Home Marketing Marketing and American Consumer Culture: A Cultural Studies Analysis
Marketing and Social Media
Dallas Smythe (1981/2006) suggests that in the case of media advertisements models, media companies sell the audience as a commodity to advertisers. Because audience power is produced, sold, purchased and consumed, it commands a price and is a commodity.... You audience members contribute your unpaid work time and in exchange you receive the program material and the explicit advertisements. With the rise of user-generated content, free-access social networking platforms, and other free-access platforms that yield profit by online advertisements—a development subsumed under categories such as Web 2.0, social software and social networking sites—the web seems to come close to accumulation strategies employed by capital on traditional mass media like TV or radio. Users who upload photos and images, write wall postings and comments, send mail to their contacts, accumulate friends or browse other profiles on Facebook, constitute an audience commodity that is sold to advertisers.
Christian Fuchs, Social Media: A Critical Introduction
Abstract It is suggested that people who use social media can be thought of as audiences as well as content providers, who exploit and are exploited by the social media. This is followed by a discussion of how social media are becoming increasingly important to marketers and advertising and the impact of social media on other media, such as print and television. Next, there is a discussion of the negative impact of social media on some young girls, who feel they have to be “hot” and suffer from higher levels of anxiety, depression, and eating disorders © The Author(s) 2016
A.A. Berger, Marketing and American Consumer Culture, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-47328-4_12
than young men. These problems, it is suggested, are connected to the number of cosmetic procedures done on thirteen- to nineteen-year-old girls in America.
Keywords Social media • Audiences • Exploitation • Market share • Young girls
People who use the social media don’t usually think of themselves as audiences that are “sold” to advertisers, but as Fuchs points out in the epigraph, they are. Not only are they audiences, they are also the producers of the content on the various sites, so we can say that, in a sense, they are doubly exploited: they are exploited by social media and they are the instruments of their own exploitation. Of course they get something in return—the opportunity for self-promotion, for communication with others, for obtaining information on all kinds of topics, and so on. We can say something similar about the traditional mass media. We get free television and radio in return for being exposed to commercials.
We have to realize that the social media are becoming more and more important in our lives and, as such, of great interest to marketers and advertisers. They are two sides of the same coin. We spend, on average, close to two hours a day with social media. Teenagers spend around nine hours a day with media, some sending a hundred messages a day, and checking their phones around a hundred times a day.
The chart below shows how social media has become increasingly important in marketing and advertising. In 2014, approximately forty percent of advertising in the United States was on TV and twenty-eight percent was on digital media. By 2020, only thirty-two percent of advertising will be on TV and almost forty-five percent will be on digital media. These figures suggest there has been a revolution in the marketing and advertising world. Print, with only eleven percent in 2020, will be almost irrelevant. There will be almost three times as much advertising on mobiles in 2020 as in print.
We can see, from this chart, that the social media are playing a larger and larger role in marketing and advertising. Advertising in newspapers and magazines is declining; both will be around five percent of advertising expenditures in 2020. If you want to advertise a product or service, why not do so on a device that people carry around and consult many times a day.
Note: *print only; **excludes off-air radio & digital Source: eMarketer, March 2016a
US Total Media Ad Spending, www.emarketer.com
Young Girls and the Internet
In an interview on National Public Radio, Nancy Jo Sales discusses the impact of the social media on teenage women and men:
I talked to an 18-year-old girl who is talking about looking at Tinder with her older brother and... she said she was struck by the way in which the boys and men’s pictures were very different than the girls’. Guys tend to have a picture like, I don’t know, they’re standing on a mountain looking like they’ve climbed the mountain, or they’re holding a big fish or they’re doing something manly, or in their car.... But the girls’ pictures ... tend to be very different; they tend to be a lot more sexualized. This is a pressure on social media that goes back, for women and girls, a long time.... I trace the origins back to a site called “Hot or Not” which came out in 2000.... The whole idea of “hotness” has become such a factor in the lives of American girls, unfortunately, because according to many, many studies, including a really landmark report by the American Psychological Association in 2007, this has wide-ranging ramifications for girls’ health and well-being, including studies that link this pressure to sexualize on all kinds of things like rising anxiety, depression, cutting, eating disorders. It’s a thing that I don’t think that boys have to deal with as much. (Nancy Jo Sales, Interview on National Public Radio http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/02/ 29/467959873/teen-girls-and-social-media-a-story-of-secret-lives-and- misogyny)
She also discusses the impact certain sites have on girls and writes (quoted in Marion Winick, “Peek into What Social Media Is Doing to Girls,” March 13, 2016, Marin IJ):
For many girls, the pressure to be considered “hot” is felt on a nearly continual basis online. “The newwordis ‘goals,’” Sophia, 13, ofMontclair, N.J. tells the author. “You find a really pretty girl on Instagram and you’re like ‘Goals’”— meaning your goal is to have hair, eyebrows and lips like her. No one cares about being smart anymore. If you’re beautiful, everyone will love you.”
It is social pressures like the ones that Sophia feels that helps explain why in 2013, there were 220,000 cosmetic procedures done on patients between thirteen and nineteen years of age. In a sense, the culture is providing the marketing information and the behavior of these patients is an example of how these cultural imperatives, aided by an enormous amount of money spent on advertising cosmetics and “beauty” aids, can shape people’s behavior. This description of the impact of social media on girls suggests that our social media are not just harmless diversions but are unleashing many disturbing forces in contemporary societies.
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