Advertising's Flaws

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Every day, people in America go through each day in their respective different walks of life. While everyone may have their own individual experiences and encounters, almost everybody sees a variety of advertisements every day of their life. In fact, some studies suggest that the average American encounters more than 500 advertisements each day from a number of sources in the media (Fowles 723). Advertising itself has become some of the most pervasive media in our society. Since World War II, modern advertising has evolved to become the single largest contributor of apathy and numbness, lies, and materialistic views to our society.

Advertising remains one of the easiest and most prolific ways a business can grab a viewer's attention and attempt to persuade them in any possible way to buy their product or brand. Advertisements can produce a variety of thoughts and emotions in the people that view them. A cologne advertisement may give a man the impression that if he wears this particular cologne, women will pay more attention to him and be drawn to him. A car advertisement may show how luxurious or fast it may be and try to present itself as some sort of status symbol. No matter how a particular advertisement attempts to do it, almost all try to communicate with the lower portion of people's brains, the part of the mind that harnesses lusts, ambitions, vulnerabilities, and other such emotions and feelings (Fowles 724). This message that these advertisements try to communicate is that their particular product will somehow make the viewer's life better in some way, shape, or form.

While this message can sometimes seem to be harmless, in some instances, this simple message can produce some of the worst emotions and feelings in our society. Such emotions, include increasing apathy and numbness in people that are exposed to advertisements everyday. People in our society see and hear images and expressions that once made society gasp in shock. A psychologist from the Harvard Psychological Clinic, Henry A. Murray, composed a list of the fifteen most basic appeals in advertising. Topping Henry's list of appeals, what he considered to be the most basic appeal, is the need for sex. Not surprisingly, advertisers use this appeal as one of the best ways to catch a viewer's attention and attempt to sell their product. However, when exposed in mass media, it cumulates to the point that people see dozens of advertisements based around sex appeal everyday. In a lifetime, from birth to death, a person may well see thousands of sex based advertisements. This constant exposure to these ads generate numbness and apathetic thoughts and feelings towards the idea of sex and sex appeal. Bodie Thoene, an American author who has won eight gold medallions for her works of literature, once said, "Apathy is the glove into which evil slips its hand." This couldn't be more true for advertisements that base their message around sex. While sex based advertisements can vary as to whether or not they actually offend people, almost all advertisements that promote sex appeal as a side effect of their product tend to inadvertently produce numbness to their viewers. Advertising is often criticized for being offensive to people because of various advertising techniques such as using sex to sell a product (Arens 752-53). However, apathy and the constant numbing that advertisements can cause is not the only downfall they pose.

Advertisers go to extreme lengths to sell their products to consumers and burn their brand into the consumer's mind. These advertisers will do just about anything as long as it means making more money, and this tends to take the shape of lying about their products to convince the public to buy it. The most obvious examples of this are advertisements for cigarette companies, especially ads before 1964, when the United States Surgeon General Report on Smoking and Health came out. Before this, many consumers where in the dark about...
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