Even in an economy broadsided by the largest corporate bankruptcy in American history, not everyone is losing money. Advertising Age reported in September that Campbell Soup’s sales rose 13 percent in the second quarter.
Maybe cash-strapped consumers are embracing condensed soup as a meal alternative both inexpensive and nourishing. Kudos to the integrated marketing communications media for pulling off a cunning ploy based on the information processing model of advertising effectiveness, a theory developed by William McGuire in Behavioral and Management Science in Marketing.
What do we see besides violence and fear in the news media? Armed with modern technology, savvy corporate professionals shower their audiences with an array of terrifying images and narratives. Every bomb blast is “BREAKING NEWS!” and every weather disturbance the “STORM OF THE DECADE!” This constant propagation of danger has addicted our culture to panic and destruction.
Since the advent of advertising agencies, conglomerates have been seeking their help to promote their brands. For news media, that brand is fear. Based on McGuire’s model, the news media first catch our attention by inundating us with coverage of economic woes. This sparks panic and a shift in consumer behavior, which translates into money redirected and profits collected. In this way, shrewd corporate media planning is the lifeblood of the 24-hour news cycle.
But according to statistics on worldwide deaths caused by organized violence, the world is getting less dangerous. Harvard’s polymath professor Steven Pinker even states that we are probably living “in the most peaceful time of our species’ existence.” So why does it not feel that way?
Fareed Zakaria, in a May 2008 Newsweek article called “The Rise of the Rest,” explains, “We are told that we live in dark, dangerous times. Terrorism, rogue states, nuclear proliferation, financial panics, recession, outsourcing, and illegal immigrants all loom large in the national discourse. Al Qaeda, Iran, North Korea, China, Russia are all threats in some way or another.”
Coverage of worldwide danger is what’s truly increasing. “The last 20 years have produced an information revolution that brings us news and, most importantly, images from around the world all the time,” says Zakaria. That’s most visible in technology. Video games and movies bring our enemies closer: into our living rooms.
What we see on television determines what we know. The news program is a mechanical presentation of events, and carefully scripted and sequenced. It is not the media’s fault that these events have occurred. However, selection, length of time allotted, and intensity of coverage are very much corporate decisions.
There always has been, and always will be, something to fear. Remember the Y2K crisis of 2000? In the months leading up to the New Year, it was impossible to avoid news coverage of this apparently inevitable disaster. Would every computer crash because of clock overload? An article in the December 30, 1999 edition of USA Today stated: “Here at the predicted end of cybertime, the future looks bright but a little brittle.”
As a student at one of the nation’s preeminent media studies departments, New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, my “innocence” in this media society is now more than three years past. Still, I am suddenly panicking, inundated with coverage of the Lehman Brothers collapse and the $700 billion dollar “bailout.” By tuning into mainstream media, we have all been conditioned to fear and uncertainty, and desensitized to violence. We have consequently relinquished our own ability to understand what is real, as our reality is spoon-fed to us.
Campbell Soup knows this. Why else would a canned foods company dedicate so much money to media planning to effectively deliver the advertisers’ message to the market? In 2006, Campbell Soup consolidated its $300 million international media planning account with Mediaedge:cia, a media planning agency with around $17.9 billion in billings. These professionals know canned foods are inexpensive products that decrease in demand when consumer income rises.
Does the crisis reporting have some link with the weakening dollar? President Grover Cleveland (the face on the $1,000 banknote) is probably rolling in his grave at this fiscal atrocity. But you can still see many attractive foreign women leaving Bergdorf Goodman with bags full of full-priced luxury “bargains.”
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