Advertising is constantly demanding your attention everywhere you go, unless you live in the ad-free city of Sao Paulo. If you’re like me, you probably haven’t thought about the negative affects of ads that much. Why should you, it’s just a part of life right? Indeed, it is and we’re so used to having it around that it has desensitized us. We as a society barely notice the billboards next to parks, building walls covered with flyers, and the school buses driving by with ads, yup you read that correctly. Here are some reasons why you should be more aware of what advertising can do:
When images from religion, art and other parts of culture are used in advertising, it not only belittling and disrespectful to the noncommercial organizations, but it also diminishes the value of those images. In the ad above Jesus is being used to peddle cell phones, but even that doesn’t receive a lot of attention anymore. Only 98 complaints? Maybe the site that posted this ad doesn’t get a lot of traffic, but of course that is not the case.
The economic value of a person becomes more valuable than the real relationships between humans. Humans’ worth is connected to their buying power and people are segmented into consumer demographics, defining human interactions only in relation to the goods and services they will consume.
The advertising entities inevitably influence and to some extent control the media that they fund. If a news station is supported by corporate advertisers, you can be sure that you won’t see any negative stories about those companies because that would negatively affect the bottom line, causing them to pull advertising. No advertising, no money to put on programming. This relationship most certainly degrades both the artistic and moral quality of the media.
Companies feel the need to continuously “innovate” to capture sales away from existing products. These innovations are then pushed into the market via ads, which generate sales and lead to the disposal of older products that the new ones replace. This is a recurring cycle that will go on forever creating more and more waste. However, we can’t sustain that kind of waste forever.
Companies promote messages with market value, and when paired with effective advertising, these messages can slowly change democracy into consumer democracy. The dairy industry’s influence on the American diet and the food pyramid, the widely accepted guide for an ideal diet, is just one example how powerful an advertising campaign can be. They have changed laws and regulations to increase revenues by getting people to drink more milk. This example shows how control cab be taken away from the people and transferred to the advertisers.
Political campaigns have now become massive marketing contests that use tactics that are often indistinguishable from advertising. The most expensive and creative persuasion methods in the form of political ads greatly influence the outcome of elections now.
If you’re interested in a deeper dive into this subject, I would start here: The Social & Cultural Effects of Advertising. It provides a very in-depth analysis of advertising. The author shares the view that advertising has had an overall negative affect on our society: “Advertising selectively uses only parts of culture, linking values and symbols to commercial products. Advertising is so all-encompassing that this clearly faulty mirror has become an authority on what the culture “should” be. The mirror tells us about an ideal life, toward which we all should strive using the products recommended.”
That is not to say that everything about advertising and marketing is negative. I love it and it’s a huge part of my life. My next post will explore the positive side of advertising.
What are your thoughts on advertising, do you still think you’re invincible to it? Would you care if your kids’ school buses and playgrounds were surrounded by ads? I’d love to here your thoughts in the comments below.