Culture Making is now archived. Enjoy five years of reflections on culture worth celebrating.
For more about the book and Andy Crouch, please visit

Posts tagged advertising

from "Edible Geography," by Nicola Twilley, Edible Geography, 2 February 2011

Several other researchers have shown that there is a disproportionate amount of alcohol advertising in predominantly black neighbourhoods compared to predominantly white neighbourhoods. Kwate’s study not only revealed that an astonishing twenty-five percent of the outdoor advertising space in Central Harlem was dedicated to selling alcohol, but also that exposure to these ads increased black women’s chances of being a problem drinker—by up to thirteen percent. That, as she puts it, is “a really big deal.”

from "A Power to Persuade," by Virginia Postrel, The Weekly Standard, 29 March 2010 :: via Arts & Letters Daily

[G]lamour always contains an illusion. The word originally meant a literal magic spell, which made the viewer see something that wasn’t there. In its modern, metaphorical form, glamour usually begins with a stylized image—visual or mental—of a person, an object, an event, or a setting. The image is not entirely false, but it is misleading. Its allure depends on obscuring or ignoring some details while heightening others. We see the dance but not the rehearsals, the stiletto heels but not the blisters, the skyline but not the dirty streets, the sports car but not the gas pump. To sustain the illusion, glamour requires an element of mystery. It is not transparent or opaque but translucent, inviting just enough familiarity to engage the imagination and trigger the viewer’s own fantasies.

Glamour can, of course, sell evening gowns, vacation packages, and luxury kitchens. But it can also promote moon shots and “green jobs,” urban renewal schemes and military action. (The “glamour of battle” long preceded the glamour of Hollywood.) Californians once found freeways glamorous; today they thrill to promises of high-speed rail. “Terror is glamour,” said Salman Rushdie in a 2006 interview, identifying the inspiration of jihadi terrorists. New Soviet Man was a glamorous concept. So is the American Dream.

Glamour, in short, is serious stuff.

photo Food flags
"Lebanon (lavash, fattoush, and a herb sprig)," by WHYBIN for the Sydney International Food Festival 2009, blogged at The Kitchn, 29 September 2009 :: via GOOD
by Nate Barksdale for Culture Making

University of Colorado psychologist Geoffrey Cohen has done a couple of studies showing an easy way to help black students perform better on standardized tests. Simply having them spend 15 minutes writing about a value they held dear (family, music, sports, politics, friends, art), either right before the exam or just several times a semester, led to a jump in test scores compared to peers (majority culture students did not experience a similar boost).

Meanwhile, a study from Radbound University Nijmegen showed that students playing a computerized word game performed better if they took a step backward before each round than if they took a step to the side or no step at all. The physicality of adding distance to widen one’s view apparently triggers a mental analogue.

:: via VSL:Science, 27 and 28 May 2009

Finally, a joint Canadian–American study suggests the ways that exposure to brands can elicit certain types of improved performance: “Participants primed with Apple logos behave more creatively than IBM-primed and controls; Disney-primed participants behave more honestly than E!-primed and controls.”

:: via The Annals of Improbable Research


My basic premise is that the internet is not replacing advertising but shattering it, and all the king’s horses, all the king’s men, and all the creative talent of Madison Avenue cannot put it together again. . . .

It is frequently argued that the advertising industry will provide sufficient innovation to replace the loss of traditional ads on traditional mass media. Again, my basic premise rejects this, suggesting that simple commercial messages, pushed through whatever medium, in order to reach a potential customer who is in the middle of doing something else, will fail. It’s not that we no longer need information to initiate or to complete a transaction; rather, we will no longer need advertising to obtain that information. We will see the information we want, when we want it, from sources that we trust more than paid advertising. We will find out what we need to know, when we want to make a commercial transaction of any kind. The conventional wisdom is that this is exactly what paid search helps us to do, but all too often they are nothing more than a form of misdirection . . . [later defined as] diverting customers to companies that they do not wish to find, simply because the customer’s preferred company underbid.

"If I Made a Commercial for Trader Joe's," by Carl Willat :: via Boing Boing

In a plot twist worthy of Lost, it turns out that TV commercials aren’t obnoxious interruptions after all. They’re helpful interruptions, which increase your enjoyment of TV by periodically reminding you how much you’d rather be watching your favorite show.

That’s according to a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, which found that commercials restore a sense of novelty to TV programming by breaking up the cycle which we become bored with following what’s on the screen.

In one of several experiments, the study’s authors screened the sitcom Taxi for two groups. One group saw an episode with commercial interruptions, and the other saw an episode with no interruptions. Those who saw Taxi with commercial breaks enjoyed it more, by a decisive margin.


A police amphibian airplane trailed a tri-motored ship from which advertising matter was being broadcast through a loud-speaker for almost two hours yesterday afternoon.

from "Portraits of Our Economic Meltdown #1 - KraftMaid," by David Michael Bruno, David Michael Bruno, 16 October 2008

KraftMaid makes cabinetry for various rooms of your house. I found an advertisement for their products in Southern Living magazine. The advertisement read, “Everyone has a personality. Shouldn’t your kitchen have one too?” You can see the TV commercial for this advertising campaign on their site.

Let’s shelve the moral question: Is it ever right to spend overindulgent amounts of money on a home kitchen? Instead let’s ask about the cost of any of the kitchens shown in the KraftMaid advertisements.

Of course, if we are honest, we should not only ask about the cost of the cabinetry, but also inquire into the cost of the whole package. The kitchens are “personalities” that reflect the personality (lifestyle) of the people featured in the ads. That hot woman in the skimpy dress eating that huge bowl of ice cream, well, obviously she has an expensive gym membership. And notice how she has enough fancy plates to serve everyone in her home owners association. The other couples are much the same. . . .

The cost of the kitchen cabinetry alone is beyond the financial means of most poor, middle class, and upper middle class Americans. But the cost of the lifestyle associated with the cost of the kitchen cabinetry - the whole cost of the “personality” - is beyond the financial means of pretty much all Americans, with the exception of a fraction of a percent of ultra wealthy individuals. And let me assure you, those ultra rich Americans who can afford these KraftMaid kitchens, trust me, they don’t read Southern Living.

from "Lotteries," by Jonah Lehrer (interviewing George Loewenstein), The Frontal Cortex, 15 September 2008 :: via Ben

The finding from our first study, that when you make people feel poor they play more, is especially sad since playing the lottery is on average a massively losing proposition. The propensity of low income individuals to play the lottery has the perverse effect of exacerbating their poverty. Although there are no easy solutions to the problem, one obvious one would be to cease marketing and advertising that targets the poor. It probably makes sense for the state to sell lottery tickets, because otherwise they will be sold by organized crime. However, does it really make sense for the state to be inducing, through advertising, poor people to play who wouldn’t play in the absence of such inducement?

Similarly, states could promote and offer more games that appeal to wealthier players, such as Powerball, and not those popular with poorer players, such as instant scratch-off tickets. Another obvious solution, though one that is even less likely to be implemented, would be for the state to increase the payout on the tickets, and perhaps to increase the number of moderate size prizes.

Finally, a third option would be for financial institutions to issue investment instruments that have lottery-like qualities (for example, offered in small amounts, available at many convenient points of purchase, provide a small chance of a large upside) but offer a positive rate of return, providing the pleasure of playing the lottery without the steep cost. In many other countries “prize bonds” or other savings instruments are available that pay lottery winnings in place of, or in addition to, regular interest. Regulations in the United States have stymied the development of such offerings.


The proportion of viewers who were aware that, with the proper treatment, there is more than a 90% chance of an HIV-positive woman having a healthy baby increased by 46 percentage points after the episode aired (from 15% to 61%). This includes 17% of respondents in the post-show survey who volunteered the specific response that the woman has a 98% chance of having a healthy baby—the statistic that was repeated several times on the show.

Six weeks after the episode aired, the proportion who gave the correct response had dropped to 45%, but was still substantially higher (by 30 percentage points) than it had been prior to the show. This time around, however, only 3% volunteered the specific fact that the woman would have a 98% chance of having a healthy baby.

Day for Night (La Nuit américaine) trailer," directed by François Truffaut, 1973, and My Life, My Card ad, directed by Wes Anderson, 2006
from "Kinshasa’s 'baroque' style, by Jennifer Brea, Global Voices Online, 27 July 2008

A French aid worker in Congo, Cabiau admits that he has trouble telling Werrason apart from Wazekwa, but that he’s “developed a taste for this joyous cacaphony.”

Lorsque les décibels s’affolent, impossible de rester assis. Si l’on se donne la peine de s’aventurer sur la piste, au milieu des miroirs et des déhanchements endiablés, on ne peut que succomber. On est alors entraîné dans des chorégraphies délirantes que tout bon kinois connaît sur le bout des doigts. C’est le feu. De la folie furieuse. C’est Kinshasa.

When the decibels reach a panic, it’s impossible to stay seated.  If make the effort to get out there on the dance floor, among the mirrors and the frenzy of swaying hips, you cannot help but give in.  You are led out into wild dance moves that every good kinois knows at the edge of his fingertips.  It’s on fire.  It’s madness.  It’s Kinshasa.

Cabiau also writes about the phenomenon of “libanga.”  Libanga is to Congolese music what product placement is to American film and television.  For a few thousand dollars, “a company, a brand of beer, a politicians, or an officer in the army” can see his name placed in a song.  Several dozen such paid shoutouts might be in a single song.  “Curiously, that doesn’t seem to bother many people,” Cabiau writes.

"Billboards no.02," giclee photo print on aluminum (2008), by Branislav Kropilak :: via Cool Hunting