Advertising for Alcohol

Like advertising for cigarettes, ads that feature alcoholic beverages are sometimes seen as potentially dangerous and are therefore heavily regulated within the advertising industry. Namely, regulation seeks to prevent the “glamorization” of drinking alcohol and avoid those under the age of 21 from being exposed to ads for alcoholic beverages. For instance, ads for alcohol are only allowed to be aired on television if at least 70% of that show or networks audience is estimated to be of age.

However, some people think that these regulations do not go far enough, as children may be exposed to alcohol ads at a rate much higher than desired. According to a recent study in Ireland, 90% of children ages 13-17 who were surveyed had been exposed to alcohol ads in the week prior to the study. It also found that 53% of children ages 13-15 had consumed alcohol before. It should be noted that there are a lot of problems with this study, as it was sponsored by the Irish coalition group Alcohol Action Ireland and is almost certainly biased. Also, they make no distinction between amounts of alcohol that those 53% of kids aged 13-15 may have consumed, as there is clearly a significant difference between binge drinking and having a sip of wine that your parents gave you. That said, it’s interesting to see how much some people think ads for alcohol (and advertisements in general) lead to bad behavior. They very well could, but there are surely other factors involved as well.

It is also interesting to consider how the regulations of advertisements have gotten more stringent over time. Many ads–like those for cigarettes and alcohol–are highly regulated. However, (as I mentioned in a previous post) ads for things like prescription drugs are hardly regulated at all and are illegal in almost all Western countries. In Dickens’ time, advertisements definitely leaned towards the unregulated side of things. As we saw in many of the advertisers that we looked at, ads for things like “elixirs” and other drugs were very common and completely unregulated (much like the production of the drugs themselves), even though these products likely do not provide any real benefit. In fact, it wasn’t until the mid 20th century that agencies began to establish guidelines for the regulation of advertising. It would be quite interesting to see how Dickens’ advertisers would have been different if these regulations had been in place at the time.

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Another Christmas Story by Charles Dickens

Here I’ve attached a link to “The Christmas Chapter from The Pickwick Papers. First I just thought it was pretty cool that he had another Christmas story, but after reading it is without a doubt a precursor to “A Christmas Carol”. In it the same notion of the meaning of Christmas is conveyed, and you can see how his thought developed from this story to the one he is famous for. If you don’t have time to read it, its also just interesting to look at since it is not a reprint.  Another Christmas story

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Dickens the Performer

Here’s a very interesting video and article discussing Dickens’ the inimitable, and how he became even more popular than before once he started his public readings. These readings were immensely popular, pretty much the equivalent of a Justin Bieber concert today. His performances were masterful, and actors of the time said that he would have been a brilliant actor. Pretty amazing how he was so successful as a performer, an editor, and of course an author. Here’s the link, Dickens the Performer

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The Christmas Carols Never End

I’m the kind of person who listens to Christmas music before Halloween even starts, so a good Christmas movie is definitely always “on the list” for me. However after watching so many films I could only help but wonder, how many adaptations of Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” are there? Over break I watched the Lifetime movie, “A Diva’s Christmas Carol.”

The film begins with a scene of children playing fake snow and wrapped Christmas presents on a music video set. A woman with a warm, encompassing voice wanders around a forest full of lit Christmas trees while singing a soulful Christmas love song in a luxurious red and white cloak. Maybe I should have known what I had gotten myself into, but the lure of the lights overwhelmed my sense of reason. I could guess what was going to happen. The materialistic pop diva (Ebony Scrooge) loses touch with reality and forgets about “the real meaning of Christmas,” and I don’t mean Jesus. “Christmas is a marketing machine we cannot ignore,” spouts the Diva after her manager asked Ebony why she planned to do the music video when she is already overbooked. When the Ebony stated, “Tourists would spend anything for a little holiday spirit,” her sentiment rang too true. In this adaptation, Bob is Ebony’s manager who the audience is sympathetic to because Bob has a sick son— named Tim. Subtle. Bob attempts to convince Ebony to be more optimistic towards life saying, “It’s Christmas, you know? Peace on earth good will towards man?” Ebony bluntly replies, “Christmas exists for one reason only–to sell crap to the masses. This year I happen to have a Christmas album. I’m trying to unload some all about that holiday spirit. Please, if people were really interested in peace on earth they’d be doing something about it instead of shopping and overeating and dressing fat old drunks as Santa Clause.”

Commercial Christmas really is a marketing machine. In fact, as soon as Halloween was over it seemed that the drugstores completely skipped Thanksgiving and went right to Christmas. Ebony states, “I thought my tax dollars built homeless shelters?” Bob interrupts the conversation saying, “Rat holes. Most people would rather die than live in those shelters.” This exchange hark ens back to Bob Crachit and Eboenezer Scrooge’s conversation about the workhorses. When Scrooge asks “Are there no workhouses?” “Are there no shelters?”

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Frosty Card

While rummaging through old things, I found an old key holder with a Wendy’s frosty card attached to it. Late in the year of 2013 I went to Wendy’s after a late football game and the lady at the cash register offered me a little plastic card that gives customers free mini frosty’s for a whole entire year.  Crazy right?  I always used to wonder why stores and restaurants used to give out promotional stuff that was actually free.  It seems counter-productive, doesn’t it?  Then I understood.  Every time I would pull out my keys, someone around me would probably see the cutout of the Wendy’s frosty I had on my key chain and think to themselves, “hmm… That actually sounds pretty good right now.”   The frosty card encourages other people to go to Wendy’s, especially if the people that they hang around also go to Wendy’s.  In addition to getting that free frosty, the patron might smell the French fries cooking in the back and become inspired to purchase some.  Of course, Wendy’s is not alone in it’s advertising of food through free stuff.

I am a consumer who has collected a number of different “discount cards” in my time here in Nashville.  I have one for Rite-Aid AND CVS.  I also have cards for Mapco and Harris Teeter.  These discount cards function the same exact way as the Frosty card.  When you open your wallet and take out that Harris Teeter card, you remind people around you that that grocery store chain exists.  The next time that person around you has to go to the grocery store and get some eggs, they’ll be more likely to go there.  You become a walking advertisement for the stores that you go to, but you aren’t a victim because you also benefit from this advertisement with all of the discounts you obtain.

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Grammy Concert Commercial

I have always been amazed at the strategic fitting of commercials inside of a television program.  There are television broadcasts that fit in different types of commercials that relate to the audience in so many different ways.  For example, this past Sunday I watched the Grammy Concert in the background while working on a paper.  In between Carrie Underwood’s ballads and Adam Levine’s rock songs, there were commercials with A-list celebrities that made me think that the broadcast was still going on when in fact, they were on break.  This reminded me of Super bowl commercials and how they have a method of marketing that attracts people who like football.  So the commercials that would play throughout the super bowl game would probably have something to do with food, sports gear, or have a really famous athlete.  Some advertisements that air during the super bowl have absolutely nothing to do with football, or sports in general, but because the Superbowl is such a widely viewed event, the exposure is really great for the product.  However because these commercial slots are so coveted, they can cost millions of dollars.

In addition to the Grammy Concert and the super bowl, another program that has a lot of advertisements is the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.  During commercial breaks, there were lots of commercials that had to do with either fashion, perfume, or undergarments.  Talk about a targeted audience.  In addition to the commercials, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion show is it’s own advertisement.  Although the undergarments that they have are really no different from any other undergarment that you see out there, the giant butterfly wings, ribbons, thigh-high boots, and other elaborations cause the consumer to think otherwise.  The fashion show advertises a product so simple, that every woman needs and does it in a way that asks the consumer to buy into an idea.  Victoria’s Secret sells the idea that any woman can be an “angel” if they buy their undergarments.

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The Role of Music in Advertising

Music can change he way you view the world.  Giddy Christmas music can draw the consumer out of me to purchase things that neither my friends nor I would ever need.  Whether I am hearing the beautiful melisma of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas,” or the nostalgic, romantic Wham! ballad “Last Christmas,” music has a way of influencing my mood by unlocking a set of emotions with sleigh bells, a good beat, and lyrics that speak to whatever I am feeling that day.  The angsty belts of Avril Lavigne used to be able to influence me to purchase those rock-star earrings I bought at Forever 21 about eight years ago.

Music functions as a bridge between the consumer and the product.  Music is probably so influential because it emphasizes the dramatic moments between drama in life that create a brand, life motto, or quote that people live by.  Music delivers messages subconsciously to the listener who are probably nonchalantly nodding along to the beat and humming the melody while looking at items that the music targets.  Different tempos, time changes, pitches, and content have a variety of purpose.

The jingles that consumers hear when they watch a commercial have that same purpose of targeting the audience to remember a certain brand, attached with a set of emotions, and most of all the jingle is memorable which appeals to the drama of the advertisement.  Different products can also ffiliate themselves with different genres of music according to audience.  For example, in Forever 21, the audience is primarily middle school and high school girls.  The artists you would hear in that shop would probably be people like Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Avril Lavigne, and P!nk.  In a Harry Potter movie, you would probably hear an adventurous symphony in the background of a breathtaking escapade.  In a Twilight movie, you would probably hear something romantic, yet sad, and probably a little “alternative.”  The genre depends on the audience and targets consumers through this way of “branding.”



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Gym/ New Year’s resolution

I may have already mentioned that I work at the Vanderbilt Recreation and Wellness Center.  One new thing that we are offering this year is the “60 for 60.”  The “60 for 60” is a promotional idea that we are trying out in order to get more people to try the gym out for a little while so they can have a chance to consider getting a membership.  Typically, the average price for a gym membership can run you somewhere between forty and fifty dollars a month.  A dollar a day for a gym membership is a pretty great bargain.  The best part of this temporary membership is that it goes from December 1st to January 31st.  All of the guilt that people feel after their Thanksgiving dinner and in the days that approach Christmas can be relieved with the help of the gym membership.  Not only does the membership let new people try out the recreation and wellness center for a couple of months in order to see if they would actually use it, but it also does it for a relatively small price tag.  The amount of cost is as low as it would ever be, so the urge to try the membership is pretty strong.  Guest passes are ten dollars a day, so just six days of going to the gym would cost you the same amount as the temporary membership.

People typically make New Year resolutions to get healthier, bulk up, or lose weight so this promotional idea is very strategically placed.  Even better is the idea that people will get a “head-start” on this health resolution instead of starting it on January first like everyone else.  While the holidays are usually a time when people think about all that they can eat, purchase, and consume, it is interesting to see that there is also a marketing ploy to get people to become “users” and not just “consumers.”

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Black Friday

Whenever I see a comedy segment on Black Friday, it sort of reminds me of the way that Dickens used to give the middle and upper classes a glimpse into the life of the poor.   While Dickens used to use this window in order to attract sympathy from the wealthy and inspire social reform, this window is used for comedic effect.  For example, when I watched a Wendy Williams segment over the holiday, she happened to have a video from a store that had a middle-aged woman getting ready to sprint into the local Walmart. Once midnight struck, the ribbon was cut and the hundreds of people standing behind this middle-aged woman began racing into the depths of the store.  Meanwhile, the middle-aged woman tripped over a carpet and the audience watched as her weave fell off of her head and out in front of her.

This image sparked my imagination in so many ways.  For example, it looks like a commercial that would be perfect for a consumer who would want to get in on the good deals that occur during Black Friday, but does not want to partake in the madness of Black Friday.  This video clip might work for someone who would be more attracted to Cyber Monday.  I also wonder what Dickens would have thought of this video clip.  While it could serve as a window into the life of those who would need to use Black Friday in order to participate in the consumerism, the window is also one that depicts these people as barbaric, brutish, and a little vicious.   Dickens’ characters were typically “good” characters who would gain sympathy from the audience because of their perfect character.  Some of these characters are Oliver Twist, Bob Crachit, and Tiny Tim.  These characters never displayed any weakness in character and although that may have been a little alienating for the reader, it did give the reader a positive image of the poor.

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Help, I’ve Eaten and I can’t get up

One of the alto saxophones in my section of marching band posted a picture of his Thanksgiving dinner plate onto his twitter page.   The dinner plate had the caption “Help, I’ve eaten and I can’t get up.”  If you watched a small amount of television a few years ago, then you would probably understand where that reference comes from.  The inspiration for the caption was numerous commercials for the product Life Alert, which usually had commercials that depicted a very frightening image of an elderly woman in a compromising position because of her old age.  This usually means a 75 year old woman falling down the stairs, or slipping in the kitchen or bathtub, or even falling out of bed.  Life Alert had a device that looked very similar to a necklace that was wrapped around the patron’s neck.  Whenever the patron was in a compromising position like one of the above listed, they were able to push the button, and call for help in case they were unable to get to the nearest phone on their own.  There’s a note at the bottom of the commercial that states, “Life alert defines a life saved from a catastrophic outcome as an event where a subscriber activated the system, had an actual emergency, was home alone, was unable to get to the phone to call for help and Life Alert dispatched help.”

My friend’s caption is a perfect idea for a marketing idea because it draws on something that is so familiar to American audiences.   Life Alert has had so many different commercials out that the phrase would be immediately recognizable.  The only question is how can we use it to market something around Thanksgiving?  One idea is that you can use it in order to market a gym membership after Thanksgiving.   After people have their fill of Thanksgiving and realize that the treats of commercial Christmas are around the corner, they might be more willing to go and get gym equipment or a membership.  “Help I’ve eaten and I can’t get up” draws on the same feelings of anxiety about deterioration of health, but in a new light.


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