Advertising and the End of the World is one of the most exciting works about advertising and its influence on people and people’s future, created by Sut Jhally, a university professor of Communication and a scholar of cultural studies within advertising and media.
This work touches upon numerous commercial images in order to find out numerous answers to the questions, which bother so many people nowadays. Is it true that our society aims at happiness and satisfaction only? Can people care about both collective and private interests? Is it possible to be sure about our good environmental future right now? According to Sut Jhally, to answer the questions of such type, it is better to find out the connection between society’s lifestyle and the environmental circumstances, which may affect the outcomes. The major points, discussed by Sut Jhally in Advertising and the End of the World, are all about advertising as culture that can make people happier and the environmental future that is waiting for society. Sut Jhally divides his masterpiece into four major sections, which answer separate questions. One of the first problems, which bother the scholar, is the connection between advertising and culture and the possibility of advertising to become a kind of culture that may control people’s lives.
Jhally (1997) admits that “our culture has simply become an adjunct to the system of production and consumption. Its job is to sell us things, and as it does that it impacts how we think about the world and ourselves.” Culture turns out to be the major place, where a society shares its own stories, and nowadays, advertising is considered to be the best known storyteller. This is why advertising has to be treated as a certain cultural system that has all rights to influence human lives and the understanding of environment. In other way, advertising will still create culture with its parts like sexuality, racism, and beliefs and sell ideas for living. For example, advertising considerably influences people’s comprehension of happiness.
Jhally underlines that according to the stories, based on advertising, the only way to happiness lies “through the consumption of objects” (Jhally, 1997). This is why people may become happier by means of properly offered commodities. People want to be free, powerful, attractive, and loved. Advertising is something that can promote all these issues in a short period of time: the use of shampoo can make a person more exciting, perfumes may help to charm another person, sex and alcohol can make a person younger. At the same time, this very advertising makes people dependent, while pushing them to take this or that step, buying this or that product, meeting this or that person. This is why it is hardly to say for sure whether advertising makes people happier or just makes them dependent and even blind in some things.
So, advertising makes society happier; however, whether we really comprehend what society actually means. To answer this question, Jhally addresses Margaret Thatcher who admits that society does not actually exist. Just certain groups of people: individuals and families (Jhally, 1995). This is why advertising does not influence society, but it touches each individual, taking into consideration his/her personal desires and needs.
Such individuality serves as one more evidence that people do not want to care about their future. More frequently, people start demonstrating their nihilistic characteristics, their despair as for safe and happy future, and no desire to fight against advertising as culture that controls their lives and even their emotions. If people do not want to unite and save own interests, our environmental future will be all about crisis and dependence. People will hardly want to support their dependence; this is why it is high time to think about the ways to introduce our individualities and abilities.
Advertising and the End of the World. Dir. Sut Jhally.
1997. United States: Media Education Foundation.