Era of Consequences: Using Ads to Relay the Message and Promote Change through Priming, Framing and Agenda Setting


Climate change is an overwhelming issue, yet among the millions of advertisements, media and devices that compete for our attention, we do not give it the salience it deserves. Most of us know that our cars produce green house gases; leaving devices turned on wastes energy, and we should recycle. Climate change deserves more salience than that. Plaguing the planet, it bypasses continents, cultures and languages. We could be making substantial changes around the world in our daily lives right now to combat this transcontinental issue, but instead we continue to consume and ignore. Consistent reminders of these issues among the constant diversions that press our attentions daily are key to a transition from consumerism to sustainable practices.

This is a proposal to use framing, priming and agenda setting to improve Canadian exposure to environmental issues through ads on Canadian Broadcasting Stations.

 Ads are the Perfect Primer

            Advertisements in the twentieth century have become “the most powerful and sustained system of propaganda in human history” (Jhally, 2000, p.27) and it promotes the acceptance of “a standardized code of social conduct to which we conform” (Bernays, 1928, p. 39). Currently ads are used everywhere in Canada to promote overt consumption and support our capitalistic society. They can be found on television, magazines, the internet, buses, lobbies, the cinema, buses, and even parks. They are short and succinct bits of information or images that nudge, press and even harass us everyday.

If we consider Samuel L. Popkins theory of low-information rational and the potential use of heuristics; advertisements become the perfect medium to inform, educate and prime the public about climate change and sustainability. (Although originally talking about government the following statement embodies the issue of climate change as well) Popkin states that society has a “limited amount of information about [climate change], a limited knowledge of how [sustainability] works, and a limited understanding of how [an individuals] actions are connected to consequences of immediate concern to them” (1993, p. 8). Beyond that, most “individuals are unlikely to spend time acquiring copious amounts of information” (Sniderman, As cited by McDonald, 2009, p.47), which renders lengthy articles, news stories and documentaries mostly ineffective. This is not to say that other media should not continue to discuss these issues as well.

However, the availability heuristic could be utilized here to advance the affectivity of the overall communication of these concerns. Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman suggest that “things that come to mind more easily are believed to be far more common and more accurate reflections of the real world” (Cherry, 2015). The repetition and consistency of ads about sustainability would instill small amounts of information that can be accessed easily later to make decisions on sustainability and even daily actions. This method is known as priming, which works by “making an issue more accessible” (McDonald, 2009, p.50).; influencing people through exposure (McDonald, 2009, p.50).

One argument against the use of low-information rational and heuristics is that is often promotes bias because it leaves out substantial pieces of information in order for it to simplify it. However, when it comes to climate change and sustainability our planet is now at the point of no return, the amount of damage we have done and are doing needs to be reconciled and a new direction formulated now. Does oil make our lives easier…. Yes. Do we need it… no? So why then do we put the survival of oil ahead of our own? This is because the current advertisements we see everyday promote consumption and capitalistic ideals.

 Using Framing to Increase Ad Susceptibility

Since the end of the nineteenth century companies from around the world have poured billions of dollars and resources into researching the most effective methods of advertising “to create a culture in which desire and identity would be fused with commodities” (Jhally, 2000. p.28). The advertising industry has known since the 1920’s that what people consider to be of most value are their social relationships. So instead of using this information to endorse the sale of commodities, let us use it to expose issues and promote change.

In order to show you what I mean here, I have chosen the method of emphasis framing and the topic of Nature-Deficit Disorder. Richard Louv coined the term Nature-Deficit Disorder to describe how “direct exposure to nature [is] essential for a child’s healthy physical and emotional development” and without a relationship with nature the next generations would disassociate with it. Louv states “lacking direct experience with nature, children begin to associate it with fear and apocalypse, not joy and wonder” (Louv, 2008, p. 134) and without that connection, why would or how could the next generation preserve it?

To use emphasis framing to promote this idea we could ask parents how or where do they imagine their child’s ideal play area or experience of the outdoor world? If we consider the following images, which do you think most parents would identify with?

                                       (Eartheasy, 2012)                                                                    (Corbis Images, 2011)
                                     (City Snaps, 2001)                                                       (78th Street Play Street in Jackson Heights, 2010)
                                    (Davis, 2013)                                                                   (Erickson, 2012)

             Most parents will identify with the first set and some with the second set, however the third set currently represents the actual outdoor experience of most of the world. This is due to an excess of garbage produced. James N. Druckman (2001) states that “by emphasizing a subset of potentially relevant considerations, [one] can lead individuals to focus on these considerations when constructing their opinions” (p.230). Therefore, by emphasizing the fact that this is all of our children’s future if we do not stop consuming the way we currently are, this would affect most parents’ family values and eventually most likely their attitude toward issues like natural area destruction or waste generation and management. The use of priming, repetition and heuristics through the medium of advertising is the best means of popularizing the topic of sustainability and promoting change.

Promoting Change: Who should take this on?

            John Zaller claims “that both elite and media perspectives can set the agenda for public opinion” thus it is in the best interest of the cause to be supported by political party. Currently, the Green Party of Canada’s value and visions align with changing minds on climate change and protecting Canadian Broadcasting. They recognize that it is imperative “that the Canadian government set real targets, with measurable objectives” (, 2015) and that it is necessary “to correct the perception that economic success is dependent on growth… [as] continued exponential growth” (, 2015) simply is not possible on a finite planet.

The Green Party is aware that our generation has the mind set of “shop till you drop”, that “we create more solid waste per capita” and that Canadians “think we are more environmentally conscious than we are” (, 2015). However, the party still lacks the support of most Canadians. Perhaps this is because Canadian Citizens values are being exploited to purchase more commodities. Considering that “elements prominent on the media agenda become prominent in the public mind” (McCombs, 2002, p.2), priming the public through a series of framed advertisements across the country through Canadian Broadcasting, promoting sustainability through our social values will increase support both for the party itself and the issues themselves. Their agenda has been set; they have but to find the perfect medium to put it into action.

No End in Sight

The world is currently racing toward the end of our planet- change is vital. Framed advertisements of social values and environmental issues are the best means of obtaining the salience and support necessary to deal with these issues. Generally, we have this idea that we must disconnect to reconnect with nature. However, the repetitive nature and low information rationality advertisements use daily are the perfect way of clarifying that connection across Canada through an elite group such as the Green Party of Canada. Our values are deeply embedded within the survival of our planet, so lets become a culture where our desires and identities are fused with sustainability. 


78th Street Play Street in Jackson Heights. (2010). [image] Retrieved from:

Bernays, E. and Miller, M. (2005). Propaganda. Chapter 1: Organizing Chaos. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Ig Pub.

Cherry, K. (2015). What Is an Availability Heuristic?. [online] Education. Retrieved from:

City Snaps, (2001). Play street. [image] Retrieved from:

Corbis Images, (2011). Are children getting outside enough to play with each other?. [image] Retrieved from:

Davis, E. (2013). The land. [image] Retrieved from:

Druckman, James N. 2001. “The Implications of Framing Effects for Citizen

Competence.” Political Behavior. 23:225-256. Retrieved from:

Eartheasy, (2012). Children playing outside. [image] Retrieved from:

Erickson, A. (2012). The Dumps, Train Tracks and Polluted Water Where Kids Play. [image] Retrieved from:, (2015). 3.7 Zero waste | Green Party of Canada. [online] Retrieved from:, (2015). Friends of Canadian Broadcasting | Green Party of Canada. [online] Retrieved from:, (2015). Part 3: Preserving and Restoring the Environment | Green Party of Canada. [online] Retrieved from:

Jhally, Sut. (2000). Chapter 1: Advertising at the Edge of the Apocalypse. In R. Andersen & L. Strate (Eds.), Critical Studies in Media Commercialism (pp.27-39). New York: Oxford University Press.

McCombs, M. (2002, June). The agenda-setting role of the mass media in the shaping of public opinion. In Mass Media Economics 2002 Conference, London School of Economics: http://sticerd. lse. ac. uk/dps/extra/McCombs. pdf.

McDonald, S. (2009). Changing climate, changing minds: Applying the literature on media effects, public opinion, and the issue-attention cycle to increase public understanding of climate change. International Journal of Sustainability Communication, 4, 45-63.

Popkin, S. L. (1994). The reasoning voter: Communication and persuasion in presidential campaigns. University of Chicago Press.

The True Nature of Advertising: Perfect Expression, Yet a Complete Fail of Communication


Advertising pervades our lives. Yet, short of discussing the intensity of the super bowl adds or our frustration of cinemas now playing adds before movies- how often do we actually contemplate the affect advertising has on our daily lives and happiness? In Stay Free Magazines article On Advertising, neo-Marxist Sut Jhally and culture critic James Twitchell go head to head debating the true nature of advertising (McLaren, 1999). Although twentieth century advertising shows us the newest commodities available to make our lives easier or better, they are also the means to fueling our capitalist society and the main distraction from what lies behind the curtain (Jhally, 2000, p. 27). Sut Jhally is correct in identifying the true nature of adds as being bad for society and our future. However, the means by which Jhally and other academics relay this knowledge further deters the public from reaching the socialism he and Karl Marx believe must be reached to preserve our humanism.

Jhally’s Point of View: What do ads do that is so bad?

When we look at an ad, what do we see? What is our reasoning for purchasing that specific product? Generally we purchase items because we either need them or want them. Advertisements are used to sell us items that we don’t necessarily need but want because either the ad has done it’s job and makes it seem as though we need it or it could potentially allow for us to lead happier lives.

According to ads “the way to happiness and satisfaction is through the consumption of objects through the market place” (Jhally, 2000, p.30). Is that true though? Does your happiness come from the material things you buy and surround yourself with? The answer is generally no, and it

is actually the social relationships we have or want that make us happy. “Advertisers are delivering images of what people say they want connected to the things advertisers sell” (McClaren, 1999, p.3). Let us take the following bounty ad into consideration to clarify this point.

(Proctor and Gamble, 2014)                                       (Bounty, n.d.)

Both of the above ads are advertising the same product in different ways. However, the difference is minimal as they are both attempting to capture our attention through the attainment or focus on a social relationship. The first ads direction is geared toward a family, the premise being that one can spend more time with their family if they don’t have to spend as much time cleaning up messes. While the second ad is geared toward a single person- not only can you clean up your messes, if bounty is on hand you can also use it to write down a phone number. In basics, bounty is always there when you need it most so that you can focus on your social relationships.

This same idea is reproduced through mass media communication instead of physical objects. Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer coined the term culture industry in their book Dialectic of Enlightenment (1994), to describe this event occurring with mass communication media. Culture itself has become a mass produced industry. Everything from Hollywood movies, to video games, to hip hop is forced into a mold to be mass produced in a formulated form and sold through tickets, Netflix, iTunes, etc. “Ideology and culture are infused to create a mono-dimensional” (Remillard, 2015) happy culture of individual consumers instead of a collectivistic expressive society.

Why is this necessarily a bad thing?

One factor here we have not yet considered is the fact that advertisements fuel our capitalistic consumer driven western society. In order for the market to survive it depends on advertisements and media to sell the commodities it produces, while the media and advertisements depend on the funding from those production companies creating the commodities. It is a cyclical cycle that is completely dependent on us as consumers to keep consuming the way we have to ensure market stability.

Therefore it is in the markets best interests to “appeal to the worst in us (greed, selfishness) and discourages what is best in us (compassion, caring and generosity)” (Jhally, 2000, p.33). The truth is that our way of life (consumerism) cannot be sustained on this planet for a variety of reasons; limited resources (oil, water, cadmium, etc.), no where to put our excess products (garbage), green house gases/ burning of fossil fuels are causing climate change. Instead of dealing with these collective issues that affect us all, the market floods our lives with problems we never thought we had. We are so busy attempting make sure we buy the best solvent for keeping red wine out of the carpet that our collective societal issues are left by the wayside. Barbara Ehrenreich eloquently express this point, “we have dozens of varieties of breakfast cereals, and no help for the hungry” (as quoted in Jhally, 2000, p.33).

“Advertising systematically relegates discussion of key social issues to the peripheries of the culture and talks in powerful ways instead of individual desire, fantasy, pleasure and comfort”(Jhally, 2000, p.34). Barbara Ehrenreich also eloquently expresses this point, “we have dozens of varieties of breakfast cereals, and no help for the hungry” (as quoted in Jhally, 2000, p.33).

There are More Ads Than Ever: Mass Communication is Key

So why is it that in 2015, approximately 15 years after this particular discussion On Advertising and Jhally’s Advertising at the Edge of the apocalypse were actually published we are seeing ads more then ever? It is at this juncture that Jhally and other philosophers like himself can take a lesson from James Twitchell. Although I don’t agree with his take on media and advertising I do think his view on communication is absolutely vital if there are to be any advances against the current situation.

Carrie McLaren depicts Twitchell as a man who “writes for the lay reader. He’s witty, sharp, and prone to pithy aphorisms–not unlike an ad man”(McLaren, 1999, p.1). As I have stated above, current mass media reaches the masses in an effective way. So why then are we not delivering these truths in the same effective manner? Twitchell describes how he was “amazed by how little [his] students knew about literature compared to advertising”(McLaren, 1999, p.2). IN contrast, Jhally has the opinion that his and others’ “ideas are popular on campuses because it is the one place where they can be expressed” yet “when people ask [him] what to do, [he] says that’s not [his] job”(McLaren, 1999, p.4). In my opinion this is the wrong attitude for a leftist professor or philosopher to have and it instead embodies the opinion of a right white collar, petite bourgeoisie to have.

First, “as of 2007, the percentage of the working Canadian population (25 to 64) with a university degree was around 25%… [and] (just over 30%) are getting college and trades education” (Pettigrew, 2011), this means that only 55% of the population even have a chance of receiving this type of information. When in reality due to class allowance, different degree types and difference of opinions between professors only a fraction of that percentage will actually be exposed to information of this kind. Jhally continues to express that it is vital for a community to support this type of information and the left part of society to build institutions to provide people support. However, if not Jhally then who?


The true nature of advertising, culture industry and capitalist consumer society is on the table. It is now time to hone the same talents used to sell the masses toilet paper, shoes, and cars, and remind people of what their true values are. Bus stop ads, TV ads, Facebook ads the mediums are endless and there for the taking (bought). If ads have the power to sell us an endless array of products by reproducing the need for them through our need for social relationships, then they can be used to remind us of those roots of our happiness without the excess jargon. Jhally is right in saying that advertisements target us individually, and our collective action is our only chance at reforming our addiction to consumerism.


Bounty, (n.d.). Bounty Advertisment with phone Numbers. [image] Retrieved from:

Jhally, Sut. (2000). Chapter 1: Advertising at the Edge of the Apocalypse. In R. Andersen & L. Strate (Eds.), Critical Studies in Media Commercialism (pp.27-39). New York: Oxford University Press.

McClaren, C. (1999) On advertising: Sut Jhally vs. James Twitchell  Stay Free 16. Retrieved from:

Pettigrew, T. (2011). Who should go to university?. Macleans. [online] Retrieved from:

Proctor and Gamble, (2014). Bounty with mother and daughter depiction. [image] Retrieved from:

Remillard, C. (2015, Jan). Comm 365, Week Three Lecture [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from: Royal Roads University Moodle website

Remillard, C. (2015, Jan) COMM365 Marxist and neo-Marxist Perspectives on Media and Culture: Marx, Frankfurt School, Jhally [Powerpoint presentation]. Retrieved from Lecture Notes Online:

The Missing Chapter: Including Children in the Process to End Nature-Deficit Disorder

Introduction of a Missing Chapter

Our perceptions of nature are dependent on our physical experiences with nature (Louv, 2008). However, containerization of kids (Jane Clark, as cited in Louv, 2008, p.35), man made play structures and dependency on technology are just a few of the factors obstructing the links humanity, especially children, have with nature. This leads to what Richard Louv has coined as Nature-Deficit Disorder; if children have no relationship with the natural world why would or how could they preserve it (2008).

In Louv’s book, The Last Child in the Woods, he gathers research from around the world combining a variety of different topics all related to how “direct exposure to nature [is] essential for a child’s healthy physical and emotional development” (Louv, 2008). This book is vital to the movement of leaving no child inside and bringing them back to nature, however there seems to be one chapter missing. The perspective of the child is not included. Children are being left out of a process and a series of decisions that affect them and their future. Although, Louv includes a series of adult academics stories of their childhood, his sons’ occasional point of view and a few other examples, he fails to include what children of 2008 to now think about nature and any future preservation.

Children have been identified as the future, the only hope the natural environment has of surviving is that children develop a relationship with it. Yet without including them in that process of decisions we suffocate that relationship and turn it into something else they are forced to do without choice.

Why include Children in the Process

Although Roberta Bosisio’s article Children’s Right to Be Heard: What Children Think focuses on the inclusion of a child’s opinion or perspective within the Italian legal system in judicial proceedings affecting them, the same idea should be applied to saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. When “young people feel that they do not have any influence upon decisions” they separate themselves from it, while involving them “means they can influence some of the things that affect them, and offer a different perspective from adults” (Ministry of social development, n.d., p.1).

In addition to the many benefits exposure to nature nurtures in a child (learning new information and skills and allowing their creativity to flourish in nature), including children in the process allows them to “build their confidence” and adults to “acknowledge children’s important role in society” (Ministry of social development, n.d., p.1).

Including Kids in the Process: Examples and Barriers

Elizabeth Boileau of Royal Roads University created a program called River Buddies to “gain insight into young children’s interest in and experience of the natural world” (2006, p.2). She states that children are naturally curious, so it is not difficult to engage them in discovering nature (Boileau, 2006, p.50). Although she had pre-meditated activities, she left the schedule open and flexible allowing for children to take the reigns. Many parents would argue that time is not necessarily abundant and can act as a barrier to this process. However, infinite time is not necessary, the point is that the time is spent allowing kids to be kids and discover nature with slight guidance or supervision. This is referred to as an emergent curriculum; where the time is “guided by what the children want to learn, as opposed to what the teacher wants to teach” (Boileau, 2006, p.59).

In addition to time and resources’, the denial of the value of a child’s perception and thinking they lack experience is a tremendous barrier. Parents and communities make decisions that affect children on a daily basis without including them in the process. Parents decide children cannot play in the mud because kids will get dirty, schools decide play grounds should be changed because they are outdated, communities decide which activities will be offered to children. All of these decisions affect kids and yet those same kids have no say. This is not to say that children should be depended on to make these decisions on their own. However, it is “only through the opportunity to take part in decision-making processes within the family, school and local community will children learn about their rights and duties and respect decisions” (Bosisio, 2012, p.4).

Including a child’s decision can be as small as allowing them to decide which hiking path to take, the speed at which you move, the leaves for your art project or the outdoor adventure itself. Similar to Simon Nicholson’s Loose Parts Theory, which both Louv and Boileau commend and support, is not about the finish line or finished product it is about the experience. It is through planning, moving within and eventual understanding of the pieces themselves that creates a working relationship.

With all of today’s distractions and busy lifestyle, no one is saying this transition is easy and more barriers exist then the ones listed here, but the relationship your child will develop with nature is life long and crucial to survival of many species and ecosystems.

These same ideas can be extended to school and community activities or programs. Hilary Inwood’s Cultivating Artistic Approaches to Environmental Learning explores eco-art in the traditional classroom. The experiments were found to be the most effective when children were involved in the entire process, from pre-planning to conclusion (2012). Simply discussing and practicing sustainability is not enough, as what are we sustaining; our technological advances, T.V., fast food and fast travel? (Olsen, 2012) Supporting a relationship with nature allows kids to rewild and re-connect with something many do not see value in.


Last Child in the Woods both inspires and accelerates activism. Many of the academic perspectives included within have worked with children and even collected their perspective. Therefore, if another version is to be published this subject matter is vital. To support those who include children in the decision making process, the active process, is not enough. Listening to children and identifying their perspective and feelings about nature will allow for a deeper connection with the natural environment. This is an avenue to defeat Nature-Deficit Disorder.


Boileau, E. (2014). “IT’S ALIVE!”: An exploration of young children’s perceptions of the natural world. Masters of art in environmental education and communication. Royal Roads University.

Bosisio, R. (2012). Children’s Right to Be Heard: What Children Think. The International Journal of Children’s Rights, 20(1), pp.141-154.

Charles, C., & Louv, R. (2009). Children’s nature deficit: What we know and don’t know. Children and Nature Network, 1-32.

Commissioner for Children, (2014). Involving Children in Decision Making. Tasmania.

Inwood, H. (2013). Cultivating artistic approaches to environmental learning: Exploring eco-art education in elementary classrooms*. International Electronic Journal of Environmental Education, [online] 3(2). Available at:

Louv, R. (2005). Last child in the woods. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

Ministry of social development, (n.d.). Involving children: A guide to engaging children in decision-making. Wellington, New Zealand: Ministry of social development, pp.1-15.

Olsen, M. (2012). Unlearn, Rewild. Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers.