Relevant Theories

Agenda Setting

Lippmann (1922) argued that the mass media are the principal connection between events in the world and the images of these events in our mind. His early analysis came to be known as agenda setting. Bernard Cohen (1963) stated the media may not tell us what to think, but they are stunningly successful in telling us what to think about. Advertisers set the agenda by omitting minorities from advertisements.

Professor Osei Appiah (1999) recently wrote, "When blacks appear in general market ads, they appear primarily for short time periods, in minor background roles, in racially integrated groups and in non-threatening or subordinate positions"(p.2) Why is this? I think that mainstream advertisers have set an agenda, based on traditions and stereotypes, that marginalize the presence of African-Americans within our society. The following ad for Carnations Milk is an illustration of Appiah's argument, blacks in a subservient position. Furthermore, I ask what does this waiter really have to do with this product?


Studies have shown that high levels of similarity between the viewer of an ad and the characters featured in an ad increase the viewer's belief that he is the intended audience for the ad, which leads to more positive attitudes about the ad and the product (Aaker, Brumbaugh, and Grier 1996). That is to say, the cultural values imbedded in an ad usually leads to positive ads by the viewer if he identifies with the culture being presented. So, I feel that it is advantageous (i.e. profitable) for corporations to consider using minorities in advertising, not simply as homogeneous groups, but in culture-specific instances. I think the upcoming ad represents a more tangible and responsible example of advertising that is both brand-minded and culturally relevant.