Can't Buy My Love Book Report

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Can’t Buy My Love by Jean Kilbourne

In the book Can’t Buy My Love , the author, Jean Kilbourne discusses the influence advertising

has on social society. Throughout the book, she focuses on what advertising has done to society

whether we are aware of it or not, and the consequences that have been brought forth—America known

as a culture represented by cola, jeans, burgers, cigarettes, and alcohol. In terms of ethics, she believes

that corporations pray on the insecurities, social acceptance, and addictions of people, and how these

same corporations have taken advantage of the government and media which assisted in shaping society

into a group of moral-less, market-driven addicts.

Kilbourne begins with a popular belief among many in society, “advertising has no influence on

me”. She explains that if that were the case, why are companies spending billions of dollars a year in

advertising? To the dismay of media consumers using one of many outlets (t.v., radio, print, internet),

media companies are no longer in business to produce content and entertainment, but are an outlet for

advertisers to attract a certain audience their product is targeted towards. At the beginning, the main

target was middle-class Caucasian house-holds, but when minorities and other ethnicities gained buying

power, all of a sudden a new target group emerged for advertisers. Through research, companies know

that the younger you can attract a consumer, the more money it is for a company. Surprisingly, the

United States is one of the few industrialized nations that believe children are valid targets for

advertisements in comparison to some countries in the European Union, which ban advertising targeting

children (p43). With the educational funding system (school tax) failing, it allowed another window of

opportunity to discreetly target children—big companies such as Coca-Cola sponsoring a school or

having “partnerships” which involved the exchange of exclusive rights to vending machines and events in

return for giving the school or district millions of dollars. Most people would agree in saying that coca-

cola would be a safe form as advertisement as it gives back to the community in support of its products

but what about tobacco? It is not coincidence that tobacco and spirit companies use cartoon images or

animals in their advertising. Well they also know that it is best to hook a young consumer because an

addict produces revenue and by gaining the interest of the child through a cartoon character, they will

most likely turn to that brand during their rebellious stage in life. It makes one think why one would be

okay such as cola when it deters healthy eating habits and leads to obesity compared to cigarettes which

breeds lung cancer and alcoholism which can lead to liver failure. Kilbourne poses the question of ethics

here by asking if it is lawful for companies to address children when it is obvious to other countries that

there is something ethically wrong with targeting children with propaganda and allowing them to have

an influence in the buying power. Do America’s children even have free-will to choose their fate, or is it

Kilbourne investigates the illusion that advertising promises or portrays in its message.

Advertisers are in the business to make money, and they prey on the vulnerability and precariousness of

our lives in order to make it happen because they know that is what influences us. What better way to

do this than to corrupt the thought process and create artificial needs for our human desires? Is it

ethical for companies to give products the same value as human desire or needs and promise us things

that will never deliver what it portrays? Kilbourne believes that this is the ethical problem with

advertising—bringing forth emotion that delivers false promises. Companies are spending millions on

research in order to reveal...
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