Advertisement Review Essay: Social Mobility in America – Movin On Up
20 Mar 2016
The pursuit of wealth is a never-ending goal which consumes many of us for a lifetime. As we continue on this life-long quest of accumulation, we are especially vulnerable to advertisements which depict images of what life will be like once we achieve upward social mobility. It is common for the media to depict the life of luxury as having lavish surroundings and complete control over the environment around you. But the recent advertisement titled “Movin On Up” by Apartments.com takes this type of message to an entirely new level. The ad features families being moved into four different apartments in an upscale New York City apartment building. You get a glimpse into each apartment from the viewpoint of Jeff Goldblum, who is singing the theme song to the 70’s sitcom The Jeffersons titled “Movin On Up”. On the surface, the ad sends a message which states you can improve your life if you move to a nicer apartment building. But underneath the surface the ad implies that once you move up the socioeconomic ladder you will be afforded the opportunity to live a completely care-free lifestyle with total disregard for the world around you. They demonstrate this by setting benchmarks for what we could be spending our time and money on once we are able to move up the social ladder. These images are especially concerning since they are painting a portrait of behavioral choices that, if adopted, will make it more difficult to reach our goals of upward mobility. Not only will they hinder personal progress, they also set a dangerous precedent for what is to be expected of those of us who are able to achieve higher levels of social and economic success. We will explore each of the socioeconomic implications of the ad in more detail, but let’s first start with the company’s slogan and how it relates to the care-free attitude portrayed within the “Movin On Up” advertisement.
The wording of the slogan clearly implies that the further you move up the social ladder, the less you will have to be concerned with the world around you. Take a second to analyze the company’s slogan, which is “Change your apartment – change THE world (emphasis added)”. What can possibly be changed about the world when you change your apartment? It is quite obvious that changing your apartment will only change your physical surroundings, so the implied message is that as you upgrade your physical environment you can adopt the idiom of “out of sight, out of mind”. This position of total disregard for the world around you is also portrayed in the last scene which shows someone kicking a football over the edge of the top floor of a building in New York City, which is the most densely populated urban area in America (Wilson). When visiting New York, some of the first things you notice is that almost every parking spot is taken, the flow of cars on most city streets is continuous, and pedestrian traffic is higher than in any other US city. This combined set of facts increases the odds that the football will damage someone else’s property, cause a car accident, or could even cause severe trauma to an individual if the football were to hit them. Not many of us are going to see this ad and want to kick a football over the edge of a building as the safety concerns immediately come to mind. Even though we know the act is not sensible, the implied meaning of messages like this are still used to define the minds eye image of what kind of mentality is acceptable once wealth, fame, or upward mobility is achieved.
For the sake of clarity, I’m going to center the second implied message around the themes that are most consistent throughout the entirety of the ad. Each different scene can be analyzed for a unique implied meaning, but there is some consistency throughout the scenes. The message that stays consistent has to do with what you will be able to do with your time and money once you start moving up. Let’s dissect each of these issues, as they hold equal importance. Throughout the ad it is demonstrated that you will no longer have to lift a finger on trivial work. All of the families that are being moved in to the building are being cared for in such a way that they don’t even have to walk into their new apartment on their own. To further this point, you have the last scene, where everyone besides the person cooking food is just lounging around doing absolutely nothing. You could even say the person cooking food is enjoying his time leisurely, if you interpret the final scene to be an attempted demonstration of someone enjoying time with their friends. The implied message is that once you accumulate wealth and move up the social ladder, you will then have the freedom to enjoy your time leisurely. This message couldn’t be further from the truth. Since there can only be one richest person in the world, no matter how far we climb up the ladder of social mobility, their will still be plenty of levels to continue climbing. Once we start ascending the ladder, if we change our habits and start spending all of our time leisurely we will more than likely become stagnant at our current level, or even worse, find ourselves developing bad habits which could then cause a quick descent back down the ladder of social success.
The other message that is consistent throughout the ad is the expenditure of money on frivolous goods. As we move up the apartment complex it seems that the spending only gets more frivolous. The scene that best highlights this is a scene with a woman being moved into her new apartment which features expensive antique furniture, leopard print carpeting, and an entire wall full of shoes. Scenes like this seem to be designed to depict over-the-top extravagance, but they still send a message that states as your income grows so should your spending. This type of thinking can actually help inspire people to want to earn more since they have so many new desires that they feel the need to fulfill. With that stated, it should not be concluded that extreme consumerism is detrimental to social mobility. What we should be focusing our attention on is the shallow level of our goals and how it may be affecting our motivation to achieve higher levels of social mobility throughout life.
If these types of images are what inspire us to continue on the path of upward social mobility, what kind of society will we end up with? We may have a perfect example of this, and that is the world that we currently live in. Instead of placing blame for our current situation on advertisers, consumerism, or social inequalities, maybe it’s time to analyze the root causes of what inspires us to accomplish and achieve more. Currently the United States is faced with record levels of income inequality and has one of the lowest rates of social mobility among industrial nations (Kraus). A study by Markus Jantti, which compared mobility between six industrial nations found that 42% of American men raised in the lowest income bracket remained in that same income bracket throughout the entirety of life (Jantti). Could it be that our comparatively low levels of social mobility are due to us not giving adequate reasons and motivations to want to achieve and earn more? Just imagine if we displayed images of all the good that can be accomplished with wealth. We could demonstrate charities being started, communities being rebuilt, and parks being built or cared for in communities that are typically neglected. Instead of excessive spending of time and money on consumerism and leisure, we could show people moving up the social ladder and then going back and investing in the community that they were raised in. Could this change of focus help inspire us to work harder and help reverse the trend of a generally stagnant level of mobility between classes (Mobility)?
Jantti, Markus, Bernt Bratsberg, and Robin Naylor. American Exceptionalism in a New Light: A Comparison of Intergenerational Earnings Mobility in the Nordic Countries, the United Kingdom and the United States. Rep. no. 1938. IZA. Web. 05 Mar. 2016.
Kraus, Michael W., and Jacinth J.x. Tan. “Americans Overestimate Social Class Mobility.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 58 (2015): 101-11. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.
“Mobility, Measured; Class in America.” Economist (US) 1 Feb. 2014: n. pag. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.
Wilson, Steven G. Patterns of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Population Change: 2000 to 2010. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010., 01 Sept. 2012. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.
Latest posts by ericJK (see all)
- Essay: Wearable Technology at Work: Privacy and Performance - June 24, 2016
- Installing & Configuring Tinyproxy on an Ubuntu Server - June 24, 2016
- Essay: Adrian Peterson & Ray Rice: Excuses - June 24, 2016