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Advertising plays a crucial role in the world that we live in. Every day, the media expands and thousands of magazines, TV commercials, radio stations and newspapers are released. Advertisement is found in every single one of these Medias. It is important because it helps individuals know what products are popular on the marketplace. As a college student, I myself am very influenced by advertisement. I come across ads on the internet, on the radio, on television, and on magazines. But are these advertisements really helpful to the consumers or are we just being manipulated into buying a product? This question deserves to be examined because millions of people are being affected by advertisement each and every day. They might not even realize that advertisers use psychological techniques in order to persuade the consumer to buy their product, and eventually change their spending and living tendency.
Before I could focus on the advertiser’s psychological techniques, I first needed to find out about the ethics of advertisement. I started my research by reading a news article, “Precious Information or Vicious Manipulation,” from Ezine Articles, to give me a simple understanding of it. Each different commerce has its own rules for the ethical requirements. There are, however, four marketing communication requirements that every industry has to follow which include “legal, decent, honest and truthful” (Yordanof). One of the interviewed individual quoted “the most successful companies do not need ethics in their activities because they have built empires”. He also stated, “sooner or later whoever is not ethical will face the negative consequences.”
One of the most the most contentious matters in the marketing communications market is the quality of advertisements. Three area of interest in terms of ethical decision of advertisement have been distinguished as: “individual autonomy, consumer sovereignty, and the nature of the product”. The individual autonomy refers to the advertising to young children, consumer sovereignty refers the level of information and superiority of the indented consumer, and as for the nature of the product, well, it speaks for itself.
Needing more in-depth information on how advertisement affects young children, I turned to The Washington Post newspaper and read a short article entitled “Information or Manipulation”. It is said that “spending on advertising for children has increased five-fold in the last ten years and two thirds of commercials during child television programs are for food products” (Bergadaa 2007). Young children represent 24 billion dollars worth in the marketplace (McNeal 2007). Research from the American Psychological Association show that children do not have the ability to understand whether a commercial is reliable or not, therefore they are truly impacted by them. They are not able to comprehend the true message behind an advertisement and therefore believe it is “truthful, accurate and unbiased which can lead to unhealthy eating habits as evidenced by today’s youth obesity epidemic” (Mayer 2004). Advertisers spend over 12 billion dollar a year on commercials intended for children. Research shows that a child watches about forty thousand television commercials a year. Roberts and Pettigrew exposed that “28.5 hours of children’s television programming sampled contained 950 advertisements” (sec.12). Advertising industry officials believe that parents should be able to explain the advertisement’s truthfulness to their kids because most of the ads are on junk food, sodas, and candies. Advertisers rely on the parents to be cautious and say no to their young children. They do not see “the psychological difficulties parents face to constantly be responding negatively to their child’s requests,” said Dale L. Kunkel. However, some countries have more harsh rules against children advertisement which I quote from this report:
- “Sweden and Norway do not permit any television advertising to be directed towards children under 12 and no adverts at all are allowed during children’s programmes.
- Australia does not allow advertisements during programmes for pre-school children.
- Austria does not permit advertising during children’s programmes, and in the Flemish region of Belgium no advertising is permitted 5 minutes before or after programmes for children.
- Sponsorship of children’s programmes is not permitted in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden while in Germany and the Netherlands, although it is allowed, it is not used in practice.” (McSpotlight).
In Daniele Prada’s article “Advertising: Manipulation or Information,” advertisement is considered information. Some commercials actually provide you with scientific facts and much more. Have you ever seen the commercial about smoking? Our society is trying to enlighten everyone about the effects smoking will have on you because we know it is a bad tendency that can cause cancer and eventually lead to death. In that case, advertisement is used in order to convince people to stop smoking before it is too late. The advertisers usually present the facts, and throw in a quote that will make the consumer ponder. One very famous reflective phrase is, “Children of parents who smoke, get to heaven earlier” (Anti-smoking).
We all have seen above the influence commercials which usually target adolescent and young adults. This advertising campaign conducted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy provides commercial in order to prevent the use of drugs and to encourage parents to discuss it with their children. Each of these commercial shows what it means to be above the influence in its own unique way. “The Above the Influence campaign appears to be successful because it taps into the desire by teenagers to be independent and self-sufficient,” Slater said. A recent study done by the Ohio State University, shows that Above the Influence campaign seems to have successfully reduced the use of marijuana by adolescents.
On the other hand, some people feel that advertisement is pure manipulation and that it plays with our feelings. To captivate our attention advertisers use famous artists, sports, music and fancy images. They use crucial values to influence people of purchasing something or doing something. In his article, Alan Harris believes that this manipulation is viewed as a type of “foregrounding”. His definition of foregrounding was “a linguistic process in which some elements, such as words, phrases, sentences, stressings, intonations, or the like are given prominence or made more meaningfully significant by the communicator/language-user, in this case the creator(s) of a print advertisement.” In other words, a lot of elements are used in order to convince the consumer to buy a product or service. Millions of people are being manipulated each day
Most of the beautiful aspects promised in ads are most of the time not true. For example, can buying a specific type of detergent really make the clothes brand new? I think not! But advertisers would do everything in their power to convince you that their detergent is the best and would restore your clothes to brand new. The advertisers around the world are able change the way people live and change their spending tendency. This is the main reason why advertisers spend an incredible amount of money on advertisements. According to the General information article, it is estimated that “the price of a product may go up for up to 40% due to advertisement costs”. Advertisement encourages the individual to be one step ahead of everybody else that is why they will tell you that their products is better than the others. Another way to captures the consumer’s attention is sexual arousal because they know that sexual need is one of the most powerful desire in a human. In her article, Mwende says, “Government should establish institutions that will scrutinize and ensure that the commercials and advertisements do not merely cheat people callously. It should make sure that people are not manipulated, cheated, lied to or exploited by unscrupulous traders.”
As I wrap up my research, I notice that advertisement can be both positive and negative. I now understand how it can both be viewed as information or manipulation to certain people. However, my question still cannot be answered because I believe that I would have to do more research on the psychological part and how advertisement affects the mind. I want to know how an advertisement is processed through a one’s brain. In order to be able to answer my question, I want to explore this issue further.
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