Hyperreality is a concept that has its roots in semiotics and postmodernism. It is the inability of consciousness to distinguish reality from imaginary. Jean Baudrillard is one of the most famous theorists and believers of this concept, believing that people may find themselves more involved with the hyperreal world and less involved with the physical real world. Baudrillard is concerned with the powers of mass media and the potential risk that we will be absorbed into mass media – when representation gives way to simulation. The ever growing presence of the digital world we live in shows that we are on the brink of this happening. The Internet has become an information superhighway, becoming a form of virtual reality in which the screen is a hyperreal carrier for moving across and through a digital and simulated world.
The ever growing presence of the digital world we live in shows that we are on the brink of this happening. The Internet has become an information superhighway, becoming a form of virtual reality in which the screen is a hyperreal carrier for moving across and through a digital and simulated world. There’s a range of guide books available online that evoke images of navigation and exploration. Google Earth contains an interface that lets users “explore” essentially all parts of the (physical) world, complete with street and aerial views of each location. The Internet forges a virtual space that replaces real space, creating a world of transparency and closeness beyond the screen, at one’s disposal for cybertravel and expedition. Baudrillard, in The Transparency of Evil, conveys his view of the world entering a recurring stage: “the perpetual tourism of people who no longer undertake voyages in the true sense, but simply go round and round in circles within their circumscribed territory” (Baudrillard, Benedict 1993). Mark Nunes writes “Internet does not simply lay down a mesh of connections between real-life nodes/computers, annihilating distance; it creates and maintains its own simulated world in place of the physical world of spatial distances” (Nunes 1995), asserting similar views to Baudrillard’s.
Baudrillard is accredited with the creation of the term “retreat of the real” – which he explains as whatever reality we think there is has just retreated behind some sort of image. This “retreat” can be illustrated by other post-modern theorists through advertising, in that it [advertising] manipulates us into a range of false needs and turns us into consumers. In Simulacra and Simulations, Baudrillard writes: “Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal” (Baudrillard 1981). Today, advertisements are explicit examples of Baudrillard’s hyperreality – marketers create a symbol or image(s) which aim to represent something that doesn’t exist – something that a consumer doesn’t have when they view the ad, something that they’ll want to own and experience for themselves after being exposed to the ad. As consumers, we see an ad on TV and imagine ourselves in the position of whoever is starring in the ad – which, if viewed enough times and wanted enough, will lead us to buy the product or use the service featured in the ad – just what marketers want. All advertisements seamlessly show us symbols and imaginary situations and images that we perceive as reality. They are plastered in the way of consumers and are so rampant that they could be considered to be in a hyperreal state – it’s becoming more difficult to distinguish between what’s an ad and what’s not.
The Advertising Association has predicted that 70,000 new advertising-related jobs could be created in the UK by 2019. This would involve a 14.2% growth in advertising-related jobs, compared to average predicted growth of 5.6% in the rest of the economy during this period.
In 2010, the most complained about ad in Australia was an ad from the Advanced Medical Institute about erectile dysfunction. To promote the effectiveness of the drug, the ad showed a wife using her husband’s erection as a step stool to reach something out of a high cabinet.
In 1907, Kellogg’s launched a campaign called “Wink Day” to promote Cornflakes. Women were encouraged to “wink at your grocer and see what you get” (a free box of cereal)!
Advertising is everywhere. Marketers are continuing to come up with new and innovative ways to cut through the ad clutter of the modern world to constantly (or so it seems) target us as consumers. Using strategies like ambient advertising, stealth-endorsers, naming rights, targeted advertising, cross-merchandising, product placement, and digital advertising, marketers expose us to their astute commercial messages and images, leaving us to decide who and what we believe – a decision that is expressed when we spend our money.
Advertising Association, 2015. Advertising to create 70,000 jobs in five years. [online]. Available at: http://www.adassoc.org.uk/news/advertising-to-create-70000-jobs-in-five-years/ [Accessed 13/2/2017].
Baudrillard, J., Benedict, J, 2009. The Transparency of Evil: Essays on Extreme Phenomena. New York: Verso.
Baudrillard, J. 1988. Simulacra and Simulations. Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings. [online]. Available at: https://web.stanford.edu/class/history34q/readings/Baudrillard/Baudrillard_Simulacra.html/ [Accessed 20/2/2017].
MrBreakfast, 2016. Corn Flakes (Kellogg’s). [online]. Available at: http://www.m/breakfast.com/cereal_detail.asp?id=96 [Accessed 13/2/2017].
Nudd, T. Adweek, 2010. Wife-standing-on-penis ad bothers Australia. [online]. Available at: http://www.adweek.com/creativity/wife-standing-penis-ad-bothers-australia-11814/ [Accessed 13/2/2017].
Nunes, M. 1995. Jean Baudrillard in cyberspace: Internet, virtuality, and postmodernity. [online]. Available at: http://www.english.txstate.edu/cohen_p/postmodern/Technology/Nunes.html/ [Accessed 13/2/2017].