Celia Lury introduces the concept of “commodity aesthetics” in chapter two of Consumer Culture.  The theory of commodity aesthetics highly emphasizes the role of advertising on consumers’ response to commodities.  Specifically, advertising

“is able to exploit this freedom to attach images of romance, exotica, fulfillment or the good life to mundane consumer goods such as soap, washing machines, cars and alcoholic drinks.  These images or masks enable material objects to act as carriers of ideological meaning in social interaction.  They encipher goods in symbolic codes that consumers cannot resist” Lury 39).

In other words, consumer culture and tendencies are highly manipulated by the way in which commodities are promoted.  Owning an ordinary object becomes less about the use or use-value of that object and is more about the “ideological meaning” that the product represents.

An example of this kind of effect on consumer culture would be the recent promotions of male hygiene products.  Specifically, companies promoting products such as Axe body spray or Old Spice deodorant take ordinary products that otherwise have no special meaning and make them have social and ideological significance.  Deodorant, which is a rather ordinary product, is now advertised as a product that men must pay attention to if they want to be irresistible to women and appear to be masculine.  In essence, producers are no longer selling an object, but are instead selling an ideology.  The ideology and sense of identity that consumers can obtain through purchasing these aestheticized products becomes irresistible to the consumer; this ties in to the “god-like manipulation” that Lury describes.  Furthermore, the idea of selling an ideology and the fetishism of commodities is supplemented by the idea that “consumption…means first and foremost belonging to a world” (Lury 103).  If producers and marketing agencies are trying to foster ideologies and more broadly, “worlds” of consumption, then advertisements can be understood as mechanisms to “foster the conditions in which consuming subjectivities and activities emerge” (Lury 103).  This identification of the focus of advertisements being aimed at fostering “life-worlds” rather than acting as ways to target and control consumption is key to understanding the emergence of consumer culture and production today.

 

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