Resistance to Health Advertisements

By: Jenna Ritter

The Industry

Health-related advertisements are not a new phenomenon. In the past, they promised to make our lives better. If we bought a certain product, it would provide extra energy, happiness and beauty. Now, “Modern advertising operates almost exclusively with the positive register, therefore young, healthy and beautiful people are basic images in advertisements”(Falk, 1994). Ads always offer an implicit negative contrast with the positive image. This way, it hints at how things would be without the advertised product. By playing into these insecurities, companies will sell more prodcuts. For example, the  ad below:

Through advertisements, certain products original value of health, take on a much wider social and cultural meaning.  (Burrows & al. 1995). Advertising helps health promotion by spreading its message and by making the pursuit of health appealing, thus leading to increase in sales.


Health advertisements occupy a majority of our media consumption, but it anyone noticing? Here are two examples of resistance.

Dove campaign for real beauty VS Axe campaign for masculinity

Boston Globe contributor, Michelle Gillett said, “Viewers are struggling to make sense of how Dove can promise to educate girls on a wider definition of beauty while other Unilever ads [for Axe] exhort boys to make ‘nice girls naughty.” … Unilever is in the business of selling products, not values, and that means we, the consumers, are being manipulated, no matter how socially responsible an ad seems.”

Unilever, the brand that owns these two health and hygiene brands says it themselves: “How we communicate hygiene issues to consumers is playing a vital role in the success of our brands.” Here is an example of how two brands from the same company play on society’s insecurities, as well as displaying contradicting messages. Companies are just trying to reach you, so you’ll buy their product, no matter what.

Jean Kilbourne “Killing Me Softly” Series

Jean Kilbourne says: “It is impossible be healthy in a toxic cultural environment that surrounds us with unhealthy images and constantly sacrifices our health and our sense of well-being for the sake of profit.”

Her lecture and video series of “Killing Me Softly”, is a resistance to advertisements. She is aiming to shed light on how media forces our society into feeling bad about themselves and needing to improve.

Throughout her lecture series she proposes resisting the medias attack on our bodies. She discusses how advertisements portray women as sticks, ultimately leading them to buy into more beauty chemicals and weight loss supplements to make them look like that.  Most advertisements sexualize and objectify women’s bodies and how the media plays on our insecurities.

Health Magazine is a perfect example of a media commodity created just to sell us things. It sells us (the audience) as a commodity. Depending on our income level, marital status, and location we will be worth different values to the advertiser.

Will it stop? There is some resistance out there. But with the health advertising industry being one of the largest in the world, it will not go away.


When theoretically analyzing  health as a media commodity, we can see that advertising health has gone through “McDonaldization” process. It has been rationalized to match our societies perceived idea of health. For example, we have far more plus size models in advertising now. Efficiency, predictability, calculability, and an emphasis on non-human technology are the four principals of this theory.  Think of how the two main components of health has gone through Mcdonaldization: exercising and eating.

The propaganda model explains how we are manipulated and manufactured to buy into what the advertisements are selling us.  This model has been around since the concept of mass media and mass advertising began. We live in a consumer culture and unfortunately, it is not going to change any time soon.

The conspicuous consumption theory is another factor in explaining how health advertising health will not end. This idea is about how consumers buy goods and services for the main purpose of displaying their wealth.  In doing so, they hope to maintain a certain social status or in relation to health advertisements, steer clear of what the media tells us is unhealthy. Even though there is resistance out there, this industry does not see an end any time soon. People can do their part and not buy into the medias commodifcation of health. But until the masses do…this industry is here to stay.

Consumer Culture

Conspicuous Consumption Theory

Dove Campaign Critics

Dove Campaign: Hypocritical?

Health Media Commercials

Health Magazine Demographics

Honest Advertising


Jean Kilbourne Article

Jean Kilbourne

Propaganda Model



The Evolution of Advertising “Health”

By: Jenna Ritter

What is Health?

According to most contemporary media, health is: buying the iPod, wearing Nike shoes, eating Quaker Oatmeal, drinking Muscle Milk, and reading Health Magazine. Health has been commodified into a media object that is packaged up and sold to us. Through advertisements, media has commodified the essence of health and has been made into another way to sell us things and support capitalism. We are told by advertisements that we need to look, dress, eat, and essentially think a different way in order to fit the contemporary status quo of “health.”

Advertising plays a huge role in not only determining what is healthy, but what our society considers is unhealthy. Media constructs certain natural body functions to be unhealthy, such as sweating or having a pimple. Media plays on our insecurities. It even creates false notions of being unhealthy, so we have more insecurities. By doing so, it forces us into believing the only way out of these unhealthy disasters is by buying chemicals to make us “healthier.”

Evolving Health Advertisements

Since the beginning of advertising, newspapers, store shelves, and billboards all claimed certain products to have “healing powers” and health benefits.  Americans were attracted to these products because of their limited access to qualified information from medical professionals as well as limited funds.

Little did we know, these medicines and products were not regulated. Most of them contained unhealthy ingredients like alcohol, borax, mercury, and formaldehyde. In the late 19th century journalists started reporting on these industries for the safety and health of the American public. These muckraking techniques led to the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. The purpose was to protect the public against adulteration of food and from products identified as without scientific support. Then, in 1927 the Food and Drug Administration formed. It regulates advertisements for prescription drugs, while the Federal Trade Commission regulates advertisements done for over-the counter drugs.

The Numbers

In a recent report on food economics, data shows that a whopping 84 cents of each dollar we spend on food is actually toward the marketing and advertising for that product. Only 16 cents actually goes to what we are getting, when purchasing a food product.

Drug and health advertising is a HUGE business. Why? Because it works. It is one of the largest industries in the United States. Media has given this notion of health the means to flourish in our society. In 2007 alone, drug companies spent $5.375 billion dollars on advertising.  The cosmetics and toiletry industries spend around $468 million in advertising annually.

What Marx has to Say…

Karl Marx came up with the idea of historical materialism in relation to political economy of media. This approach is about  humans collectively producing the necessities of life for the development of society.  The idea of health has been collectively commodified to equal something that you must buy. The way our society work is humans evolve on nature to produce things people must buy. Below is a contemporary example of how Muscle Milk is shown as a product we need to “evolve.”

In Marxist terms, the mass media are the “means of production.”  In capitalist society this meas the ruling class has ownership. The mass media pushes ideas and ruling class views on us and deny anything else. This leads media to have the means to control material production. This is a stance “…whereby media products are seen as monolithic expressions of ruling class values, which ignores any diversity of values… and the possibility of oppositional readings by media audiences” (Marx, Karl).

Health as a Media Commodity:

Health: The Foundations for Achievement by David Seedhouse, discusses the theory of health as a commodity. He discusses that in today’s increasingly Westernized world, health is something that can be sold, bought, lost, and given. This theory is compatible with capitalism. The media has made health something that can be supplied “piece by piece if necessary without any effort from the recipient.” It can be purchased just that anything else tangible. He concludes by saying that if we seek health as a commodity we hold on to a false hope of health and that it undermines our spiritual and intellectual strengths in relation to health. This goes hand in hand with Marx’s concept of historical materialism.

In our society, media has cultivated false needs by creating health insecurities. Culture industry, a term coined by Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer, says popular culture produces standardized goods that people buy into because they have been manipulated into passivity.


So, who is telling us what is healthy? The answer: Media. Advertisements in the media commodify our notion of health and that notion comes from the companies that are trying to sell us things. Media companies let these other companies tell us what health is. As you can see, health=capitalism in some ways. Think about the products we buy into to be healthy, or to keep from being unhealthy. Media tells us in order to become healthy, we have to spend money. Here is an example:

Our bodies are regulated through ideas of profit maximization for companies. The concept of what is healthy and unhealthy has been used across all media industries. The advertising industry focuses on what is “unhealthy” since unhealthy preys on our fears and idealization of health.

In conclusion, health is related to wealth. The health advertising industry sells us much more than things. As Sut Jhally analyzes, advertising sells us ourselves and who we want to be in the name of private profit. Even though ads appear senseless, they carry a powerful unifying message of what we need to do prevent us from being unhealthy and buy into what the media tells us is healthy.

Food and Drug Administration

Food Economics

Federal Trade Commission

History of Health

Historical Materialism

Health Advertising Numbers

Jean Kilbourne

Cosmetics Advertising Numbers

Karl Marx

Sut Jhally

Culture Industry

Corporate Profile: Time Warner

By: Jenna Ritter

“Big media today wants to own the faucet, pipeline, water, and the reservoir. The rain and clouds come next.” -Ted Turner. He is right. Tuner sold his company to Time Warner. Today, media companies have to own everything up and down the media chain. Here is a look at one of the largest media conglomerates in the world: Time Warner.


In 1923, Time, a magazine that comes out weekly and was founded by Henry Luce and Briton Hadden. They had borrowed $86,375 from friends and Yale classmates to get started. From there, this company grew fast and turned over a profit in just one year. Time got involved in television when they bought $7.5 million of satellite time during HBO programming. In 1986 it acquired American Express share of Warner-AMEX Cable.

NYC Headquarters

The company then merged with Time Inc. and Warner Communications. Four years later they acquired Turner Broadcasting System of Filmed Entertainment, Cable Networks, Publishing and Cable Systems divisions. In 1996, Time Warner announced a joint venture with AT&T and just four year later in 2000, Time Warner and America Online announced a $181 billion merger. As you can see, this company grew fast and now is one of the largest media corporations in the world.

Time Warner’s Commodities:

Time Warner owns: Home Box Office (HBO),Time Inc., Turner Broadcasting System, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., CW Network (partial ownnership), Time Warner Investments Group, TMZ, New Line Cinema, Cinemax, Cartoon Network, TBS, MapQuest, Sports Illustrated, Fortune, Health, and People Magazine. To name just a few…here is the complete list.

Connecting the Dots:

There are two levels of corporate control: operational and allocative. Operational control is the management and CEO’s. They are elected at the allocative level, that includes the large shareholders as well as the board that deal with mergers, franchising, and acquisitions. Some important members of the board include Stephen F. Bollenbach who is also linked with Macy’s and American International Group. James L. Barksdale who sits on the board of Sun Microsystyms who is also linked to Bank of America, and Federal Express Corporation. Robert C. Clark who is linked with the giant Omnicom group and HAA-CREF, Richard D. Parsons with Estee Lauder and Citigroup. Time Warner is connected to almost every large bank in the U.S…. talk about concentration! All the power is connected. For a complete list of Time Warner’s board members and what large companies they are linked with go here.


There have been plenty of controversies involving Time Warner. Although they may not get a lot of news coverage because the company owns major news outlets. One major controversy was Time Warner’s merger with AOL. There was some public discontentment with this large deal being approved.

There have also been protests against this corporation on the individual side. Alan Moore’s protest over the intellectual property rights to his graphic novels (V for Vendetta, Watchment, League of Extraordinary, From Hell, etc.). Moore did not want these books turned into movies, but ended up losing the rights through litigation. Time Warner claimed ownership through its subsidiary, DC comics.

Another controversy was the construction of Warner Village in Abu Dhabi.

The local population may not be happy when corporations build properties around the world. But, who is listening to the minority voice?

“Globalization Theories” by: Annabelle Sreberyny says, the world is a single space and has the ability of spacial connectivity through technological convergence. The economic capitals logic central driving force is globalization. As you can see that is exactly what Time Warner is doing by having over 200 subsidiaries worldwide. This corporation expects globalization to provide “growth tonic” and large annual sales growth.


Time Warner has used it’s power to lobby the government for many reasons. One example is in 2005, Time Warner donated $250,000 to George W. Bush’s second presidential inauguration (the maximum contribution).


Time Warner is part of the big six media conglomerates that control the majority of all media we consumer. The main completion and other five huge conglomerates are Walt Disney, Viacom, News Corporation, CBS Corporation, and NBC Universal.

Financial Earnings:

In the most recent 3rd quarter, Time Warner Revenues revenues rose 11% to $7.1 billion. This is its highest growth rate since third quarter of 2007. Go here to see complete financial results and here to see quarterly earnings from 2008-2011 go here.


Time Warner has demonstrated strategies to maximize profit by merging with AOL and also Turner Broadcasting. When doing so, it acquired large and extremely powerful assets like CNN, TNT, and New Line Cinema. It  now has major control over not just old media, but new. As a current strategy, it is focusing on a stock repurchasing program and now has110 Million shares of common stock Time Warner 


Time Warner is extremely horizontally and vertically integrated. It has expanded into television, radio, print, web, news programming, and even the NBA. Because of this diversification it uses synergy between all its media outlets to promote their services and media commodities. This company has the ability to put advertisements EVERYWHERE. Through horizontal integration it bought out once independent magazines that cater to very different audience demographics so they can target EVERYONE. It is vertically integrated by owning internet services, production, distribution, marketing, publishing, music, and cable activities. Across every stream of media, it can be promoting one of their commodities. With this extreme cross-market promotion it has created a system greater than its parts with synergy, diversification, franchising, concentration, globalization, and essentially…..GLOBAL DOMINATION with the main goal of MAXIMIZING profit.

“Media Conglomerates”, by Daniel Biltereyst says when using the public sphere theory you see that corporations homogenize cultural production and restrict critical media which leads to Americanization, Eurocentrism, or cultural imperialism. We have restricted media now because these corporations are so large they can control content through almost all mediums.

 The Time Warner corporation controls the majority of what we watch, hear, and read and every single day. And when a corporation can control all of these areas of humans consumption they gain control over what we think. Americans need to stop and think about who is feeding them their information.

AOL Merger

History of Time

The Big Six

My Beef with Big Media

Time Warner Time Line

Time Warner

Media Ownership Chart

Time Warner Media Files

Time Warner’s Financial Results

Warner Center in Abu Dhabi

The Advertising Industry

By: Jenna Ritter

What is it?

Advertising is a non-personal communication method of persuading an audience member to buy goods, services, and ideas. But the advertising industry does much more then sell us things. As Sut Jhally analyzes the industry, he concludes advertising sells us ourselves and who we want to be in the name of private profit. Below is a lecture done by him where he discusses that advertising creates commodity fetishism with the ad and the product because through advertisements commodities are given human qualities.


 Advertising started to get moving in the 17th century when advertisements started appearing in weekly newspapers in England. In the 19th century the economy started getting larger, so did advertising. Advertisements were usually completely done by the company who wanted to advertise. They did the layout, design and paid the media for space. In the late 19th century N.W. Ayer and Son was formed in Philadelphia and things changed in this industry. This was the first advertising agency in the U.S. that offered services to plan, make and execute completed advertising campaigns for all different kinds of customers.

How is it relevant now?

Well, since capitalism thrives on corporations and corporations thrive on profit, corporations need to sell things. How are they going to do that? Advertisements. In the book Advertising and Market Power, by William S. Comanor and Thomas A. Wilson; the authors highlight how advertising increases profit for corporations. Corporations need advertising, thus advertising is a HUGE industry.

Now a days there are holding companies that control advertising agencies. There are four main holding companies or let me say BOHEMITHS. The main holding companies (The Big Four), control half of this industries revenue. They offer one stop marketing plans for businesses and in our global economy that is attractive.

Who controls this industry:

The Big Four includes: Interpublic, Omnicom, Publicis Groupe and WPP. These companies sit at the very top of the advertising industry. They control a huge number of agency brands across the globe. They are usually not involved in day-to- day strategies, but they work to gain “intra-group synergy” with subsidiary businesses.

Here is a company profile of Omnicom. It ranked as the world’s #1 corporate media services conglomerate in advertising, public relations, and marketing services with over 5,000 clients in more than 100 countries.

Some of the Top 100  advertiser in US include American Express, AT&T, Time Warner, L’Oreal, Walt Disney, Coca-cola, and more. These companies most likely work with an agency who is controlled by a holding company, like one of the Big Four. As you can see, the advertising industry is horizontally integrated because the holding companies control  additional business activities at the same level of production (by owning many different advertising agencies) . This leads to increased market power, synergy, and the ability to have content across all markets, as well as larger economies of scale for these gigantic holding companies.


Now you have four megacompanies with revenues that are staggering, bigger than some of the companies they serve, said O. Burtch Drake, president and chief executive of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the industry trade group.

Having this huge of market control is known as concentration or consolidation. Unfortunately, concentration does give into problems like: less diversity, no healthy competition, and the silencing of minority voice. Another way concentration leads to problems is when one agency works for competing clients. For example, Omnicom serves Chrysler, General Motors, Nissan, and Volkswagen.  Some companies don’t like this; Coca-Cola switched the Sprite brand from Interpublic to WPP because it did not want to have put all their eggs in one basket and felt like the holding company had too much control over the brand.

Censorship in the Media

Another issue in advertising deals with censorship. Mainstream media will not run stories that may offend their advertisers and/or their owners. Some refer to this as market censorship and it leads to problems because the media does not report on important issues (like corporate practices). For controversial advertisements the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) helps with regulation and complaints in this area.

Pulling it all together:

Advertisements in Health Magazine are for big popular brands done by agencies that are most likely controlled by a holding company. This profit motive that corporations live by, deeply impacts the content we get in ad-supported media.

These big companies end up having power in what articles Health Magazine will publish.

Besides dominating commercial speech,a $500-billion-a-year industry,

these agency companies and the men who run them —

John D. Wren at Omnicom, John J. Dooner Jr. at Interpublic,

Sir Martin Sorrellat WPP and Maurice Lévy at Publicis

— also hold incredible sway over the media.

By deciding when and where to spend their clients’

ad budgets, they can indirectly set network television

schedules and starve magazines to death or help them to flourish



These companies control the majority of the world’s ad spending and huge shares of many other businesses as well.

Our entire media system is developed so marketers can sell us things. Sut Jhally explains that our advertising used to be about creativity and sharing your brand or product, but now due to  the expansion of agency companies and the power by which they are controlled, originality is smothered and we get a message that they want us to hear.

Advertising History

Advertising and the Perfect Storm

Duke Library

NY Times Big Four Article

The Power of Advertising

Agency Family Trees

Advertising and PR


Publicis USA

Structure of the Ad Industry


WPP Annual Reports



Health Magazine

An Overview of Health Magazine and Advertising

By: Jenna Ritter

Time Inc. brands reach more than 138 million consumers monthly across multiple platforms, more than half of the U.S. adult population”- Time Inc.  For the quarter ending in June 2011, the company’s total revenues were $7.03 billion –NYtimes. Here is a look at Health Magazine, just one of Time Inc.’s  hundreds of media commodities.

Time Inc. - About Us - Company Profile


Health Magazine has been around since 1987. It is the 13th largest magazine reaching affluent women. It is a health and lifestyle magazine that focuses on exercise, diet, beauty, relationships, food, sex, and more. This media commodity is part of the larger Health brand and they are content partners with Healthwise, HealthDay, and HealthLine. Health Magazine is owned by Time Inc., which is a division of Time Warner, who also owns also offers easy links to All*You, Coastal Living, Cooking Light, Food&Wine, My Recipes, Southern Living, and Sunset magazines,as well as  Fit Sugar, MSN health & fitness, CNN, Fox, TIME who all are owned by Time Warner. Health Magazine has had a +70 growth over the last five years and has over 2.5million readers. Magazines are in monopolistic competition and with Health being such a popular magazine, competitive brands want and will advertise in it.


Most of the production for Health Magazine is funded by advertisements. The editorial structure of Health Magazine is based on seasons, focusing on food, fashion, and beauty for that specific month. Advertisers will produce certain ads to complement or fit into articles. Want to advertise in Health magazine? For $108,270 you can have a full page in the magazine. There are many markets involved in creating this magazine including: photography, writing, modeling, and the consumer market.


Health Magazine is distributed in the United States and Canada 10 times annually. This magazine is on almost every news stand, grocery store check out, and book store (if there are any left). The average price for the magazine on a newsstand is $3.99. Subscribers get the magazine mailed to their house for an average price subscription price of $16.50, which equates to $1.04 and issue. Within a period there are over 601,617 total subscriptions sold.

You can also access information (as well as advertisements) from Health Magazine at as well as signing up for a daily newsletter. This media blast comes into your e-mail selling you the latest health food, clothes, and workout tips. The demographics that consume Health Magazine are adults with a median age of 48, 75% of the readers are women and 58% are employed.

Why it matters?

Audiences are bought and sold by demographics. Certain magazines offer a certain audience demographic. Advertising companies need to know who they are so they can advertise accordingly. Essentially, audiences are packaged up and sold.

According to Dallas Smythe, magazines main revenues come from selling ads, and therefore they sell access to their demographic to companies in advertising, thus the audience is a commodity bought and sold in a market.  “The specifications include age, sex, income level, family composition, urban or rural location, ethnic character, ownership of home, automobile, credit card statues and social class.”  He also says that audiences never get leisure time because we are constantly working for the advertiser while we consume media.

When looking at main advertises in Health Magazine you see large brands such as Target, CoverGirl, Tampax, Nike, Kraft Foods, R.E.I, Weight Watchers, Estee Lauder and more. These products are being sold as ‘health’ and cater to the certain demographics that read this magazine.  The whole idea of health is now a media commodity sold to you by brands. And, what do you know Time Warner interlocks with Corporate America and is partners with Estee Lauder.

Breaking it down: Advertising effects content in magazines because the advertisers want the articles  to cater to the ads. Like the Estee Lauder example displays; Time Warner magazines advertise this brand because they are partners with it and it will gain them profit. It’s all connected. Ben Bagdikian said “The dumbing down” of the content also acts to promote a “buying mood.”The Media Monopoly, Sixth Edition, (Beacon Press, 2000), p.138. Articles that are scientific and critically based are rarely written in consumer magazines because then it is likely the reader will not give into the advertisements that may follow. As my research shows, since advertising is how magazines eat, breath, and sleep they will conform to advertising conglomerates desires. The result: now we get articles that are mostly written solely to attract certain readers who will most likely buy the products(that the media company is partners with) advertised in the magazine. Or even worse, there are whole magazines created just to sell us things.

About Health

The Audience Commodity

The Audience as the Product

Health Advertising Rates

Health Magazine Demographics

Dallas Smythe on Audience Commodity

Media Kits for Time inc.

Media connects with Corporate America

Monopolistic Competition

New York Times : Time Inc Revenue

Print Ownership Chart

Time Inc. Company Profile

Time Warner

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