Essay #1: Culture and Consumption
Choose one of the following:
A) Choose an advertising campaign (Links to an external site.) (not a singular advertisement) for a particular product or service that has print and video ads and do a deep semiotic reading discussing what cultural mythologies are being reflected by the campaign. Consider these questions when you are developing your argument: What cultural myths/beliefs (like conspicuous consumption (Links to an external site.), the American Dream (Links to an external site.), counterculturalism (Links to an external site.), etc.) is the ad campaign perpetuating or deconstructing? What stereotypes (about race, class, gender, sexual orientation) is the campaign perpetuating or deconstructing? How does it compare to a similar ad campaign from the past? Are different ads in the campaign focusing on different mythologies?
B) Choose a particular cultural mythology (like conspicuous consumption (Links to an external site.), the American Dream (Links to an external site.), counterculturalism, (Links to an external site.) etc.) and show how several ads from a variety of industries perpetuate or deconstruct that myth. Consider these questions when you are developing your argument: Do some of the ads perpetuate the myth while others deconstruct it? Are there differences between how they perpetuate or deconstruct the myth? What stereotypes (about race, class, gender, sexual orientation) are the ads perpetuating or deconstructing? How is this mythology and/or the presentation of this mythology similar or different than from ads of the past?
Here is a link to a site to give you some ideas for ad campaigns. This site is just to give you some ideas. You can use something from it if you want or find an ad campaign somewhere else: TV and online Ads (Links to an external site.)
Essay should be 4-6 double-spaced pages in MLA format. You must use at least one quote from three different readings from this unit (so, at least 3 quotations total). Make sure the quotations help to support or illustrate points you are making.
The following are just some questions to help you think about the types of abductive arguments you will make in your essay; you are not meant to follow them like an outline. Some may be more relevant than others to your particular arguments:
- How is the advertiser using culture to sell the product? (Think about Robert’s essay about the culture of conspicuous consumption or Frank’s essay using the culture of dissent/counterculture).
- How is the product marketing to specific demographics (gender, race, class, etc.)?
- Are there different types of ads for the same product targeting different demographics?
- Are the ads appealing more to logic, emotion, or credibility?
- Is the campaign exploiting stereotypes or deconstructing them? (Think of Craig’s essay).
Follow these general guidelines when constructing the essay:
- Should have a title that states topic and hints at thesis. For example, “Be Better, but Not Better Than Me”: Conspicuous Consumption and American Advertising
- Introduction should begin with 3-5 sentences introducing the topic of how culture influences and is influenced by consumer society and marketing techniques as well as introduce the specific campaign or the specific mythology you are going to analyze.
- A thesis statement should end the introduction making an analytical argument about that particular campaign (What do you think the campaign says about our culture? Or how do you think our culture is impacted by the campaign? Or…?)
- Body paragraphs should begin with clearly articulated topic sentences that develop individual points helping to support your overall thesis.
- Evidence should describe the ads and be connected to quotes, paraphrase, and/or summary from essays in the unit when appropriate.
- Conclusion should bring these individual points back to the overall thesis and make it clear why it is important to understand not only the argument you made for this particular campaign, but how that helps inform a more conscientious observer of all public