- NEW YORK - Three decades ago, Marshall McLuhan put forth the maxim 'the
medium is the message.' His message was that media, independent of their
content, have an effect on society. Today, media critics are telling us
to look at the effect advertising-driven mass media is having on our culture.
- THE 1998 SCHMIO AWARDS
- "I can't believe my parents were
so misguided that they told me my personality was more important than what
- THE SAME WEEK the advertising industry
came together to honor its finest with the Clio Awards, a group of scholars,
media critics and activists singled out their choice sales pitches to dishonor
with the Schmio Awards.
- The Schmio Awards sponsors include New
York University's Culture and Communication Department, the New Mexico
Media Literacy Project, the Hunter College Film and Media Studies Department,
the Center for Analysis of Commercialism and Education, and California
Newsreel, a non-profit distributor of educational videos.
- This year's award ceremony skewered advertisers
targeting children. Among those who earned this dubious distinction: Sears,
Roebuck & Co., the National Rifle Association and billboard companies.
- Christina Dilisio, a senior at the Chicopee
Massachusetts High School, gave Sears and Roebuck the 'Possessions are
Everything Award' for their ads in Seventeen magazine. The multipage campaign
featured headlines such as "You gotta stand up for yourself"
and "You gotta believe in your dreams" and concluded with: "Gotta
have the clothes." And "I can't believe my parents were so misguided
that they told me my personality was more important than what I wear,"
- KIDS WITH GUNS
- Bianca Jagger, longtime activist for
women and children, gave the National Rifle Association 'The Jonesboro
Award' for ads aimed at children promoting a culture of violence. She built
her case with gun ads: one with the tag line "Those sure were the
good times...just you, Dad and his Smith & Wesson"; another, "Short
Butts from Fleming Firearms" featuring a 4-year-old girl in a bathing
suit in front of a wall of machine guns. Those led up to the NRA's ads
with a photo of a smiling kid and rifle, asking the question "Why
do you tell your kids to keep quiet about Daddy's guns?"
- Dick Gregory presented his 'There Goes
the Neighborhood Award' to outdoor advertising companies fighting local
ordinances outlawing beer alcohol and cigarette billboards. These ads appear
most frequently in what used to be called the ghetto, now known euphemistically
as inner-city neighborhoods. He recounted an exchange between a neighborhood
activist from the Compton neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles, and
a billboard company executive asking for an end to the ban-the-billboard
- "The activist says, 'We'll end our
campaign if you put the same ads in Compton that you put on billboards
in Beverly Hills.' And the advertising man says, 'We don't have any billboards
in Beverly Hills.' 'Aha! That's the point.'"
- THE POINT
- The point of the Schmio Awards, organizers
say, is to promote critical examination of the media that surrounds us,
a movement known as media literacy. Neil Postman, head of the NYU's Communications
Department and author of the trenchant analysis of media's effect on culture,
'Amusing Ourselves to Death,' was host for the evening. He reports a growing
interest in media education among educators. New Mexico schools, for instance,
require a course in media education in order to graduate high school.
- Postman believes media education can
begin in first grade. He says younger students can "monitor what they
watch, and talk about what they watch, see if they can make distinctions
between fantasy and reality." Media education can continue through
the university level, he says, and it's not confined to advertising. Postman
says a critical viewing of television news leads to questions like "What
was the basis for the selection of the news stories: was it because they
had good tape footage? What stories were downplayed and why was it? Because
they didn't have tape footage?"