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‘Consumption is Communication.’ Evaluate and discuss how advertisers might utilize this claim in their strategies. How might a sophisticated knowledge of consumer culture be of benefit to advertisers? Illustrate your essay with specific examples.


In looking at the 'Consumption is Communication' question it is necessary to consult a range of theorists from those of the 1920s Frankfurt School to those of recent years. This will in turn help in the understanding of how a consumer culture has developed and exactly what certain terms mean. Society's obsession with material items in such a commercial world and the trends of consumption will also be looked at as well as the investigation of some of the advertiser's methods i.e. the utilization of celebrities. Finally, a discussion will ensue into the effect of such a consumer culture on the public and the role that the public plays.

Jean Baudrillard stated that 'Today, we are everywhere surrounded by the remarkable conspicuousness of consumption and affluence, established by the multiplications of objects, services, and material goods.' (Baudrillard, 1988, p29). The term 'consumption' and 'consumer culture' are phenomena of the twenty and twenty-first centuries, where the buying of material goods is becoming ever more prevalent. This essay seeks to ascertain how the knowledge of these phenomena can be used to the advantage of advertisers to produce maximum profitability and competitiveness. The theories of more traditional writers from the Frankfurt school will be contrasted alongside a more modern approach with the view of explaining what is meant by a consumer culture and its use to advertisers. The negative aspects of this culture on modern society will also be looked at.

Marketing, purchasing, sales, the acquisition of differentiated commodities and objects / signs - all of these presently constitute our language, a code with which our entire society communicates and speaks of and to itself. (Baudrillard, 1988, 48)

Consumption communicates the wants and needs of modern society and in an industry with millions of pounds at stake advertisers need this to improve their own means of communication. Advertisers need consumers to function but in order for the consumer industry to thrive consumers also need the advertisers to make sure that they have access to the very best products.

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