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Consumerism

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The term consumerism is defined simplistically by the masses. Its common definition of increasing spending for wants and supposed needs may be attributed to the small world we often find ourselves in. While this definition is true, it reduces the concept of consumerism to a culture of overspending. If we were to check the entire concept of consumerism, we would find that more than a habit, it is a political movement and an economic instrument. In its political aspect, consumerism is an institutionalized effort to protect consumers from exploitative policies and practices such as “inferior or dangerous products, unfair pricing, and false advertising”. It is also a movement for upholding honest business practices. This political movement is to serve as check and balance for the economic theory manifested in the markets that increasing consumption of goods and services form a solid economy. This complex concept of consumerism is based upon the increasing mass production to aid the American economy after several economic declines. Come 1970s, however, the element of spending in consumerism became competitive and corrupted to display the productivity achieved by the masses. So the culture of keeping up with the Kardashians, or the Joneses if you want to be retrospective came to be and this culture is what we often mean when we define consumerism.
Of course, this concept would not have been constructed without the mechanism of the media. With the growth of mass production, media grew parallel to it and became responsible in preaching the concept of consumerism to the feeble minds of the masses. One of the outcomes of media growth is outdoor advertising commonly known as billboards. One need not look far to find one as they are sprawled all over the city. Their biggest customer appears to be the clothing line, Bench whose advertisements are headed by the biggest local and international celebrities including Lee Min Ho. In one campaign, Lee Min Ho may be found sitting on top of a wooden stool in a playful position docking khaki-colored pants styled in a manner that is folded around the ankles. Each foot was on different levels at the side of the stool graced by olive rubber shoes with colorful patterns at the end. His torso was covered by a youthful three-quarters cotton shirt with bands of colorful patterns at a certain area around the arms. The KPop start comfortably positioned donning Bench products, he calls on to his youthful fans to “live life with flavor” as scribbled beside his gigantic figure. This advertisement is not baffling to see as KPop has been breaking ground in the culture of young adult Filipinos today which may be sufficiently identified as their target market for the campaign. While this particular campaign displays men’s products, it serves a double purpose by calling the attention of female young adults who may purchase the products for varying reasons such as gifts for their significant others or memorabilia as a fan of the said star.
Bench’s billboard campaign with Korean pop star, Lee Min Ho addresses a vibrant and increasingly relevant economic sector of young adults. In the age of globalization and migrant workers, ties between members of the family are interrupted and children more and more are forced to become creative in filling this void. With the entry of various influences, one of which is consciousness about “it” and pretty style, young adults are becoming increasingly materialistic. This materialistic culture is formed by constant advertisements such as towering billboards reminding us of what we should be aspiring for. If we scrutinize the campaign, the clothes advertised by Lee Min Ho – a baseball shirt, pants, and rubber shoes - are very common yet the message intended to be conveyed were for young adults today to spice their styles up. This contradicting message displays the essence of the corrupted sense of consumerism: one formed by misleading statements telling us we are lacking in some way and this void may be filled if we were to buy their passé products. These products, of course, are advertised to serve the interests of big companies whose brands carry a certain image, an image we thrive on to better our own precisely because we are lacking as told to us by these very campaigns. These gigantic billboards then become more than an instrument to make consumers aware of certain products. They then become an instrument of a corrupted sense of consumerism telling us that we are inadequate or could be better if we were to keep on buying products from companies that really, offer nothing significant. By consuming more products, we become more, whatever that means.
Sadly, this corrupted sense of consumerism has penetrated Filipino culture deeply and may prove to be very difficult to correct. As relayed above, the message delivered by these billboard signs all over the city deviate from the concept consumerism ought to be. This shows us that there is something wrong with our society today where it appears that certain institutions perpetuate this materialistic culture without necessarily exchanging adequate goods and services. The early concept of consumerism was meant to stimulate the economy while providing the masses with goods and services they need and desire. Today, as depicted by the billboard advertisement, more often, this is not the case. This materialistic culture ingrained in society influences young adults today to hold objects above all else. Inside most malls and stores, you can see families strolling around showing each other things they wish or intend to buy. An image to depict the gravity of this occurring phenomenon is kids uttering the words: “Mom/Dad, please buy me [insert object].” If we remove the object from that sentence, the context of this phenomenon becomes clearer: the child is asking his/her parents to buy him/her, insinuating the child’s affection, attention, and other parts of the child’s being. This is becoming increasingly evident especially if the materialistic culture is joined to the OFW phenomenon. In the hopes of providing a better life for their families, they go abroad so they can send money back and sustain their families. It is sad to see that because of the distance, relationships are not forged among members of the family and are often replaced by material goods. We have come to an age where relationships are commoditized.
The concept of consumerism appears to be grounded upon the need to address the ailing economy of American society especially during several economic depressions. But as we come to see it, in our world today, this concept has been corrupted and is serving a purpose far from stimulating the economy for the betterment of all in society. While media can be a source of social consciousness, a vast majority of the time, it serves to form a culture of materialism and corrupted consumerism. Billboards are but one form of the way media shapes the way we view ourselves and the world around us. When media creates an environment of constant lack and turns wants into needs, we are faced with a serious fix that can be hard to heal. Far more concerning is that as this culture has become deeply entrenched in our culture, young adults are increasingly distracted from the true essence of life. We see today that people prize objects than relationships to the extent that we objectify even ourselves. To add to that, we come to realize that we are surrounded by institutions that propagates this disturbing reality. This is why we must come to remember that consumerism is more than increasing our purchases. We must strive to realize that consumerism may be the very instrument to correct our materialistic culture by appealing to its political aspect so our rights as consumers are upheld.

References:
Devilles, Gary. 'Performing Hypermasculinity In Billboard Ads And Malls'. Perspectives in the Arts and Humanities Asia 3.1 (2013): n. pag. Web. 29 Jul. 2014.
Dictionary.com,. 'The Definition Of Consumerism'. Dictionary.com. Web. 29 Jul. 2014.
Rona-Tas, Akos. 'Akos Rona-Tas' Home Page'. Pages.ucsd.edu. N. p., 2014. Web. 29 Jul. 2014.
Tata, Brian. 'What Is Consumerism And Why Is It So Important To All Of Us?'. Examiner.com. N. p., 2012. Web. 29 Jul. 2014.

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