Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up: Multicultural Advertising

Life Alert ads niche audience

I have seen several versions of this commercial while watching the Price is Right; however, this particular advertisement has an eerie beginning to attract the audience’s attention. The language is the hegemonic norm, white people addressing an issue. But, it is targeted toward a higher income bracket and an older age than I am. Thus, I rarely see these commercials and do not feel like they are applicable to my life. While looking for the clip, I thought it was interesting how many young people showed the commercial and then inserted a laughing segment at the end. This proves that we are not the intended audience seeing how some younger people may find the product pointless. Also, considering the age of our parents, who are not old enough for this product, there is a lack of purpose from our perspectives. This proves Blumler’s and Katz’s research about uses and gratifications. As viewers, we have the power to choose what media source fulfills our needs. For the older generations, the social, emotional, and psychological needs are easily met with television and personal relationships whereas younger generations utilize social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter for those connections.

The visual presentation of a nice home with family pictures around the home signal the audience that this is a middle aged or older individual, since younger people do not have an established income to live in a nice neighborhood, usually. The images frame the commercial around a white family and women, who are more than likely heterosexual.

Since children and adults, aged 20-40, are at school or work by 9 a.m., the only age demographic typically not working are the elderly or middle-aged individuals, in most situations. Thus, this advertisement airs from 9 a.m. until mid-afternoon, 3 p.m. According to the Washington Post, the broadcast and cable television audience has steadily increased into the mid-50 year old and above range. The Washington Post also noted a trend away from television in younger people so this advertisement is targeted at television viewers, not online or via radio, since that is where Life Alert’s target audience tunes in. So, Life Alert’s advertising committee use an alternate media vehicle of television to effectively reach the older audience being targeted in the advertisement. Even though television may not be viewed as an alternate media vehicle, it is due to the social constructs of television in the older generations lives. This commercial also utilizes cultural awareness, values held by that audience that vary across cultures, about the dominant class’s value of family through display of pictures and the woman surrounded by laundry, a domesticated, feminized job. This product is also aimed at older people who wish to reclaim their individualism and avoid uncertainty of a tragedy in their lives, which Kent and Taylor articulate in two of the five Hofstede’s cultural variables that influence communication and relationships. These variables act as a connection point between the public relations sector and the audience. The use of male voice overs and visuals at work correlate to the cultural awareness where the man typically works. Hence, it would make sense that the dominant, male group is taking the phone call. Furthermore, it briefly displays a background patio with a family in the background. This is also a cultural adaptation that may not be present in all cultures, since family gatherings are less frequent.

Life Alert’s advertisement campaign involving the well-known phrase “Help me! I can’t get up” provides the larger society with insights about what each subculture of white culture values and how those trends change over time. Although young adults may not find the commercial correlated with our current lifestyles, we will find how age determines what is most valuable. Eventually our parents will become a member of the Life Alert age demographic and the pictures on the walls will reflect our family and our fears of losing them. Thus, we see the power advertisements surrounding social justice and well-being are only effective when you are personally invested in the product because of life’s circumstances.

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4 thoughts on “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up: Multicultural Advertising

  1. I was a little bit scared when you showed me this commercial in class but it got more scary when I just watched it again here in your post (because the class was so noisy so I couldn’t hear any sound). I like the way you analyze that young generations are walking away from traditional media but old people are not, so it absolutely makes sense that if Life Alert wants to reach their target audience, which is the older people, TV is a very appropriate channel to go. In addition, all the stereotypical images are very easy to realize. Yet I think that the scene of a Life Alert’s employee taking the phone call from the victim who happened to be male left me some sense of safety. I mean, I’d feel more safe and secure when the thought of being protected by some man come into mind, rather than when it is a gentle woman. Maybe I’m making stereotypes too 😦 But it’s just my personal feeling anyway. It is also true that the commercial just works well for the audience who care about that sort of product. From the company perspective, I think as long as the commercial can tap into their targeted customer segmentation, it can be considered as successful.

  2. Ellie K thank you for your comment. You brought up a larger cultural issue I had not thought of which was we would feel safer being rescued by men than women. Personally, I think American media display men in rescuing roles such as policemen and firemen so, culturally, it is the norm. I also think the masculinity of society is present even in the names of our elected officials; hence, man is usually the ending, not person. The media depict men with larger body build than women as well. For example, Brawny commercials depict a muscular man. [http://www.ispot.tv/ad/7Z_r/brawny-admire-strength] They recently teamed up with wounded war veterans, but notice that strength has a masculine identity. However, Katz argues strength and physicality used to be associated with masculinity, but now abusive aggression and harsh verbage is used to reclaim a primal manhood (Katz 2000). [http://www.jacksonkatz.com/manhood.html] This is a problem because it perpetuates violence in society, which is disproportionately acted out by men.

  3. While looking through ads that I was not included in target audience, I started off thinking very specific and this made it hard for me. In class when this ad was brought up, I was like “oh yeah of course”. It is a broad range of ads that are out there with no relation to me or my life, but it is less obvious when one would think specifically like I did. Good post and well relates to the classes this week!

  4. cassfos34 thank you for your comment. I think the reason why it is difficult to identify advertisements not directed at our generation is the otherness we associate with differing ages and classes. The uses and gratifications for each demographic varies because the social, emotional, and psychological needs vary across age, race, and ethnicity. Successful PR ads are also influenced by an individual’s social identity, how she labels herself within a larger group. Although the media play a role in connecting with the audience, the individual cultivation theory about perception of social reality is impacted by what they ingest from media. Therefore, advertisements may face social critic due to the cultivation of ideas by an individual, despite the lack of correlation between the two.

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