---- by Malcolm Barnard
  Advertising (like fashion (q.v.) to which it is closely related) is a central part of Baudrillard's account of consumption and consumerism. Baudrillard's explanation of advertising begins from the observation that 'Advertising sets itself the task of supplying information about particular objects and promoting their sale' (SO, 179). However, he insists that there is no such thing as advertising that is restricted to the supplying of information: rather, advertising exists to persuade and to awaken desires that consumption cannot ultimately satisfy (SO).
  Advertising persuades through meaning. Baudrillard argues that 'We consume the product through the product itself, but we consume its meaning through advertising' (SO, 197). The kind of meaning that advertising provides is 'pure connotation' (SO, 178). Connotation is a culturebased form of meaning often described as the feelings generated within us by something or the associations something has for us. It is a function of our individual and cultural identities in that the feelings aroused and the associations things have for us will vary according to which cultural groups we are members of.
  Advertising is, in effect, the effacement of any and all 'real' economic experience from consumption and its replacement by meanings, signs and signification. It is the forgetting of the exchange of money for goods or services and it is the occultation of any experience of those goods and services as being things possessing what Marxism calls either 'use value' or 'exchange value'. Baudrillard says that advertising causes goods to be seen not as products, having been produced by labour, but as commodities, or consumer objects (SO); the consumer is infantilised by this transformation of a commercial, economic relation into a personal and signifying one as advertising makes us regress to a point before 'real social processes' such as work and production can disturb our 'magical integration' into society (SO).
  Consumption is experienced and understood in terms of meanings, as a process of communication and social differentiation (CS). Advertising is an inescapable (SO) and irresistible part of the industrial production of meaningful differences in that it communicates those meanings, or 'significations' (CS). These significations are differential; they establish meaningful differences between goods and services so that products become signs or 'social signifiers' of status (CS). They also produce meaningful differences between the people consuming those goods and services. These are differences of status and they are meaningful but not real: advertising 'passes over' the 'objective processes of production and . . . the market . . . [as well as] real society and its contradictions' (CS, 194). Real differences between people make those people 'contradictory' and set against one another; the differences generated by the advertising and consumption of goods and services are combinatory and cause people to relinquish any real differences. Consequently, we are not alienated or mystified by advertising (SO), rather advertising enables us to differentiate and 'label' ourselves, placing ourselves into a social order according to patterns set by the prevailing fashion (CS).
   § fashion

The Baudrillard dictionary. . 2015.

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