Advertising and its Dominant Influence in our Lives

September 24th, 2009 by Lowell D'Souza Leave a reply »

advertising-influencesSchopenhauer – the name flitted across my mind like a agitated firefly on a moonless night. He was a German philosopher who on the basis of his studies of human nature came to the conclusion that the emotional, physical and sexual desires of human beings can never be fulfilled.

His solution: Engage in a lifestyle that is devoid of desire. Shun the desire to possess, accumulate, and covet.

The problem: Will Madison Ave allow us to do this?

Advertising promises us a lot of things, chief among them, happiness. Thanks to advertising we can now have better relationships via a product. The message is consciously unambiguous: Buy this and you will be loved and fulfilled. Taking it a step further today, advertising has gone beyond the basic proposition of a steady relationship with the product itself, today’s advertising now has products that are supposed to love you back .

It’s quite amazing how a few people huddled in a room on the 25th floor of a high-rise New York skyscraper have such an influence on the thinking of millions. Fact of life: It is easier to love a product than a person. Relationships with human beings are messy, unpredictable, sometimes dangerous.  Advertisers take advantage of that fact. We are thus surrounded by thousands of messages every day that link our deepest emotions to products, that objectify people and trivialize our most heartfelt moments and relationships.

Advertising has successfully used every conceivable emotion to sell us something. Our desire to be safe is used to promote the benefits of a home security system. A natural setting of a baby and a house pet is used to sell cleaning products. A desire to have more friends is transformed into a sparkling brand new trendy car purchase to cruise around. Advertising has become craftier – everything in the world exists to be consumed or to sell something.

Much of advertising’s power comes from a mistaken belief that it does not affect us. We always run to restock or make popcorn when the commercials are on during a game or we pay little attention when they play during an intermission. But, as Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels said: ‘This is the secret of propaganda: those who are to be persuaded by it should be completely immersed in the ideas of the propaganda, without ever noticing that they are being immersed in it.’ This is very telling. We still think advertising is trivial so we don’t pay as much attention than we do, to say violence in video games or other cultural phenomena that affects us.

Advertising affects our self-image too. We, as a human race, are so used to becoming objectified by advertising that we don’t understand that subconsciously, our self worth is affected. It’s no myth that the self-esteem of young girls plummets as they reach adolescence partly because they’re still fighting to attain that perfect body and when they don’t their self-image takes a beating.

advertising-influences-levels-of-trustAdvertisers are great researchers. They spend big amounts of money on psychological research and understand addiction thoroughly. They use this knowledge to target children at an early age so that  they get used to a certain line of products (iPod, Uggs anyone?) or develop a habit. A good example is McDonalds who’s entire setting is kid-friendly. The colors are vibrant, the kids meals are a big hit and they always have co-branding efforts with many kids-friendly movies. The graphic details the increase in the overall levels of trust with brand advertising – good news for advertisers, scary news for the human race.

It is argued by some folks that advertising simply reflects societal values rather than affecting them. unfortunately, advertising is a pervasive medium of influence and persuasion. Its influence is cumulative, often subtle and primarily unconscious. Advertising performs much the same function in industrial society as myth did in ancient societies. It is both a creator and perpetrator of the dominant values of the culture, the social norms by which most people govern their behavior. In the world of advertising, some values are glorified and thrive and some are just eliminated.

We’re in a world of artificiality. Integrity and trust are terms that are hard to believe in because of the cynicism, dissatisfaction and craving that the marketers in the world subject us to. Most of these guys are just doing a job.

I do the same thing too as I’m in the marketing and advertising field.

Truth be told, I’m not an online marketing expert. My job is to sell products. But, I’m trying to have the highest standards of integrity and honesty behind what I do. Here’s hoping that I succeed.


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