There's been a long standing debate about whether the media (television, cinema, theater, music, advertising, etc.) reflects the culture or drives it. For those that believe media drives the culture they need look no farther than the poker phenomenom.
As long ago as 2002, the American Gaming Association reported that poker was losing its popularity to other forms of gambling like lotteries and slots. Then ESPN broadcast the World Series of Poker in 2003 to fill a hole in its programming schedule. The ratings were huge. Other broadcasters quickly followed with Celebrity Poker Showdown and the World Poker Tour.
Today it's hard to turn on the television and not see a poker game. And poker is big business. Chips are on sale on the end-caps at local grocery stores. Free poker websites have sprung up luring gamblers to free games in an attempt to promote them to higher stakes gambling. Casinos are expanding poker rooms that sat completely empty just three years ago. Consumer spending on poker doubled between 2002 and 2004.
Whether you think the poker craze is good or bad for society, it's obvious that the media has ample power to drive consumer behavior and popular culture. Yes, media reflects our culture back to us, but first it sets the standard that consumers embrace.
And that in a nutshell is why advertisers are willing to spend billions every year in the media to drive consumer behavior. It works.