There was a time where advertisers aimed at appealing to the main stream, middle class family. “Society making” media strived to bring people closer together by “act[ing] out concerns and connections that people ought to share in the larger national community” (Turow 3). For example, one of Coca Cola’s 1943 advertisements focused on the notion of the “refreshing rest pause” (http://www.gono.com/museum2003/cocacola), also known as taking a break and drinking a coke. This message followed into the 50s with slogans like ”Thirst too, seeks quality” (http://www.gono.com/museum2003/cocacola). These ads focused on universal ideas that everyone could relate to. Everyone gets thirsty and everyone wants to take a break while working. Therefore, these ads were part of society making, where the message related to all and all related to the message. Their strategy was to highlight the importance of the nuclear family, the neighborhood and the country as a whole. However, as our free market economy began to flourish, advertisements cluttered the mainstream and made it impossible for an ad to reach its potential influence. Therefore, advertisers began to shift from a “society making” media to a “segment making” media. According to Turow, their aim “is to package individuals, or groups of people, in ways that make them useful targets for the advertisers of certain products, through certain types of media” (1). For example, Subway and Taco Bell are both considered fast food chains. However, Subway has created and attracted a more health conscious audience to target. Whereas, Taco Bell has attracted the “tastes good, so you feel good” audience. They have segmented the fast food eating population into the health-conscious and the taste-conscious. By having different groups of centralized targets, advertisers can mold their ads to specifically influence that group and therefore increase sales. In essence, “segment making” media has encouraged “small slices of society” to associate with one another, whereas “society making” media unidentify all those “slices” and encourage communication among the whole (Turow 3).
Through the new segment making media, mainstream conformity becomes obsolete. Different groups emerge and create an appealing environment through their selection of media, and the commodity signs they identify with. Turow supports this claim through three different mechanisms. First, new technology, such as cable, satellite, Tivo and the Internet allow people to select what type of media they want to be a part of. Viewers of any type of media are focused with whether or not the medium “reaches people like them, resonates with their personal beliefs and helps them chart their position in the larger world” (Turow 4). The television industry has made attempts to “search out and exploit differences between consumers,” by providing over 400 specialized channels (Turow 4). For example, Nickelodeon, MTV, Food Network or ESPN are all specialized channels that attract a certain type of people. Each group is attracted to a specific type of content, which makes it easier for advertisers to target a specific audience a certain way. Miller Lite can successfully reach their target audience (19-24 yr. old men) through their “Man Law” commercials on ESPN. They create a commodity sign that distinguishes their product with certain values that characterize and attract the right consumer, and alientate other demographics. Therefore, when these consumers buy the beer they also buy with it the label of the young male sports fanatic who hangs out with his buddies and watches sports – the real man.
The second mechanism points out that our media is becoming global, where people all over the world are being influenced by segment making media. People in Japan can be part of the same interest specific audience as those in America. Globalization is creating a broader audience that can be further segmented into smaller “slices”. For example, people watching ESPN sports in America can watch it in English, whereas those in Japan can watch it in Japanese. They are both sports fanatics but the media is altered to adhere to that specific group. Respectively advertisements can also be changed so that the ads we see in America appeal to us and those they see in Japan appeal to them on the same channel. This way differences are highlighted to the benefit of advertisers who want to appeal to a specific audience.
These new interest groups created out of our segmented media are known as the third mechanism, Niche markets. For example, users of social networking website have become an important niche market that advertisers are focusing on. As Abbey Klaassen of AdAge.com noted, there is some value in having a brand or product placed on a Myspace user’s page. Rex Briggs, CEO of Marketing Evolution further stated that real value is created when "I take the brand, put it on my profile page and then all the people would develop a deeper meaning for what [the brand] stands for because of where it stands in my own personal story” (adage.com). Social Networking Websites have not only created a new platform for advertising but also allow each user to inherit a brand. They make a choice to identify with the ad, which tells a story about them. This message is then translated to all their “friends” or “buddies”. These three mechanisms have paved the way for the growth of advertising companies and consumerism as a whole.
Although, many people like the transition from “society making media” to “segmented media”, this transition can result in negative consequences. “Segment making” media is beneficial because it strengthens individual identities and creates a comfortable setting for minorities and many other special interest groups. However, it has been said that each group exists in their own bubble as “self- Indulgent” individuals who are only interested with themselves and not the benefit of society as a whole. There has been a shift in society after the baby boomers, where conformity and the mainstream are no longer attractive or satisfying. Therefore, advertisers had to come up with something to attract the new generation. This generation is interested in being different and unique, and consequently interested in “segment making” media.
Segment-making media has created a new definition for “community,” however some people believe that this new trend has undone our sense of community and has limited our media absorption. Teressa Lezzi of Advertising Age stated that segmented media is “taken as an unalloyed good that we can receive only the messages we've already decided we want to see.” She suggests that people are limited to only the information they chose to receive in advance. I disagree because not only are all messages available to media viewers but also that people are not limited to only one niche, but can be part of multiple segmented groups. Today’s media does a great job of attracting people into certain lifestyles, appeals or other segments. When someone finds a certain message appealing, they automatically become susceptible to that message.
However, different messages are available if someone is interested in counter-messages. For example, even if someone hates watching MTV or does not find fashion magazines appealing, the information is still there. Diverse messages are always available almost simultaneously, whether they be different channels, different magazines or even websites. Therefore, the common belief that our segmented media is limiting our flow of information is invalid.