
hypodermic needle; "I'm sailing right behind": what kind of
"friend" walks behind you? Only one you wouldn't dare be
"Hey, Jude." ("Let her under your skin."
"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." (LSD,
Redefine TV's role in our lives: The purpose of
television is not to entertain. Television is a business. Its job is to bring large volumes ofadvertising to mass audiences. Network stations compete for the largest share of theaudience in order to attract advertisers-and to justify charging higher advertising ratesbased upon larger audiences. TV is like fishing, with the programs the bait, thecommercials the hook-and consumers the fish. Note: the barb of the hook is thesubliminal messages in the commercials.
Sensory overload: rapid series of quick cuts
confuses the conscious and opens up the subconscious to messages.
Aviance perfume-adultery theme. ("It's gonna be an
Aviance night." In the commercial, the kids are out of the house, the wife is at her mirrorgetting dressed, splashing on Aviance-with no evidence of her husband in the room-andthen she opens the front door to a tuxedoed gentleman. They exchange smiles. If thiswere her husband, why would she have to let him in the door? Wouldn't he have hisown key?)
Charmin-and Mr. Whipple. ("Don't squeeze the
Charmin." Actor Dick Wilson, with his pencil-thin mustache and leering grin, is thearchetypical dirty old man. He holds the two rolls of Charmin in mfront of the ladies atbreast level and . fondles them. They smile slyly, as if they've caught him in his fantasy. Actor David Garrison, playing Mr. Whipple's nephew in an ad, reports that arepresentative of Procter and Gamble was on the set daily to make sure he gave theproduct the prescribed "Charmin squeeze.")
Note: No subliminals are meant to be consciously
perceived, for then they could be rejected by the conscious mind; therefore, they aresuggestions which are purposely ambiguous. This allows the advertisers to denyinvolvement by claiming innocence. Consider: if you were laying out a half milliondollars for 30 seconds of TV ad time, wouldn't you be sure that you had all the basescovered in the persuasion game?11.
Professor W. B. Key notified Nixon White House of the use of subliminals. Was
talk of staff for two weeks. Then memo came down to suspend all investigation. Soonsubs began to appear in military recruitment ads.
Subs now appear in many political campaign posters.
Subs are the most grievous invasion of privacy, for what is
more private than a person's subconscious mind? In the case of children they constitute asocially unacknowledged and therefore acceptable form of abuse. Acceptable becausethe damage is not physically apparent and the blame for the damage can be challenged.
Subs are illegal, but the law has never been enforced.
Advertisers have made "gentleman's agreement" with the government that they won't usesubs to sell. ("Truth in advertising": an oxymoron?)
Portfolio of four basic wants in print ads, displayed and analyzed.
Students design advertising campaign for fictional product. 1.
Split class into three groups, named for the product they
will be selling: Yerxters, Zoralite, Cloud 7.
Decide what each product is, design its packaging.
Create 17 print ads, each featuring a different overt
Design a production to showcase all the ads.
Time allowed: five weeks. Presentations will be done on
the last three days, with each taking a full class period.
TEACHER PREPARES IN-HOUSE A BOOKLET CONTAINING PERTINENTARTICLES AND CAVEATS. THE FOLLOWING TWO PAGES MAKE UP THEINTRODUCTION AND THE THIRD GIVES A SUMMATION.
Congratulations: you may now consider yourself on the road toward media
The message of the advertising media is clear, and it is founded on unchecked
greed without regard to human consequence. Today's teenagers, for example, aredeveloping hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, and cholesterol-clogged bloodvessels ("old folks' ailments"), all traceable to the fast-food industry, which claims to "doit all for you." Campbell's turns primary-grade children into unpaid soup shills under theguise of their "Labels for Education" program. And tobacco companies exploit
preadolescent anxieties to get children to play Russian roulette in slo-mo with cigarettes,thereby trading their future health for peer acceptance now-truly a fatal distraction.
A war exists in the marketplace, a war for which product will get the biggest bite
out of your buck. In this war, as in all wars, there is no place for morality, no cause forethics. The most effective advertisers are also the most ruthless. The short-term casualtiesare their competition; the long-term casualties are the consumers-you and me.
Government and law cannot help us; only education can.
To protect yourself, you must become a media detective and ferret out the
deception. Expose the advertisers and their techniques to your family and friends. Makeyour buying (and voting, and all other) decisions based upon your needs, not upon whatothers with something to gain tell you. Remember, advertisers may be strangers, but theyknow you better than your own mother. And remember that the person who does notcontrol his environment will be controlled by it.
We are amateur buyers pitted against professional sellers.
Advertising is both science and art. It works by keeping us from thinking .
Weasel words (helps, can, may, fights, acts, works, virtually, up to, as much as, quality )make all claims hollow.
The best commercials use psycho-sell; that is, they sell a fantasy and associate a purchasewith achieving that fantasy.
Our four basic wants (life, importance, love, and variety) are exploited,either singly or incombination, in almost all ads.
Tobacco advertising, the majority of which is aimed at children, is nothing short oflegalized (and socially approved) child abuse.
Television is first and foremost a selling medium; it's the most effective in the world. Theentertainment portion exists solely to lure you into watching the commercials.
Product placement in feature films is more paid advertising. It cost the Hershey Companymore than a million dollars to make Reese's Pieces the candy of choice for E.T.
Subliminal advertising is the most grievous invasion of privacy conceivable, for what ismore private than your subconscious mind?
Subliminal advertising is recognized by the government as deceptiveand is officially illegal. The law has never been enforced.
A reading list on advertising and its effects would include Vance Packard's The
Hidden Persuaders , Michael J. Arlen's Thirty Seconds , Carl P. Wrighter's I Can SellYou Anything , and the following four books by Wilson Bryan Key: SubliminalSeduction, Media Sexploitation, The Clam-plate Orgy, and The Age of Manipulation. The Packard book is required reading in many college courses. Arlen's book tells thebehind-the-scenes story of the making of the famous Bell Telephone "Reach out"commercials. Wrighter is a former ad man who will tell you all you want to know aboutweasel words, phony claims, and other distortions. Doctor Key's books are the mostcontroversial, as the titles would suggest. Also a former advertising executive, he nowheads Mediaprobe, an organization investigating media's effect on our lives. Key lecturesnationwide and has appeared on various radio and television talk shows. His books posethe greatest threat to society's perceptions of reality.
May you find success in defending yourself against the distortions of reality being
perpetrated upon you by the advertising media. (Note well: all media are to some extentadvertising media.) One distortion is society's perception of what is important. Our valuesystem rewards entertainment while looking down its collective nose at public service: atypical ballplayer averages upwards of $400,000 annually, while a nurse, police officer,firefighter, teacher, social worker, or member of the clergy will be lucky to earn one tenththat amount. The film industry feeds our fantasies and gets rich, while some militaryfamilies earn so little they qualify for food stamps. Your children's favorite rock starearns more money than the President of the United States. If this sounds proper to you,then the next time you need help-really need help-call Madonna.
We pay well for hollow pleasures. "Give me my Monday Night Football," says
society. "Give me my MTV. Power Rangers. Ads that promise but never deliver. And Iwill reward you handsomely. But," society adds, "if you choose to contribute to my wellbeing-through health care, education, protection, etc.-you will be penalized in yourpaycheck." And when those who serve dare to ask for monetary reward, society raises itseyes heavenward and wails, "Whatever happened to dedication?" It is hard to dedicateyourself to those who scorn you.
If you want your life to be truly your own, you must make the study of media a
lifelong pursuit. Otherwise the media, God-like, will remold you into their image withoutyour awareness or consent. Remember that advertising-especially the subliminal-worksbest when you don't think about it. Its goal is to make you believe that buying bringshappiness. Of course it never does, because happiness is never a product; it is a by-product. It is not a destination; it is the means to get to your destination. It might help tothink of happiness as a playful puppy: the more you chase it, and chase it, and chase it,the more it will just manage to elude you. But when you sit down, relax, and turn yourmind to other things, the puppy will return and rest its head in your lap.
It’s Flu Season: Prescription? contact WPS Customer Service. WPS’ pharmacy analyst willwork with the pharmacy to confirm that coverage criteria aremet. If one meets eligibility, WPS will arrange a refund by the One needs no reminder that it is flu season . One also need not be reminded that flu shots - for seasonal flu and moreparticularly for H1N1 - are in short supply. Given this, som