Advertising is a strategy to persuade people to do something (to buy a product, to use a product, to elect a politician). In this sense it is a kind of magic.
For some analysts, advertising is a kind of magic. Raymond Williams in Problems in Materialism and Culture, (UK: Verso, 1980) argues that it has the ability to ‘associate consumption with human desires to which it has no real reference. The magic obscures the real sources of general satisfaction because their discovery would involve radical change in the whole common way of life’. Judith Williamson in Decoding Advertisements (UK: Marion Boyars, 1978, 1998) shares a similar concern: ‘Advertisements obscure and avoid the real issues of society, those relating to work, to jobs and wages and who works for whom. The basic issues in the present state of society which do concern money and how it is earned, are sublimated into ‘meanings’, ‘images’, ‘life-styles’, to be bought with products not money’. Further the magic of advertising means that we may believe commodities can convey messages about ourselves; this leads to us being ‘alienated from ourselves, since we have allowed objects to “speak” for us and have become identified with them’. Such alienation may well lead to feelings of fragmentation and discomfort within the self, feelings which may fuel a desire to seek solace in further consumption.
The many modes of advertising may be categorized as follows:
(1) Commercial consumer advertising, with its target the mass audience and its Channel the mass media.
(2) Trade and technical advertising, such as ads in specialist magazines.
(3) Prestige advertising, particularly that of big business and large institutions, generally selling image and good name rather than specific products.
(4) Small ads, directly informational, which are the bedrock support of local periodicals and are the basis of the many giveaway papers which have been published in recent years.
(5) Government advertising — health warnings, for example.
(6) Charity advertising, seeking donations for worthwhile causes at home and abroad.
(7) Advertising through sponsorship, mainly of sports, leisure and the arts. This indirect form of advertising has been a major development; its danger has been to make recipients of sponsorship come to rely more and more heavily on commercial support. Sponsors want quick publicity and prestige for their money and their loyalties to recipients are very often short-term.
Source: Dictionary of Media and Communication Studies, fifth edition, James Watson and Anne Hill, Arnold, A member of the Hodder Headline Group LONDON Co-published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press Inc., New York.