Tobacco and alcohol advertising presents the masses with little idea of the quality of the product. After all, we can't taste a cold beer or a fine cigar by looking at an advertisement. But what we taste is an option for an alternate way of being. When we are sold these products, we are sold these models of lifestyle. Who would want to believe that a tangible, disposable product of commerce could shape the way we define ourselves in all aspects of our lives? But the power of images is in their convincing suggestion, their devious cunning, and their truthful lies. Picasso said that art was a lie posing as the truth; I'd be inclined to say that advertising, by that definition, is one of the most sophisticated of arts.
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Some basic statements about the makers of these media images should be made. It is no surprise that advertisers are marketing products to the largest audience possible to make a profit. Through their advertising they sell products commercially and values implicitly, the cost for that being belief in the claims of their product. To ensure that the purchase of these products be sustained, marketers must effectively create cultural dependency for their product by relating a value Surgeon General Warningsystem to the customer, one by which the customer (and masses) will define themselves. This process of commercial exchange unwittingly enables cultural exchange (at full cost of the purchaser, while the product is actually free). Again paraphrasing McCluhlan, the product is an excuse for us to by advertising, whether we are aware of it or not. Through this process, a symbol of value is