For students in Visual Rhetoric, this rather important question: Are distinctions between advertising and news, advertising and entertainment, advertising and culture blurring or even disappearing? With trends such as product placement, cross-merchandising and the swooshification of sports, is commerce so intertwined with culture that there no longer are meaningful differences? Do we even care?
still from “I Am Sam”
I’ll mention just one example: Cinema.
Janet Wasko, writing about Disney, coined the term “cultural synergy” to describe the manufacture of culture in such a way as to maximize its commercial success. Disney’s “princess” films are classic examples. Films such as “Elle Enchanged” are conceived of first as a brand. Disney promotes the films across media and product categories. Culture becomes, then, to a large extent scripted and promoted by big media, which leverage the convergence of media culture and other forms of commodity culture.
The example is film, but other such modes of commercial culture production include the American Idol series, from News Corp., and the Hannah Montana-Jonas Brothers marketing machine at Disney that introduces, packages, manages and commoditizes a persona for audiences of pre-teens.
So, another question for us is, “So what?” Who cares? Is this an issue that we should care about? Should we do something about it? Does this blurring and blending serve to dull or blind us in important ways? I await your thoughts.