Commodification and consciousness

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2009-12

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Abstract

The United Colors of Benetton is a high-end clothing company that has been deemed as an iconic brand because of their non-traditional print advertisements. From the late 1980s to the early 1990s, the Benetton campaign used photographic images to symbolize social (and sometimes controversial) messages pertaining to race, gender, religion, sexuality and multiculturalism. Benetton claims that their advertising campaign sought to promote diversity, worldwide. However, others believed that their true motive was to gain revenue by placing sensitive social, political cultural issues and messages into an exchange system. The varieties in opinions about Benetton’s motives are highly dependent on how consumers interpret their advertisements. This paper will not only examine the ways in which consumers encode and decode social messages in Benetton’s print advertisements, but will also attempt to understand the process of attitudinal change through a theoretical approach by using discourse analysis. Further recommendations will be given that detail the importance of how consumers can become more active in their participation of encoding and decoding messages by the use of media literacy.

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