Advertising and Product Placement

“Advertising can be characterized as a material device employed in the definition or qualification of markets, and this is a role that merits much closer investigation than it has yet received.” (McFall 2004, 2)

Historically speaking, advertisements were much more straight forward and descriptive in regards to the product one was trying to sell. New age advertising focuses more on selling an image that appeals to the customer, rather than the product itself (McFall, 2009).

Using images in advertisements did not even appear until the mid-19th century. Bold, italics, asterisks among other grammatical techniques were used in print to make the advertisement stick out (Addison, The Tatler, 14/9/1710: 1).

Now images plague the industry and include little to no description about the product itself. Advertisements are coming in all different shapes and forms so it may even be hard to recognize that you’re actually looking at one (Callon, Advertising class lecture)

A great example of this would be product placement, specifically in music videos. In my previous blog post about globalization, I referenced the characteristics of the US dominance model in society. Consumers are interested in success and reputation. They aspire to be like the famed Hollywood figures that so many people look up to.

“Advertisements seem to offer an insight into what one nineteenth-century author described as ‘the wants, the losses, the amusements and the money-making eagerness of the people’.” (McFall 2004, 2)

So what exactly is product placement? It’s when a manufacturer will pay for their product to be in a feature film, music video or other outlet so it will gain more exposure to the customers. This really makes it difficult for us to distinguish between ads and not ads. (“Good to Know!”, 2017)

One music video that really stuck out to me was Hold it Against Me by Britney Spears. Throughout her performance, you can see images of SONY products being flashed on screen or used by the performers. Subconsciously, one may relate the product to their absolute favourite singer, Britney Spears. In this way there’s an emotional connection between the consumer and the product. The other way it could work is just from mere exposure to seeing the image (Britney Spears- Hold It Against Me, 2011).

The strength of this approach is in fact the increased product exposure. Some advertisers are clever enough to make the customers not even realized that they’re seeing an ad. They want them to feel like they’re choosing it on their own without the influence of the industry.

The weakness falls where we get too many industries putting their products together. Synergy is a great thing for this economy, although the talent of the music artists can get lost with all of this product placement. If it’s takes over the screen more than it should, it can distract away from the main performance.

-Ashley Edwards

Britney Spears- Hold It Against Me. JIVE Records: Sony Music Entertainment, 2011. video.

“Good One to Know!” BusinessDictionary.com. N.p. , 2017. Wed. 25 Feb. 2017

Liz McFall, 2004. Advertising: A Cultural Economy (Culture, Representation and Identity series). 1 Edition. SAGE Publications Ltd.

Liz McFall, L. 2009. Advertising: A Cultural Economy. London: SAGE.

Creative Industries and A Series of Unfortunate Events

Creative Industries have been dominating the artistic scene for quite a time now. Some people are concerned that the functionalist reality of the neoliberal policies and practices of the creative industries create a space where creativity can almost do without the artists. Has art become formulaic? Are capitalism and creativity being merged together?

In the film industry, specifically involving adaptations, we can see a large amount of discrepancies between remakes of books and even other movies. The majority of the time, it appears that most authors or original creators do not have much of a say, if any at all, in regards to creating a new version of their original book or movie.

The pinnacle of this concept can be easily observed in the work of David Handler, or better known by his pseudonym as Lemony Snicket. Handler is the author of an extremely successful book series called A Series of Unfortunate Events, which contained an impressive total of 13 children’s books. Handler was initially interested in writing gothic literature for adults, but after having a conversation with his publisher, he went onto writing these children’s book characterized by Victorian gothic tones and absurdist textuality. Initially he was opposed to the idea, but managed to incorporate the elements of dark humour and sarcastic storytelling elements into the children’s series (“A Series of Unfortunate Events (TV Series 2017-)”).

The interference of the publisher is a small indication of larger corporations or positions having influence over the ‘little guy’. Even this minute example gives us an insight to what cultural industries believe they have the power to do, and what they do to enforce them.

A Series of Unfortunate Events gained significant popularity throughout the entire publishing period, which lasted from 1999 to 2006. At one point, books were being published at a rate of three to four per year. Between all 13 books there were over 65 million copies sold and were translated into 41 different languages (“A Series of Unfortunate Events (TV Series 2017-)”.

Due to the worldwide success during this period of time, the creative industries began to swoop in. A video game, card game, board game, song album, film, TV show, several companion books as well as assorted merchandise were made as offspring to a the book series.

In 2004, Paramount adapted the first three books of a Series of Unfortunate Events into a feature film. Globally it was quite successful, bringing in 200 million US dollars. Although, no additional films were made to incorporate the remaining ten books in the series.

Even with these statistics, fans to A Series of Unfortunate Events were quite disappointed with how the film came across. It was way too condensed, leaving out large portions that were quite significant in the books. Also, the tone was much too comical compared to the series. The books were solemn and serious, with the occasional implication of wry humour. This largely had to do with the power that Paramount had and the lack on involvement of David Handler. We can see here that the authority of the ‘new owner’ of the creative material does not need to stay true to the original artist.

This bring us to the discussion of why this is seen as unsuccessful. When working with a big name company such as Paramount, the artist must realise that the brand must come first, which is a hard thing to accept. Even though the material stemmed from Handler’s original creativity, he must let them follow through with their business plan. In this sense, it does take the autonomy away from the artist when you involve the commercial business.

We discussed in seminar how money has been come a vital part of cultural industries and creation. In this situation with a Series of Unfortunate Events, the creative product and original intention of the artist has been lost. This truly represents how the distinction between private creation and public business sectors are diminishing. Handler would not have had the funds to film the movie on his own, so he would have to compromise with the big companies to get the means to do so.

In John Hartley’s book ‘Creative Studies’, he brings up a valid point about the contradiction in the term ‘creative studies’. “’Creative’ seems to preclude organization on an industrial scale, emphasizing instead the aspect of individual imaginative creative talent. ‘Industries’ seems to preclude most human creativity from consideration. In short, if creativity is part of human identity, then what has is got to do with industries? Most people do not ‘identify’ with industries as part of their sense of self, even if they work in an industrial environment- which most people in the world do not.” (Hartley 2005,106)

So from this perspective, is it ever possible for the artist to remain autonomous if they’re part of the whole world of creative industries? In some ways it is completely possible to work in synergy with a large company and keep the integrity of one’s work. A Series of Unfortunate Events managed to do so after the whole movie fiasco.

Earlier this year, the Netflix original series ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ was released. Although it’s produced yet again by Paramount, the same company to produce the earlier 2004 film, it has absolutely nothing to do with the movie. Their involvement is much smaller than the film, including the fact that their television department will be producing the show (Gatenburg, 2017).

Cultural industries are becoming more and more streamlined in terms of what they actually specialise in. “The ownership and organisation of the cultural industries have changed radically. The largest companies no longer specialise in a particular cultural industry, such as film, publishing, television or recording; they now operate across a number of different cultural industries. These conglomerates compete with each other, but, more than ever before, they are connected- with each other and with other companies- in complex webs of alliance, partnership and joint venture.” (Hesmondhalgh, 2013, 3)

It seems odd that Paramount would get another shot at producing A Series of Unfortunate Events, but when you realise how large of a scope they have on the industry it makes sense. An entirely different production group will get to have control, so it won’t even matter what happened during the making of the previous movie.

This series will be much more in depth than the previous 2004 film, so no prior knowledge of the books or film is needed for any of the viewers. The first season of A Series of Unfortunate events will only cover books 1 through 4, spanning over a total of 8 episodes. This gives them a chance to go extremely in depth with the material from the original book series. All 13 books will be covered in the Netflix series and supplemental stories. David Handler is very involved in the series this time around. He wrote every single episode alongside Emily Fox (Gatenburg, 2017).

This time around, a stronger approach to the use of creative industries has been illuminated. The ability for a big company to work with the original artist, and still allow them to remain autonomous is a step in the right direction for this community. The Netflix series is still in the beginning stages of its first season, so we can’t be entirely sure how successful it will be in comparison to the film. Although, there are rumours that the second season has in fact been undergoing its pre-production phase.

One can’t say if creative industries destroy autonomy completely. It’s a matter of how the companies are willing to work with the artists or how the artists must work for the companies.

-Ashley Edwards

Bibliography:

“A Series of Unfortunate Events (TV Series 2017-)”. IMDb. N.p. 2017. Web. 13 Feb, 2017.

A Series of Unfortunate Events. Paramount, 2004. film.

A Series of Unfortunate Events. Paramount, 2017. Available: https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/80050008. Last accessed 22/02/2017.

David Hesmondhalgh (2013). The Cultural Industries. 3rd ed. London: SAGE. 1-3.

Gartenburg, Chaim. “Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events Gets Right What The Movie Got Wrong.” The Verge. N.p., 2017. Web. 11 Feb. 2017.

John Hartley (2005). Creative Industries. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub. 106.

Globalization and Reality TV

Over the past decade, reality television has become increasingly popular worldwide. This relatively new format incorporates everything from the drama to everyday events and competitions into a broadcast. The dramatization of some of these television shows seems so unreal and yet still audiences from all different countries have become more and more enamored with these reality TV stars. So what makes reality TV so popular?

One extremely well-known reality television series would be The Bachelor. Since 2002, there have been 19 aired seasons in the states. Several spin-off series have formed as well, such as The Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise, and The Bachelor Pad which have been deemed as successful as the original Bachelor series (Fitzpatrick, 2015).

“Sarlanis says creator of the Bachelor, Mike Fleiss [and his producing team], has been evolving the show, in juxtaposition to the booming trend of soapy storytelling on unscripted television, seen on ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’, which Sarlanis worked on at E!, before he joined ABC’s team. ‘Story soaps were blowing up so they said, let’s infuse that storytelling, but ease up on the format’”(Wagmeister, 2015).

As of late, Bachelor and Bachelorette series have been spreading like wildfire across most of Europe and several other locations in the world. We now see Bachelor copycat series in Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland, Slovenia, Romania, Israel, Brazil, Norway, Sweden, Australia, Poland, France, Ukraine, Russia, Canada, Finland, and the UK. Bachelorette series have popped up in Romania, India, Germany, Switzerland, Slovenia and Australia (Fitzpatrick, 2015).

“Cultural products increasingly circulate across national borders. Images, sounds and narratives are borrowed and adapted from other places on an unprecedented scale, producing new hybrids but also, for some, reaffirming the value of cultural authenticity. The long-standing domination of cultural trade by the USA may be diminishing” (Hesmondhalgh, 2013).

The streamline of similar TV formats seems a bit redundant yet they still manage to entertain the general public audiences and receive great ratings. One thing we must incorporate into this is the characteristics of US dominance, like we discussed in class lecture (Hesmondhalgh, 2013).

Tracking what the audience is feeling and what they want is an important tactic for the producers of reality television shows. “The way that the cultural industries conceive of their audiences is changing. There is greater emphasis on audiences is changing. There is greater emphasis on audience research, marketing and addressing ‘niche’ audiences.” (Hesmondhalgh, 2013).

The TV market in the states relies on success, formulas, and reputation. In the Bachelor, they normally choose the next person in the series, such as the Bachelorette, from the pool of women that are already on the show and who have gained a fan base. This guarantees (to a certain extent) that there will be viewers for the show. From the audience’s perspective, they may have gained a certain emotional attachment to their favourite contestant and want to see how the rest of the journey plays out in the next season (Hesmondhalgh, 2013).

The aspect of competition also plays an extremely important role in the Bachelor. The states is predominately a capitalist society that thrives on competition. The Bachelor and Bachelorette play off of the audience’s emotions and feelings towards romance, yet the competition aspect is quite relevant. Each episode, a contestant gets voted off if they haven’t ‘connected’ enough with the Bachelor or Bachelorette. It seems a bit vile to have this in parallel with the romantic aspect of the show, but with such a wide audience, it sparks interest for different reasons creating a larger audience scope.

The strength of globalization through the lens of cultural economy is that it unifies the interests of our society, as well as worldwide. Creativity isn’t original, so it gives for a chance for more variety, even if they are starting from the same point. Now starting this can get us into the other argument of why globalization is bad. The weakness is that things become too mainstream, redundant and unoriginal. Oddly enough the strength and weakness of this concept overlap, but the industry seems to be split over the idea of it (especially regarding TV formulas). Like I mentioned in my previous post about creative industries and big company take overs, this format moves us into the industrial side, which can potentially remove the creativity from the project and autonomy from the artist.

I think the Bachelor and Bachelorette is an excellent text to observe for this purpose. They fit the criteria for a formatted television show, extend to a wide range of audiences and ages, while still keeping the interest of the people.

-Ashley Edwards

David Hesmondhalgh (2013). The Cultural Industries. 3rd ed. London: SAGE. 1-3.

Fitzpatrick, M. (2015) Here’s what the bachelor and the Bachelorette look like in 18 countries. Available at: http://fusion.net/story/163528/heres-what-the-bachelor-and-the-bachelorette-look-like-in-18-countries/ (Accessed: 22 February 2017).

Wagmeister, E. (2015) ‘The Bachelorette’: ABC exec talks why the franchise is so successful. Available at: http://variety.com/2015/tv/news/the-bachelor-bachelorette-abc-ratings-success-1201509586/ (Accessed: 22 February 2017).