Clarifying Thoughts on Ads, Careers
Teaching Is a Reward
Absolutely! I really enjoy the contact with both undergraduate and graduate students. I believe that we can make a difference in their lives. I still keep in touch with a couple of students from the first class I ever taught. This contact with students is a perk of the job.
Advertising as Noble Pursuit
Mostly, my response is, "whatever helps you sleep at night." There are a lot of positive things that I can say about advertising. I find it fascinating that people identify so strongly with brands. That is why I have spearheaded research in this area. However, fascinating does not mean noble.
Although I usually avoid the topic, I think we have to delve into the notion of social capital. Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone comes to mind. There is a reason that we can so easily identify with brands. I see two major possibilities.
First, brands may take advantage of our evolutionary heritage. That is, we were not engineered to cope with artificial brands. I am specifically thinking of Reeves' and Nass' The Media Equation. If we treat mediated messages like we treat real people -- as Reeves and Nass allege -- then it logically follows that we would treat brands like read people.
The second possibility is that brands are taking advantage of some sort of void in our lives created by a lack of social capital. If you look at the transformation of advertising from informational to transformational, then the time lines are concurrent. As social capital has decreased, advertising has used fewer information-based appeals and more emotion-based appeals.
To state this more clearly, perhaps we form relationships with brands because other relationships are lacking in our lives. This would be in accord with Putnam's argument.
Here is a related quotation from a story today on CNN.com, " 'Families today are pretty disconnected,' says [noted genealogist Maureen] Taylor. 'It is important for kids to have that sense of connectedness to everyone else, at a point where many kids and teenagers are feeling quite alienated. It is important for kids to know where they fit in.' "
The reality surely combines those two plus several things beyond the scope of this post. However, neither of these possibilities is especially flattering toward advertising.
Furthermore, if you look at L. J. Shrum's recent work on the cultivation of material values, then there is more unpalatable evidence for advertising and marketing.
My dad once told me that every successful salesperson that he ever met really believed in the product/service that s/he was selling. Surely this must be true. You have to force yourself to believe. The two quasi-anonymous comment writers here surely have done this. And there is no arguing that advertising can be beneficial for small businesses, large businesses, and for the adoption of new ideas. But that does not make it good for society overall. And there is some pretty strong evidence that it is not wonderful for the average individual.
I'm no media critic, and I'm not lambasting advertising. However, I do think it is extremely self-serving to find some inherent nobility in getting people to pay more for Tide when Gain works just as well. I completely believe that the "no laws" clause in the First Amendment should be interpreted as "no laws." But this does not mean protected speech is good speech.
Academic Versus Industry Pay
This obviously varies across industries and department. However, Texas Tech pays well. We are easily among the top quartile in communications. Despite the generous salaries, I could easily take on a marketing research position tomorrow for a hefty increase in salary. It is no stretch to say that I -- or an equivalently trained peer -- could come close to doubling our salary with a large market research firm.
But I don't want to do that, in part for the contact with students.
Appetitive Versus Aversive Processing
One of the many reasons that this broad topic interests me is that advertising theories do not easily translate to health communication messages. I would argue that this is due to, in part, the fact that selling is an appetitive approach. We try to activate existing appetites with our ads.
Conversely, most public service announcements attempt to get you not to do something. This is an aversive function. With low level appeals, it is difficult to activate the aversive motivational system. We believe that this is due to concepts we call negativity bias and positivity offset.
At low levels of intensity, the appetitive motivational system is more active that the aversive motivational system. And if you make a health appeal extremely intense, it is likely that viewers will avoid the message altogether rather than the specific behavior targeted.
Some health topics do make proactive appeals (e.g., use a condom) but these are not especially appetitive and usually involve eschewing some simpler, more pleasurable activity.
It's an interesting challenge.