There’s the occasional ad that will be witty enough to fool consumers into sharing it around all over the internet, there are well-made ads that get the point across, there are terrible ads that don’t resonate well with viewers, and there are even ads that change something perfectly acceptable to something racist depending on what country it appears in.
I think what I don’t like about ads (and what subtle product-placement successfully avoids) is that they have usually 30-90 seconds to convince me to buy a product. This same 30-90 seconds will air several times a day to attempt to establish a permanency in my mind so that when I go to the store, I will think about their product. And whether I like it or not, advertising works.
However, it’s unfortunate that because of this short medium, messages tend to be given in short stereotyped ways. They are trying to drive their point home, and an easy stereotype can be an effective way to do that. But there are several examples of this that are just plain silly – most notably in gender categories. Products are gendered in a way that are generally unnecessary and then, after the “gendering” process, some are sold in almost the most sexist way possible. Ads tell us not only what we want, but who should want it.
There are thousands of essentially indistinguishable products vying for our attention. Advertising agents simplify things by splitting some products along certain categories, which makes some sense – for example, many products in the “family” category don’t appeal to me, as I don’t yet have a family. Women get household contraptions, cosmetics, scented house products (Febreeze etc), food (chocolate, yogurt, etc). Men get fast food, steak, cars, beer, video games, etc. There are exceptions, of course, but there are obvious trends. More…
Well, one is new-ish.
Most people probably have heard about this already, but just in case some people haven’t: Phil Plait’s show Bad Universe premiers this Sunday night on the Discovery Channel – check your TV listings for the time. Here’s a preview.
Another awesome show that I’ve started to watch this week is Huge, about a group of teenagers sent to “fat” camp. It’s on ABC Family so Canadians might have to get creative in finding the show, but it’s worth the effort. Great writing, great cast, great subject matter. They’re about 9 episodes into the season at this point.
I don’t want to get too much in detail so I can avoid spoilers, but I’ll just say that I’m very impressed so far with the fact that there is an entire show full of average sized-to-overweight people and they are treated with respect, having the exact same sorts of problems any teenager would have but that are usually represented by Hannah Montana types. Often shows will have the one “fat kid” and they are oafish, silly, bullying, dumb, “funny to make up for the whole fat thing, cause otherwise who would like them”, etc. In a nutshell: they are caricatures. This show is not about that. It deals with significant emotional issues surrounding body image, pressure, sexuality, friendship, trust, and willpower. Definitely check it out.
Here’s the preview:
Here‘s a news interview with one of the cast (embedding disabled).
[Hat tip to overthinkingit.com for turning me on to the show in the first place. Link contains some spoilers.]
That might as well have been the headline to this piece in the National Post, entitled: Fat kids get picked on–and other things you didn’t need a study to tell you
There are no doubt countless important studies that discover things that help the public better understand ourselves and the world in which we live. There are also a lot of studies that tell us things we already know. Or didn’t need a costly study to tell us. … A cynic would suggest that studies such as these are conducted by researchers who could be making better use of their time by not re-examining widely accepted conclusions.
Oooh, so when we “know” something already we should just accept that as truth and not bother to prove that there’s actually something to X perception, as opposed to it being some sort of confirmation bias. Wow, I’ve been doing this science thing all wrong.
What is a “widely-accepted conclusion”? Like that we lose the most heat from our heads and that’s why we should wear hats (bullshit). Like that?
[T]he researchers found “that obese children had higher odds of being bullied” regardless of a number of socio-economic factors. The authors “conclude that being obese … increases the likelihood of being a victim of bullying.”
Apparently this research is useless. But only if you accept the conclusion before having the data to support it. Maybe rich fat kids didn’t get picked on. Who knows? Without a study, no one – at least not for sure. And if the NP author’s issue is that he doesn’t consider the research question interesting, well that raises the question: Why does individual specific interest determine what scientific studies ought to be done?
The author provides several more examples of research that he finds unimportant, yet provides no analysis for why this is a problem (other than to suggest that money ought to be spend elsewhere, but then it’s turtles all the way down again – based on what? why is this a problem? etc).
Is this how the public perceives science research? If so, we have our work cut out for us to change that perception lest we end up just accepting “common knowledge” as the objective truth regardless of evidence just because Joe Sciencepack thinks that’s how it’s done.