Advertising: Information or Manipulation?

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Advertising: information or manipulation?

Advertising, a word that is synonym to the word marketing, has a rich back round. When we talk about marketing the first things that come to our mind are money, goods, services, and of course consumers. Advertising’s role should only exist in order to help society by real information about products and services, decide what to purchase according to people’s actual needs. One definition of advertising is: "Advertising is the non-personal communication of information usually paid for and usually persuasive in nature about products, services or ideas by identified sponsors through the various media."(Bovee, 1992, p. 7). We could separate advertising in two categories. Giving information through advertising about a product is the first category that is innocent when facing the costumers. The second category has a manipulative effect on people. People exposed to specific advertisements are led to buy goods and services or do things that don’t actually want to do. This is the face of manipulation through advertising which makes people more commodity fetishists Information is defined as knowledge, facts or news. However, we should bear in mind that one person's information is another person's trick, particularly when advertisers talk about their products. Information comes in many forms. It can be complete or incomplete. It can be biased or misleading. Complete information is telling someone everything there is to know about something: what it is, what it looks like, how it works, what its benefits and drawbacks are. On the other hand, to provide complete information about anything is time consuming and hard. All of this would require a documentary, not a commercial. Complete information is impossible to provide in an advertisement. Thus, for advertising, information must of necessity be incomplete; not discussing everything there is to know about the subject. In advertising, what appears is everything the writer thinks the customer needs to know about the product in order to make a decision about the product. That information will generally be about how the product can benefit the customer. There is, of course, the concept of affirmative disclosure. This concept requires an advertiser to provide customers with any information that could materially affect their purchase decision. "Sometimes the consumer is provided not with information he wants but only with the information the seller wants him to have. Sellers, for instance, are not inclined to advertise negative aspects their products even though those aspects may be of primary concern to the consumer, particularly if they involve considerations of health or safety . . . "(Engman, L. 1974). Prejudice is being partially done towards something, feeling that something is better or worse than other things. Biased information about a product is the mechanism to hide bad and bring to surface only the good qualities of it. In the world of advertising this is necessity. Of course an advertiser is biased toward his own product and against the competition: selling his product is the way he makes money, and the competitors’ sales of their product reduce that income. Thus any advertising will use words and images that show how good their product is and how poor their competition's is. This is biased information, but recognized and accepted by industry, regulators and consumers, it is called puffery, the legitimate exaggeration of advertising claims to overcome natural consumer skepticism. However, sometimes the biased information goes beyond legitimate puffery and slips into trickery, the intentional use of misleading words and images. In other words, deceptive information is lying to the customer about the qualities of a product. What exactly is a manipulative advertisement? Mostly such advertisements are considered to be persuasive rather than manipulative. Though, persuasion is too broad as a term to capture the traits that make advertising...
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