Raymond Williams Facilitation: “Advertising: the Magic System”

William’s chapter “Advertising: The Magic System” is an interesting blend between politics and media analysis. The article starts strong by introducing the creation of advertisements and explaining how they have managed to worm their way into almost every facet of media. From there the text devolves into an analysis over consumerism and its two forms in a socialistic market and a democratic market. Right before this shift happens however, Williams mentions an interesting topic, that being the Magic of Advertisements. Williams describes the magic of advertisements to be “a highly organized and professional system of magical inducements and satisfactions” (705). This lengthy statement can be broken down into two parts: an emotional link to a product, and making the audience believe they need a product.

              The overall goal of an emotional link to a product is to make the advertisement appear beneficial for those watching, and as such many such advertisements go out of their way to create a morality inspiring commercial. These kinds of commercials aim to teach the audience a morale lesson or remind them how they are “supposed” to act in public. A great example of these kinds of commercials can be found from coke advertisements:

              In this short one minute clip, we are introduced to a young boy and his older brother. Throughout the clip, the older brother teases the younger sibling, constantly causing him minor inconveniences. However near the end of the clip, when the younger sibling has his Coca Cola stolen from him by a few school bullies, the older sibling steps up to his duties and protects the younger sibling, and of course returns the soda. As a final act of tease to his younger sibling, he makes the sibling spill a bit of coke on his face while drinking, but as the older sibling walks away, we are left to see the younger sibling with a bright smile on his face. This commercial is meant to serve as a reminder of how families are meant to behave, with jokes and small teases being acceptable, but also standing up for one another. Other than the Coca Cola outro in the end, Coca Cola’s are placed through this clip, making it seem like this is the family’s main choice of drink. In doing this, it suggests that a morale family drinks Coca Cola, and satisfies a piece of the magic of advertisement that Williams suggests to exist.

              William’s second form of magic covers the art of an advertisement making the viewer feel they “need” a product. A great example of these kinds of advertisements are medicinal commercials, which create/isolate a problem and then introduce their brand as the cure.


              In this advert, we are quickly introduced to a woman playing with children, which we can then assume that she is their mother. The woman is taken down by the children, and as she falls shows a face of great pain. We are then introduced to the product, Aleve, and moments after we are again shown the woman gaining strength and resuming play with the children. This audience is pushed to believe that thanks to the product of Aleve, this woman was able to spend time with her children, instead of just withering away in pain. It strongly suggests that without its aid, the audience won’t be able to enjoy life and as such markets its product as a tool to make life more enjoyable. The advertisers in this commercial create the isolate the need of the audience, a way to deal with pain, and upscale the problem, in dong this they suggest their product as the salvation of said problem. They follow the second form of magic suggested by William, that of artificially creating a need and then fulfilling that need with their product

8 thoughts to “Raymond Williams Facilitation: “Advertising: the Magic System””

  1. Williams’ “Advertising Magic System” was very interesting and eye-opening in the sense that he acknowledges the truth behind commercialism and society revolving around it. I think an important key that this facilitation addresses is Wlliams’ idea of “magic of advertisements” and components such as emotional appeal and a “need” for a product that make it “magical.” Williams highlighted the fact that us as consumers can and may feel an emotional attachment if a particular commercial hits close to home or allows us to insinuate some kind of emotional connection with the product or story line. He always points to the fact that consumers can feel they may “need” a product in result to the way it is presented. An interesting point is his take on a materialistic society. He claims that the world is considered to be materialistic in the sense that we want and need things but he made it a point that we are, in fact, not materialistic enough. By this he says, “Objects are not enough and must be validated.” It’s not the fact that we do or don’t want a product, it is the idea that we need confirmation or perspectives that the product is needed. This facilitation introduces great examples that really highlight the idea of getting approval or influencing ones opinion to sway towards purchasing a product. Coke bring family together or Aleve relieves pain.

    An example that comes to mind is when I see workout ads, where attractive fitness models advertise a type of pre-workout/protein/ or resistant bands that they use and make it a point that it/they can work for any and everyone. They make me feel like I want the product because I aspire to look like them one day or in general, be in good shape. But this may not be the case for everyone. And that’s the “magic” of advertising, is the appeal or connection they try to initiate to consumers and the “need” to have that product to fulfill your own needs or wants.

  2. Overall I think you explained Williams’s expert on advertising very well. What I found to be the most interesting part was Williams described ,on page 708, the viewpoint that advertisers use skills and knowledge to prey on the public for a commercial profit. This viewpoint is one that advertisers try to dissuade with the concept that Williams called “impact”, where they believe they are trying to make a successful impression for consumers to buy their product as opposed to the other options available. This reminds me of a commercial called Audi #DriveProgress made by Audi where it is a girl in a slot car race against a couple of boys. The commercial tells of her father’s worries of sexism later in her life, but as the two walk to a new Audi car his fears are gone. The commercial attempted to use the discussion of the gender wage gap to push their own public image and sell their new car, though from what I have heard, this failed and received backlash. Though not an example of a successful use of what Williams describes as “impact,” it does show that advertisers will attempt to use even political issues to sell their products.

  3. I really loved the break down of this facilitation and the commercials submitted with it. The coca-cola commercial reminded me of two commercials: the “Folgers – Brother and Sister Home for Christmas” and the “Extra Gum – Can’t Help Falling in Love” advertisement. The article states, “If the consumption of individual goods leaves that whole area of human need unsatisfied, the attempt is made, by magic, to associate this consumption with human desires to which it has no real reference.” The first commercial, Folgers, insinuates a relationship between coffee and nostalgic family moments. Although there is no real connection between a brother being home for Christmas and having a cup of coffee, the commercial makes the consumer feel as if coffee instigates a loving family environment. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMwFWDIFVCU)
    The second advertisement, Extra Gum, shows the blossoming of a love affair through the use of gum wrappers. Similarly to the Folgers commercial, there is no distinct connection between love and gum. However, the producers did an excellent job of showing that life long relationships can begin and strengthen through sharing their gum with someone you love, even in tough times. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NemtQx0m0Ss)

  4. “If we were sensibly materialist, in that part of our living in which we use things, we should find most advertising to be an insane irrelevance… it is clear we have a cultural pattern in which the objects are not enough but must be validated if only in fantasy, by association with social and personal meanings which in a different cultural pattern might be more directly available.”–Williams
    Advertisers know that certain products go with certain fantasies and they sell that fantasy to people. Displaying this fantasy will make consumers feel inclined to purchase the product or the service because it can make them indulge in that fantasy. For example, perfume commercials always have a sophistication to them that is unrelated to the perfume but they sell a fantasy to the consumers that make the consumers feel like they can have a bit of the sophistication if they buy the product.

  5. I think this facilitation and the commercials you included in it illustrate Williams’ points very well, particularly the idea that the mere usefulness or enjoyment one may get from a product is often not enough to sell it: “it is clear that we have a cultural pattern in which the objects are not enough, but must be validated, if only in fantasy, by association with social and personal meanings” (705). This technique of imbuing products with personal significance reminded me of the “choosy moms choose JIF” commercials I saw aired a lot as a kid, in which the advertisers seem to say that moms who use their particular brand of peanut butter care more about their children than those who don’t.
    In the ad, the JIF peanut butter sandwich seems to have the “magical” quality of bringing people together, and it is presented as a “simple little reminder of just how much mom cares”. Another thing that the ad does that I think is critical to its argument is address the viewer directly; the final line in the commercial is “moms like you choose jif” which not only makes clear the specific demographic that the ad is targeting, but seems to say “you’re already a good mom, so shouldn’t you be using JIF?” In reality, good parenting has absolutely nothing to do with the brand of peanut butter you use, but by placing the JIF peanut butter sandwich at the heart of a tender moment, the advertisers effectively engage our emotions. I think the “choosy moms choose JIF” ads emphasize the importance of knowing your demographic, and are a clear example of using artificial meaning to sell a product.

  6. I thought this facilitation hit all the most important points of Williams’ “Advertising: the Magic System”. The emotional link approach is also usually used to target very specific audiences, almost personalized for that certain audience. The P&G ad titled “Thank You, Mom” is a perfect example of this. This ad very specifically targets moms with children and even more specifically, moms who have children in sports. This ad depicts many different families (but almost completely is about a mom and her child) and that mom supporting their child no matter what. P&G is using this to strike home with mothers with children who want them to be successful and is saying that all products within P&G are for those mothers as well as showing their support for moms. Parents can become emotional while watching this because they can see the characters in the commercial as themselves with their children. This impacts the targeted audience as Williams describes as “impact becoming the normal description of the effect of successful communication”.

  7. The article by Williams was very interesting, and I could identify with nearly every point he made. My favorite quote from the article reads as follows: “It is impossible to look at modern advertising without realising that the material object being sold is never enough”. This quote made me think of commercials about hair products. Often times commercials for hair products that are say that certain lines promote hair growth give your hair endless shine, and women often give the product a chance, even though their hair is nothing like the woman’s on the commercial. There is this false sense of hope that these ads give us, when in reality, we know that what is being portrayed is not achievable. This is not to say that everyone can’t have beautiful, healthy hair, because they can, but advertisers often make it seem as though the hair type presented to us in commercials is the best type. An example of one of these commercials is linked below.

  8. I feel as if a huge idea in Williams’ “Advertising Magic System” that is lost in this facilitation is how advertising is the “official art of modern capitalist society” (Williams). Yes, the facilitation describes that these advertisements try to appeal toward the consumerism of the classes by boiling down to creating “an emotional link to a product, and making the audience believe they need a product” but they don’t explain how this media reflects the “consumer” psychology and how it frames society in it’s consumerism. Williams explains that “consumers” are the economic capacities and trends of ordinary members of society. People are now grouped by how they think and react to current and projected products. Advertisements, especially popular and effective ones at that, reflect these groupings and show’s what our society is like in an indirect way. It’s an “art” because it invokes feelings about society and individuals that aren’t directly told or said.

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