Blog 2: Digital Age/Social Media & Advertisers/Audience Commodity/Product Placement/Stuart Hall/Encoding&Decoding

Chapter 4 starts off with how Wal-Mart has a database of purchasing behavior by American consumers, basically customer purchasing behavior. From the database Wal-Mart is able to see patterns of what’s being sold, the quantity, what’s popular, etc. This benefits Wal-Mart because they are able to keep prices and overhead low and that’s because they know customer behavior well enough to minimize warehousing costs. Through the database, now only can they track but they can also predict consumer behavior. When Hurricane Frances happened in Florida in 2004, they were already able to predict the demand for certain products. They were able to respond quickly because of being able to predict consumer behavior, truckloads of flashlights, batteries, blankets, beer and strangely strawberry pop-tarts were brought in truckloads and sold out. It isn’t only Wal-Mart keeping track of it’s consumers, social media platforms have followed suit as well.

The “Blindspot” debate: Audience Commodity


The term audience was depicted as a large group of people sharing a physical location for an event. In today’s society with the internet and digital age, the term audience has developed due to various social media networks that allows individuals to be audiences of.

So… Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram….. What do these companies have in common?

They all have millions of followers, are free to use and they sell no tangible products. Yet these companies generate millions and are valued in the millions as well, where does most of their revenue come from?



All these social media platforms have an audience in the millions. Canadian media scholar, Dallas W. Smythe talks about how the “attention of the audience is being sold to advertisers” (p.81) through communication products (such as television programs, radio shows, motion pictures” he said how the content of the media was “an inducement (gift, bribe, or ‘free lunch’” to recruit potential members of the audiences to media producers was their viewership. This is where the term “the audience commodity” was coined, audience viewers was a new product that media corporations could sell to advertisers; this is why advertisers pay thousands to millions to advertise, they value an audience.

An example that stuck out to me while reading this was the “Superman vs. Batman” movie I remember reading this article (which I couldn’t seem to find) about how the movie already made half its budget back before the movie was released and that was due to advertisers mainly to do with product placement. The products placed in the movie ranged from electronics to automobiles to apparel and even food and drinks (they put jolly ranchers in a scene)

Instead of advertising at commercial breaks advertisers now advertise through the program. I came across this article from The Guardian on product placement it said “In 2012, advertisers spent $8.25bn on product placement, and the market is expected to nearly double in the next five years.”


Why might that be? What are advertisers valuing so much here? Why are they spending billions on product placement? and why is this expected to increase? It’s because they value viewers who are now looked as a commodity (audience commodity). Critical scholar Sut Jhally took this theory further he said that “advertisers were actually buying viewers attention and time in front of the television and not their potential future brand loyalty”. The audience is working as a labor force, without the labor of the audience to watch the advertising the structure of commercial media relied on the labor of audience to watch.


We see plenty of advertisements throughout our day from watching television to going on the internet and even buses have advertisement all over them. With technology advancements and the popularity of the internet, audience commodification via social network has completely changed the way audiences are targeted by advertisers. The leisure time we use to consume content is now used to market similar products or content in order for corporations to make big profits. This idea is not really new to us, the Nielsen rating system took advantage of heavy television viewing by families by monitoring the peak hours of viewing and what kind of programs people were consuming. Social networking platforms are using our information to sell to marketers. I was shopping for Timberland boots on Ebay and I’m on Facebook where the side advertisements were all boots related, different brands similar to the Timberland boots started popping up on the corner of my Facebook feed. I’ve noticed this occurrence whenever I search up something I’m interested in buying, Facebook would have an ad tailored to what I searched. I’m not sure if I should be impressed or a little concerned about this


Are social media platforms who sell out information to advertisers exploiting us? Or is it our fault? Should social media companies be more open about what they do with our information? Those are some of the thoughts that go through my head when I think about audience commodity

Uses and Gratification


Let’s talk fantasy sports, it’s a new kind of game and it makes you look at sports from a different lens. I personally have played basketball fantasy for a few years (except this year). Researchers Farquhar and Robert Meeds (2007) surveyed 42 fantasy sports participants to find out why people were into fantasy sports and they noticed two things: some facts participated in fantasy sports because they enjoyed following statistical trends and expressed a desire to outsmart their opponents; which is exactly the reason why I was into fantasy sports. I was more interested in looking at boxscores and basketball statistics more than watching the actual players play. It was fun to outsmart your friends, I’d always pick unpopular players (rookies, 10 day contract players) just to show my opponents that I could win matchups with my basketball knowledge


Uses and gratification theorists consider how and why individuals use the media rather than considering the ways in which they are acted upon by outside forces (p.108). Elihu Katz questioned and focused on “what do people do with the media?” (p.109).  When audience members are working as consumers during their time of leisure, they’re using the Uses and Gratifications theory to bring their own sets of beliefs, values, and needs to shape their environment to their media exposure (p.109).  Professor Good also mentioned in lecture that the Uses and Gratifications theory sees audiences as active, self-aware, selective, and discriminating. This works in contrast with the stereotype that our mind isn’t active during leisure time.  Our minds are actually most actively engaged online and through media during our leisure time, we are more exposed to being active, and selective online. This makes audience members to channel their attention to the different forms of mass media in cognition with their personal needs because they have more time to do so on the weekends then they do on the weekdays. This ties in with the assumptions of uses and gratification approach assumption that audience members are aware of their own individual needs and motivation in selecting certain media and how individuals select different types of media in order to satisfy a particular need or desire (p.113)



Sullivan (2013), explains five different “needs” from the Uses and Gratification approach:

1.  Cognitive Needs: Needs related to “strengthening information, knowledge, and understanding”
2.   Affective Needs: Needs related to “strengthening aesthetic, pleasurable, and emotional experience”
3.   Personal Integrative Needs: Needs related to “strengthening credibility, confidence, stability, and status”
4.   Social Needs: Needs related to “strengthening contact with family, friends, and the world”
5.   Escape Needs: Needs related to escape or tension release, also “weaken(s) contact with self and one’s social needs”
(p. 114)


The theory of Uses and Gratifications explains why media educates the audience.  Due to the fact that Uses and Gratifications allows audiences to do something with the mass media, it educates the audience with an economic and consumer mindset when they have during leisure as well, proving the point that audience mindsets are always working during leisure time.

As I study communications, I know that news stories reported over social media may not always be accurate. I use my cognitive need of the uses and gratifications theory to seek information so I’m educated as an audience member. This proves that on the weekend, my mind is still working, and grasping the information being communicated to me through the news.  During the commercials, I only pay attention to the products or services that I’m personally interested in.


Today in the digital age, we are highly inclined to use digital media as audience members.  The theory of work versus leisure and uses and gratifications also works in the digital age today with the theory of target marketing.  In my leisure time I like to go on my laptop and watch YouTube videos and/or scroll through social media.  The advertisements that only suit our interests and needs also are the advertisements that we are interested in, and appear on our social media websites online due social media platforms selling their audience as commodity to advertisers, allowing advertisers to specifically target their demographic. The advertisers using the digital and social media streams as a platform for advertisements know us personally, they take our demographics, social behavior, interests, our likes, psycho-graphics, etc., using all of that to advertise to us over the internet (similar to what Walmart does when it studies consumer behavior expect social media platforms know every detail and behavior about us, sometime they know us better than we know ourselves). The theory of Uses and Gratifications and the theory shows that we are audience members on a daily basis, we are being educated by advertisements on a daily basis, and our minds are always “working actively” on a daily basis.




I remember learning Stuart Hall’s encoding/decoding theory from comm 1F90. With Stuart Halls encoding and decoding theory; at the encoding stage, the producers of texts create messages (codes) which they expect their viewers/readers to understand. Stuart Hall argued that the meaning is not fixed/determined by the sender, the message is never transparent and the audience is not a passive recipient of meaning, he also added that texts are polysemic; polysemic meaning they have multiple meanings as the meanings vary depending on how the recipient decodes the message. When audience come in contact with the text, we decode the messages to create meaning.

Professor Good made the class guess this riddle that was about how a father rushed his son for surgery and the surgeon refused because “it’s my son”, everyone in class had a different answer, I was thinking adopted and biological dad, some people guessed the surgeon was the mother, all the answers varied because all the recipients of the riddle decoded it differently (part of it was due to how we think family should be, what gender people pictured a surgeon would be, our experiences, point of view etc) because every recipient of the riddle used their views and experience to decode the riddle.



With so many active audience members, miscommunication and interpretation of meaning and messages can end up badly for the advertisers in some cases causing them to have backlash. For example, in class we were shown a Pepsi commercial starring Kendall Jenner. The advertisement portrays a protest taking place and young people (minorities of different cultures) are marching and then Jenner joins the protest in and marches up to a police officer and hands him the soda. As he drinks the soda, a large smile appears on his face and the protesters are content with joy, everyone is happy and celebrating. Upon viewing this ad, I understood where Pepsi was trying to go with this ad, where the conflict is solved by this brave gesture and everyone gets along with each other after the gesture. I believe Pepsi wanted to signify bold actions and create this sequence to display that message with the soda being the sign and handing the soda as the signifier. But while America was in the midst of constant protests and riots from black lives matter, police brutality was a sensitive topic in the community. Due to these issues taking place the audience decoded this message at poking fun of the serious on-going issues especially with using a Kardashian in the commercial (someone who’s part of the elite rich and aren’t really known to involve themselves in social justice and inequality issues)


Polysemy and Three subject positions:

Texts (whether print, pictorial, or televisual) are polysemic, polysemic meaning they have more than one meaning. Stuart Hall posited Posited three “hypothetical” positions from which media decoding could take place:

  • Dominant-Hegemonic Position (or Dominant Reading)
    • Where they accept the media message exactly in terms of the code in which it was produced
    • The reader would accept the dominant position without a great deal of reflection
  • Negotiated Position (or Negotiated Reading)
    • The reader would interpret the message with “a mixture of the adaptive and oppositional  elements
    • Reader negotiates with the dominant position as they are able to filter media content through the lens of their own individualized experiences and worldview
  • Opposition Position (or Oppositional Reading)
    • Viewer/Reader has an ideological struggle against the message and/or its producers
    • Completely rejects the dominant position

I had to do my seminar facilitation with my partner Alex on Chapter 6 and the Tartan article, so what we had was poster advertisements with different pictures and we had the seminar class find the three subject reading positions from each posters. An example that I came across that really helped me understand Stuart Hall’s concept of the three subject positions was this McDonald’s Big Mac ad.



The dominant reading (or preferred) of this ad is what McDonald’s wants you to think of this ad.The preferred reading McDonald’s would like you to make is that Big Macs are delicious and that you’d like to eat one right now because they have fresh lettuce, gherkins, sauce, cheese, two beef patties etc. That’s what the message sender wants you to think.


The negotiated reading allows us to know that Big Macs may be unhealthy, that they might not always be as attractive as the image but that if we eat them in moderation then we won’t get fat and we can enjoy them. Basically negotiating with the dominant position and putting your own experience/moral/thoughts and view into it.


The The oppositional reading is completely opposing the dominant position so the oppositional position is that Big Macs are unhealthy, they will make you fat, lead to health issues in later life and never look like the advert. Also audiences outside the targeted audience may have an oppositional position.

Tartan Brand Article: Oritentalism

Orientalism was a term that was brought up in the Tartan Asia Extreme Brand article and I found this topic interesting because I learned about Orientalism before briefly. Orientalism is a term that is used by art historians, literary, and cultural studies scholars for the imitation or depiction of aspects in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and East Asian cultures (Eastern cultures). It’s basically how the West views the East and how the Western world (mainly America) portrays the East. Would Orientalism be a one-sided argument? are Americans only one at fault or does the East view the West in the same manner? An interesting example is the conflict between the United States and North Korea, we see in the media how North Korea is portrayed to us but I’ve always wondered how North Korea portrays America and every other Western country to their people. Maybe Orientalism isn’t a one-sided argument after all…



What is intertextuality? Intertextuality is  the interrelationship between texts, especially works of literature; the way that similar or related texts influence, reflect, or differ from each other: Shaping a text’s meaning through other texts. Basically every text/content/media/song/writing/movie/anything is recycled/already done/influenced/done previously. Fashion for example has so many aspects of intertextuality with it as fashion always takes influence from something. Another good example is TV show, The Simpsons, every episode parodies or imitates an iconic moment from a movie, another tv show or a celebrity moment, so they are influenced from another source.


In this day and age should we believe that there is still originality to ideas, concepts, or should we believe everything has been taken from previous sources?

I personally believe that everything is taken from a previous source because we are always influenced by something one way or the other.

Connotation and Denotation :


Connotation is the meaning behind a word (the implication of the word) whereas denotation is the literal meaning behind the word (the dictionary word). Connotation and Denotation gets used everywhere (in marketing, media, film) a good example is when the media use the word “protest” or “riot”; an event can be happening but that word plays a huge role in how news is portrayed. When a media outlet labels civilians as either “protesters” or “rioters” it makes you look at both differently. When you think of protesters  you think of people who are standing up to something peacefully whereas riots portray people as uncivilized, wild, not peaceful. A good example of this is how the media portrays Black Lives Matter events (I use the word events because I wanted to stay neutral and show how the media plays a huge role in this. Even the pictures they use, the words they use is the signifier while the pictures they use to give us a image is signified which both give us a sign. It’s always good to be aware of this because you can see where the media is going with certain news and events. I notice connotation and denotation when it comes to the media reporting news, news media that lean left and right would both report on the same event but they would both portray it in a different way using words.




Sullivan, J. (2013). Media Audiences, Effects, Users, Institutions, Power. California: SAGE Publications.



One Response to “Blog 2: Digital Age/Social Media & Advertisers/Audience Commodity/Product Placement/Stuart Hall/Encoding&Decoding”

  1. joshuan3 Says:

    It says “This entry was posted on November 2, 2017 at 1:55 pm”, thats not true, I’m able to prove that it was posted before 10am

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