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PostHeaderIcon Advertising, Culture, and Your Business

A lot of people say that your advertising needs to meet the needs and requirements of the culture around you. With all of the law suits and regulations that are being thrown around, you definitely cannot ignore the constraints thrown onto a business by what culture demands.

Kellogg’s latest changes to their advertising are a perfect example of this point. The company’s CoCo Pop’s cereal has been a mainstay in many households morning routine for years. Prior to 2004 100% of their advertising was targeted directly at children. The commercials were fun and usually involved animated mascots or popular characters. However, culture has demanded that companies stop selling to children. Adults have grown tired of children whining and groaning in the grocery store breakfast aisle to get their way. Today, 90% of Kellogg’s breakfast cereal advertising occurring during “family prime airtime”. The new commercials spend more time on the quality of the product than on proving how fun it is to eat.

That is not to say that a company cannot mold culture to its needs. In the early 20th century bad breath was nothing to be afraid of. A firm handshake and a steady eye were all that people were judged by. However, Listerine’s product advertisements soon changed this. By 1920 “Chronic Halitosis” was a catch phrase known well throughout the United States. Advertisements asked women if they could live with their man “even with breath like that.” Listerine, a product originally intended as a battlefield antiseptic, suddenly became a household name.

Companies need to pay attention to current cultural and legal trends regarding advertising. It is hard to sell a product when the customer has been offended and the FTC levies hefty fines on those that disregard advertising regulations. However, culture is not static. The culture of the United States, what is popular and what is not, changes on a constant basis. Never miss the opportunity to mold culture to the needs of your product. As author James B. Twitchell says,”Listerine did not make mouthwash as much as it made halitosis.”

For more information on advertisements that shaped our culture, check out James B. Twitchell’s book: “20 Ads that Changed the World: The Century’s Most Groundbreaking Advertising and How It Changed Us All.”

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