Re: race in commercials

Martin Cohen (mcohen@UCLA.EDU)
Fri, 8 Dec 1995 18:36:57 -0700

Jane W. Gibson wrote:

>This case points to the difference between individuals within corporations
>and corporations themselves. Individuals may have multiple and diverse
>agendas which can be promoted with or without direct reference to them.
>For-profit corporations too may have multiple agendas, but these always
>include profit-making. I'd be interested to know what your friend's
>arguments to his bosses were. Did he try to appeal to their desires for
>social justice or did he argue that company profits would grow by extending
>product appeal to a wider, more diverse audience?

It was his own production co. He was the boss. He had to convince the

>What is beyond question is that had the company (management) believed the
>ad would reduce profits,
>they'd never have run it, unless the company was a not-for-profit one.

That's absolutely true. They (the client, not his co.) had to be convinced
there was no risk, and perhaps some advantage. It wasn't an easy task.
He, on the other hand, was motivated by what he thought was the right thing
to do. Of course he ran his co. for profit. (He's retired now.)

On a related issue: We live in a capitalist society, like it or not.
However much we may disparage the system (and the man I referred to above
could enthrall you for hours on the evils of capitalism), it is the hight
of elitist arogance to disparage people in the process of earning a living
in this system. We academics, with our dependance on grants and public
funding, tuition collected by our employers, etc. are not above it all. In
fact, since we do not contribute to material production, there are plenty
of old time Marxists that would call us "social parisites." Advertising
moves products, thereby employing workers, who feed their families. It is
not more or less obnoxious than any other form of economic activity in a
capitalist society. How many academics (especially females) underpay some
hard working exploited woman from Latin America to care for their kids so
they can spend the day on campus?

The friend I described did something remarkable. He got his hands dirty in
capitalism, as we all must, without compromising his basic humanity. He
did make compromises in his career. He chose to support his family
succeeding in comercial production rather than starve to death trying to
make it directing motion pictures without studio backing.

As to all the grad students on the list: Beware of the arrogance of
academia - most of you will have to find some creative way to earn a living
or take jobs in marketing. Academic anthropology cannot support us all.

If you have read this far, thank you for hearing me out. Most of my posts
are brief.

Martin Cohen