From Marketing Ads To Bigotry Essay, Research Paper
From Marketing Ads to Bigotry
Do the names ?Spic,? ?Greaser,? ?Nigger,? ?Jap,? or ?Chinc? have a familiar ring to them? Well, these horrible slurs are all too common to the ears of many American minorities. The same people that work together, play together, vote together, and even sleep together are being taught by hundreds of ads to categorize differences among all ?Americans? in ways that are becoming offensive. In addition to issues concerning the Spanish Speaking People?s Congress, the repeal of desegregation acts and the demise of Affirmative Action, new reasons for protest emerge. Recent reports have shown that there are an increasing number of ads using race and/or ethnic differences as a way to sell products. Because of this behavior among advertisers, Americans are continuing to notice differences that lead to pre-judging people. Ads that distinguish one race from another encourage stereotyping and discrimination. And, therefore, companies should not be allowed to use race to sell products. These types of ads exploit minorities and sell their identities.
One example of an ad that uses minorities as a way to sell products was published in a recent July issue of Black Enterprise magazine. The ad claims that Denny?s has contracted 130 million dollars in business to minority suppliers. It then continues to state that a black woman, known as Michelle Hoskins who makes pancake syrups for the restaurant, is the reason that Denny?s has been so successful. This ad is offensive for two reasons: First, it subtly reinforces a politically correct example of the historic Aunt Jaemima stereotype. The image of Aunt Jaemima was born during a time when black women were servants of the house, usually the house of their white masters, and were subjected to laborious chores such as heavy cooking at which they became highly skilled. The ad was intended to appeal to the need for guidance (i.e. consumers trust this symbol of a black woman who can cook). However, it is insulting because plays on an unfair stereotype. Second, it appears to be a blatant attempt by Denny?s to appease minority consumers in the face of recent discrimination suits that Denny?s is now facing due to accusations that they refused to service minority customers. In actual fact, the ad?s underlying reason is to lure more of its former minority customers back.
First and foremost, ads that distinguish one race from another nourish stereotypes. The late columnist Walter Lippmann described stereotypes as ? pictures in our heads? (Kronenwetter 58). But most stereotypes are not ordinary pictures. They are more like caricatures or cartoons than photographs. Instead of representing actual people or events, stereotypes represent certain beliefs, or assumptions, that are held about whole groups. The same way artists draw caricatures that pull one?s attention to the exaggerated facial features of a person, stereotypes focus one?s attention on a trait or characteristic one sees as defining a whole group of people (Kronenwetter 58). When advertisements distinguish ethnic groups from one another they teach ?we? look different from the way ?they? look, ?we? act different from the way ?they? act, and that ?we? speak differently from the way ?they? speak. For instance, the immensely popular Taco Bell commercials that use an adorable Spanish speaking Chihuahua to sell Mexican dishes is a prime example of how advertisements reinforce stereotypes. Another example can be viewed in Kentucky Fried Chicken?s current running commercials of a ?hip? Colonel who bops around and speaks in urban slang in order to sell food. Both of these ads exploit stereotypes. Taco Bell uses a Spanish speaking dog as a way to represent their ability to cook good tacos because their dog is associated with Mexico. In the same way, Kentucky Fried Chicken uses an ?hip? Colonel as a way to represent its ability to cook chicken because their Colonel is associated with speaking a type of slang that suggests he is affiliated with black people. This commercial in tern reinforces the stereotypical opinion that black people cook good chicken, or at least eat a lot of it, which is why they?ve been targeted as a consumer group for marketers to reach. This type of behavior among advertising agencies is distasteful to many minorities and needs to cease.
Subsequently, when people are taught by stereotypes that people different from themselves behave in ways unlike what they are used to, they begin to tag what they considered unusual behavior negatively. In time, they start to treat these ?different? people differently. Inevitably, this leads to discriminatory behavior among advertisers and ad placements. Advertisers categorize groups and their behaviors when they perform a task known as ?target marketing? (Mogel 73). Target marketing weeds out one ?group? from another and specifically aims at this ?group? for its product. Although target marketing has been used to aim at specific age or financial groups, it frequently is directed towards racial and/or ethnic groups. A recent article published in Essence magazine has reported that discrimination in the marketing and advertising community has taken on a more insidious form (Kilpatrick 206). The ad continues by reporting that these days, when most companies target specific market segments to sell their goods and services, they still devalue Black and Hispanic consumers. Some top retailers, manufactures and service companies even have a market policy known as ?no urban dictates.? In other words, they have no interest in reaching out to the Black or Hispanic consumers specifically. A survey commissioned by the Federal Communications Commission found that 91 percent of Black and Hispanic owned stations responding reported they encountered media buyers who had dictates from major advertisers to ignore them (Kilpatrick 606). CompUSA displayed a good example of this policy when it decided to announce its intentions to ignore advertising to the minority community. Just a few days ago, Director of Marketing for CompUSA justified this report in a statement to the Tom Joyner Morning Show by saying: ?Instead of you trying to bring notice to the public on non-minority business not advertising on Black Radio and TV, you should spend your time working with minority businesses to bring their business up to the level of a non-minority business? (Baker ). He then went on to comment on the inferiority of the minority businesses. Proving that some white marketers apparently think pitching their product to minority consumers will damage that product?s image with the larger white public. However, such notions are based on infuriating persistent stereotypes rather than hard-core facts.
A new bill has been introduced to Congress stemming from an FCC report charging advertisers with paying less for air time on stations with Black and Hispanic listeners. The Broadcaster Fairness in Advertising Act of 1999 would prevent companies and agencies from placing ads in a way that discriminates against minority-owned or formatted radio and cable stations (Melillo 46). The bill, introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill), would also prohibit the federal government from dealing with any agency that intentionally discriminates, and allow stations to file civil actions for redress. Nevertheless, there are some advertising lobby groups who oppose the measure because they are worried the proposal may have a far more negative effect on companies trying to reform advertising and media buying policies voluntary. Still, as a rebuttal to those who oppose the bill, I believe this bill is important to everyone because it would forbid discriminatory attitudes in advertising indefinitely by making it illegal. Discrimination in advertising is unjust. Therefore it can?t be tolerated.
In short, prejudice through advertising is morally wrong. It is psychologically harmful to its victims and to the bigots alike. Moreover, it is enormously destructive to society as a whole. The United States yesterday, as today, has been populated by many nationalities and cultures. In a sense, all of us, in one historian?s words are, ?the children drawn from another history learning what it is to be American?(Cockcroft 12). Therefore, companies should have no right to separate all Americans by using race and/or ethnic differences as a way to sell products. Taking advantage of people is both harmful and immoral.
Baker, Kim. KBaker@Lucent.com. Sep. 17, 1999
Cockcroft, James. The Hispanic Struggle For Social Justice. United States: Library of Congress Catalog-in-Publication Data, 1994.
Kilpatrick, Carolyn. ?How Black Consumers Can Get Respect?. Essence Sep. 1999: 206.
Kronenwetter, Micheal. Prejudice in America: Causes and Cures. United States: Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data, 1993.
Melillo, Wendy. ?Rush Bill Would Stop Media Bias?. Adweek May 1999: 46-47.
Mogel, Leonard. Making It in Advertising. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1993.