The two advertisements that I have selected are both for the Cadillac XTS automobile. They are both rather simple advertisements in terms of their look. They prominently feature the Cadillac XTS moving swiftly along on open roads. Each has manmade things (bridges, buildings) as well as nature (rivers, trees) visible in the background with the car in the foreground. The text that is common to both ads emphasizes luxury and power. It mentions that the car has a 410 horsepower engine. It talks about the 8-way power-adjustable seats which are also heated and ventilated. It mentions the heated steering wheel. The slogans are different in the two ads. One says “You Don’t Start It. You Unleash It.” The other says “My, what a big engine you have. The better to blow doors off, my dear.” In other words, both slogans are meant to emphasize the power of the car. This goes well with the images of the car moving fast on open roads.
These ads tell us a great deal about our society. They tell us that cars are a very important symbol of freedom, status, and power in our society. The pictures emphasize that the right car can take us away from the city and the crowds and let us drive freely in a relatively empty and natural setting. The slogans imply that the right car gives us power over other people or makes us superior to them (we can “blow their doors off”). Cars, these ads tell us, are much more than a utilitarian device for moving us and our belongings from place to place. They have a special place in our culture.
One sociological theory that can be applied here is the conflict theory. In this view, advertising tells us which part of society we belong to and emphasizes that our part of society is better than the other part. If we can have enough money to be in the target audience for Cadillac ads, the ads imply, we are better than other people. We are able to afford luxuries that they cannot. We are able to “unleash” our powerful machines and dominate them. A conflict theorist could argue that these ads are meant to encourage us to see ourselves as superior to other socioeconomic groups in our society.