Advertisement and Sciences –
Five diverse views
Being primarily consumers, our view on advertisement is extremely biased. We consider most of it as excessively annoying and censure the advertising industry while at the same time we are highly receptive to their efforts, and as if that was not enough we take part in collegiate neurological studies on consumer behaviour. The advertising industry uses our behaviour as a tool and the better they become the less we are annoyed by all the banners, TV ads and product placements. But why do they keep on becoming better and better? The answer lies within a network of different sciences that constantly works on finding new ways to reach our mind. Since art is not a science I am going to leave it out although it clearly adds up to today’s advertisement. My essay will focus on the five sciences that have the biggest impact on the content of advertising: Psychology and neuroscience, business economics, sociology and political science. Starting with short definitions I am going to explore their different approaches to the topic and the way they contribute to the success of the advertising industry.
Psychology is “the science or study of the mind and how it functions”. (Oxford English Dictionary, 1995) The border between psychology and neuroscience, which rather focuses on the effects on the nervous system, is very vague. Both look at the effects of advertisement on consumers’ minds, yet neuroscience does this from a slightly more scientific angle. "Advertisements are sometimes spoken of as the nervous system of the business world […] Since our nervous system is constructed to give us all the possible sensations from objects, so the advertisement which is comparable to the nervous system must awaken […] as many different kinds of images as the object itself can excite." (Walter D. Scott, 1904) Thus the most important element of advertisement is not information but suggestion which tries to avoid our conscious perception. Instead, it directly appeals to our unconscious mind which is led by our emotions and therefore can easily be manipulated. Experts say that about 70% of all purchase decisions are not made rationally but based on emotion. (Brian Rüeger, Frank Hannich, 2010) “All human needs, relationships and fears, the deepest recesses of the human psyche, become mere means for the expansion of the commodity universe under the force of modern marketing.” (Robert McChesney, 2008) Psychology has contributed a lot to the content and subject of today’s advertisement. In order to reach the people’s minds, companies take advantage of what lies within our subconscious: association, drive (esp. sex drive), instinct, wishes (image, look, reputation, fitness, happiness, health, adventure), fears (illness, disgust, safety, loneliness, weakness), social responsibility, bulk commodity, comfort, etc. Appealing to any of those creates an image in the consumer’s mind and the more impressing (in any way) this image is the more interest in the advertised product it will create. The most commonly used message in the advertising world therefore is: “If you use this product, you will feel (or even be) much better!” If you drink this coffee you will be as cool as George Clooney, if you use this perfume you will be as sexy as David Beckham and if you drink these diet shakes, you will become skinny and popular. Neuroscientists use a very similar approach. They also seek to find out the best effects of advertisement but try to detect evidence for this by measuring neural activity. They concentrate on consumer behaviour: why, when, where and how people react to certain images, sounds and other approaches to one’s senses. This new trend is called “Neuromarketing” and uses medical technologies such as magnet resonance tomography (MRT) – “not to heal but, to sell products” (Robert McChesney, 2008). McChesney calls this "the greatest concerted attempt at psychological manipulation in all of human history”....
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