The opinions and values of people in Western society are manipulated by a barrage of 60,000 daily audio and visual promotions, according to Gordon Pennington, chief creative officer for the Marketing and Planning Group Inc. in New York.
Pennington spoke about the detrimental effects of marketing on the public in his talk, “Truth, Image, and the Hyper-Media,” yesterday in Sudler Hall. Pennington — former marketing director of Tommy Hilfiger — has also worked with major brand names like Apple, Coca-Cola and Mercedes-Benz. The talk was sponsored by the Yale Christian Fellowship and Yale Students for Christ.
Pennington said the public is constantly influenced by advertisements, often subconsciously.
“You are being manipulated with or without your consent,” he said.
Pennington said marketers exploit mass advertisement to negatively manipulate public perception.
“We are trying to undermine your well-being,” Pennington said. “If we are successful through repetition [of images] then it is working .”
Pennington made his point by showing the audience a short film of media images, including advertisements for reality television and fast food, coupled with images of Sept. 11. Following the film, he said western culture has been desensitized by constant exposure to commercialism. Pennington said activities like watching television create artificial consumerist needs.
“You get images and impressions that create an appetite for you that will never be satisfied,” he said.
He also said consumers use brands as an extension of personality.
“We look to brands to give us a sense of place, achievement, identity,” Pennington said.
Western culture’s commercialization has compromised its morality, Pennington said. As an example of this, Pennington said professional athletes are given exorbitant payrolls, while fundamental needs of our society, like education, are given less funding. He said while he respects athletes, he sees immorality in professional sports — namely, in team disloyalty, due to the lure of a larger paycheck.
Pennington said the biggest family destination is no longer Disney World but Las Vegas, which he described as a prime example of immoral values in western culture.
He said in his ending remarks that the public can resist temptation by becoming more educated as consumers and by valuing higher culture.
Amy Kimbel ’07 said Pennington’s remarks showed her the pervasive influence of advertising.
“It made me think a lot,” she said. “You always think its not a big deal, that you can resist, but you have to realize that it does impact you. You do buy into those values.”
Amy Broadbent ’07 said she will pay closer to attention to the self-image she presents through her purchases because of Pennington’s talk.
“I was most shocked when he talked about clothing,” she said. “I makes me re-evaluate where I shop and what I wear because it presents my image, as well as how I define my own identity.”