Media Sphere: Convergence

In the wake of the wave of new technology we are currently experiencing, we are being bombarded with advertisements like never before. But it hasn’t always been this way. Advertisements used to be primarily printed or radio commercials. These types of media were effective in spreading an advertiser’s message over a large area. Considering the fact that anyone could see a billboard or hear a radio commercial, it would be reasonable to assume that the content would appeal to a large target audience. This was not the case. In the 1950’s, the content of these ads and the target audience was largely exclusive. They were directed towards middle class, white families, while emphasizing the stereotypical gender roles of the time (women as housewives, men as the workers).

Examples of myth and semiotics are both present in these pictures. The semiotics of the cleaning ad brings forth a recollection of Rosie the Riveter, a powerful symbol of the empowered woman. However, because the empowerment is due to her choice in cleaning supplies it plays into the myth that women should be the ones doing the cleaning.

The invention of the television played a pivotal role in the evolution of advertising. It allowed marketers to advertise in their audience’s homes. But, for the most part, it also adhered to the white-washed stereotypes that radio and print advertisements portrayed. However, in 1975, the ideology of inclusiveness would be questioned by none other than Orenthal James Simpson.

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It is hard for people my age (born in the 90’s) to know just how much of an impact Simpson had on the inclusiveness media. Before setting the record for most media coverage of a police chase, and of a court trial, OJ was America’s poster child. His athletic abilities and charisma allowed him to essentially transcend race. He was the first black man to star in a commercial that was a total success from both black and white audiences. The famous Mean Joe Green commercial didn’t air until four years later. His success questioned the power relationships between marketers and the public. It raised the question “why aren’t more races represented in advertisement?”

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Nothing could prepare the world of advertising for the next huge marketing medium after the television. It was the computer and the Internet. Marketers now have the ability to advertise to individuals, instead of giant audiences. Television ads can only target audiences based on the station(s) they choose to advertise on. In today’s business world, it is less beneficial to focus on your target’s interests, rather than on who your target is. In the past, it was more important to appeal to those who could afford it. Computer advertisement has gotten to the point where marketing companies can choose specific ads for a target consumer based off of their search history. Companies can even put in specific demographics into their target audience, as seen on this website:  http://www.blackentrepreneur.com/how-to-target-african-americans-with-facebook-ads/

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Convergence

With the rate of technology advancing at faster rates than ever before, we are currently subjected to a massive growth of convergence as well. That is, the combination of other mediums into one access point. The greatest example of this is our smartphones. This one pocket-sized device allows us access to printed, televised, recorded, and filmed media. Thanks to this increase in access, we are now subjected to more advertisement than ever before.

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While streaming a television show, we can expect commercials throughout the program. Even while using a free mobile application, we are constantly presented ads in the header or the footer. When ads become this widespread, it is harder to target a specific audience. This results in advertisement to everyone. Since the audience became all-inclusive, marketers had little choice but to create advertisements that were also inclusive. This does not mean all-inclusive, however. While most races and ethnicities are included in advertisements, their representation is nowhere near proportional. Thanks to the convergence of medium, we are able to observe exclusion like this at a much larger scale, making it easier to confront, and hopefully fix.

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