Disappearance of Advertising






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Currently, the most interesting aspect of advertising is its disappearance, its dilution as a specific form, or even as a medium. Advertising is no longer (was it ever?) a means of communication or of information. ... If at any given moment, the commodity was its own publicity (there was no other) today publicity has become its own commodity. (Baudrillard 90)

Of course, we know the masters of this new form, or rather lack of form, of advertising: Nike, Calvin Klein, and their ilk. Nike bases their ads on athletes and focuses less on the actual products, such as clothing and shoes. Calvin Klein, on the other hand, makes ads with underweight models who speak gibberish with nary a relevant remark on the actual product advertised. Calvin Klein, I think, was also the first company whose logo on clothing was more important than the actual design or utility of the items.

How does this relate to cyberspace? Well, the corporate websites on the web are nothing more than huge advertisments, but when you visit them, they have few of the traditional clues that it is advertising. We can see parallels in television informercials, which try to disguise themselves as talk shows or news shows. Instead, when we are visiting these sites, we are looking for information. For software companies' websites, the information comes in the form of technical support, the latest software upgrades, press releases or news, white papers, or demos of their software. No longer do these companies have to go out and offer potential customers free samples or send out expensive mailings of disks or CDs.

We do not usually see company websites as advertising because the Internet abets the dilution of advertising as a specific form. Or rather, the Internet helps to create new and many forms of advertising that we cannot filter out or recognize all these forms of advertising so advertising seems to disappear. Of course, we get frequent reality checks whenever we see banner ads or receive spam.

I have to disagree with Baudrillard's second assertion that advertising is no longer a means of communication or of information. I think that advertising is a means of communication because if advertising cannot communicate its intended message, then its quiddity is lost. I also think that information is advertising -- news stories, whether good or bad, increases mindshare for a company. Of course, a company can further this mindshare into advertising by employing spin doctors to change bad news into good publicity. Intel's handling of the various Pentium flaws is a textbook example.