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Re: Design and public opinion - fully on topic

From: Gunnar Swanson <gunnar-AT-gunnarswanson.com>
Date: 10 Aug 2001 23:22:45 UTC   (04:22:45 PM in author's locale)
To: "The Graphics List" <graphics-AT-lists.graphicslist.org>
James,

I tend to agree with you that the ability of advertising to change
resistant minds is a bit overrated but there certainly have been
campaigns that have changed cultural attitudes rather radically,
albeit not in the form of a few flights of 30 second spots. The
combination of publicity and legal campaigns by Mothers Against Drunk
Driving and PSAs about designated drivers has made the notion of a
designated driver commonplace in the US. Twenty years ago drunk
driving was the stuff of comedy and the term "designated driver"
would have required explanation before getting blank stares or
derisive laughter.

You are right that changes in cultural patterns are always complex
but that doesn't mean that deliberate manipulations such as
advertising and PR campaigns aren't often central to the changes. I
suspect that PR, like industrial and graphic design, is more likely
to be more important in changing attitudes (or be a complete waste of
time and money.)

As to tobacco advertising making one a smoker, doesn't this fall into
the class of actors you described a few days ago regarding personal
political expression--a multitude of messages that help shape
attitudes and leave people open to an alternative rather than instant
radio controlled zombies? I suspect that smoking by characters in
movies is a better promoter of smoking than the return of the
Marlborro Man to prime time would be.

I hope Mike Dooley reads this one: Do you think Mike Salisbury is
being disingenuous when he claims that he has no guilt for Joe Camel
since all advertising is ineffective and he's just letting chumps who
are set on wasting their money give it to him instead of someone
else? (I think that's a fair summation of his position.)

Gunnar

>I'm struggling to recall an instance where a campaign reversed
>entrenched opinions. Softened or hardened, yes - overturned, most
>unlikely. For instance, the change in attitudes to cigarettes can't
>be attributed solely to public health campaigns - a multitude of
>impacts, along with changing cultural patterns has, over time,
>shifted patterns of usage. And whilst there is some evidence that
>tobacco advertising does have an impact on usage, that's all it does
>have. No tobacco company is going to be able to turn me into a
>smoker, for instance, no matter how sophisticated their pitch or
>however much exposure they are allowed to have.

--
Gunnar Swanson Design Office
536 South Catalina Street
Ventura CA 93001-3625

+1 805 667 2200
gunnar-AT-gunnarswanson.com
www.gunnarswanson.com

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