Is popular culture still ‘popular’ in our filtered social media bubble ?

Jib Fowles describes in his book “Advertising & Popular Culture”, the differences and the implicit relationship between Advertising and Popular culture. Written in 1996, I wonder how this relationship has evolved in this present day.

Let’s start by outlining the meaning of popular culture.

Pop-Culture is what we make out of the products and practices of a mass-produced culture. Popular culture is expressive content, the entirety of attitudes, ideas and images within what is mass-produced and mass-consumed.


What is advertising? 

Advertising is a paid-for message that attempts to transfer symbols taken from popular culture, onto products or services to increase the likelihood that these will be appealing in order to drive sales.

From these descriptions, it is quite obvious to see how advertising both draws from and contributes to popular culture.

Most successful ads are the ones that not only sell their commodities but can also become part of the popular culture. It shows that the message and creative is deeply rooted in a powerful insight, that resonates with a large group of people.

What Jib Fowles wrote his book and much of his analysis is still relevant in today’s advertising. However, the definition of popular culture as “the expression of content within what is mass-consumed” makes me question its relevance in today’s culture. 


Why? I hear you asking….

Young Adult, spend on average 27 mins per day on Instagram! Social platforms are the primary channels of content consumption and content creation. The content we consume is influenced by what our peers are sharing and by what Mark Zuckerberg’s algorithm decides to show us really. 

Therefore the content that I am consuming in my feed is certainly different from yours.

Is mass – consumption of content still a thing? Should we rather talk about micro-consumption?

For brands to grow,  advertising content needs to resonate with a large audience. What is the value of an advert that only reaches or engage with a few? 

Brands and marketers, therefore NEED to work much harder to deep-dive into these micro-culture and understand how is my popular culture compares to yours, in order to create messages that will resonate with a mass of micro-culture.

I don’t think that jumping on the latest trending hashtag does the job. The subtleties, the language, the values shared by these micro-audiences need to be understood.


 For example, on December 1st, 2017, Refinery29 launched an Instagram account : 

“r29Unbothered. Made for and by black millennial women, celebrating the beauty, strength, and power in our community”. 

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Today the account has 17k followers. 

The content is cutting edge, the language is razor sharp and I double-tap every single post!

Yes, This is what I am talking about!

To conclude, brands & marketers NEED people from diverse background & gender, IN the boardroom, as the decision-makers, to succeed otherwise they WILL fail. 

Also, let ‘s keep it real!

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Enough with using the topic of diversity solely as PR stunt, hiring “Diversity Manager” and creatives from “ALL background”… this sounds good but is pointless if the decision makers still remain the same old white men…

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