Marketing vs Manipulation

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The purpose of this essay was to explore the differences between marketing and manipulation in regards to advertising. The hope is that the reader will be able to see both sides of this argument and understand the goals of the opposing sides. In this case the reader should be able to understand that marketing can be perceived as manipulation; in fact in some ways it is. Ultimately as long as the consumer is not being taken advantage of through false advertisement it is not considered unethical.

Through my research of advertising and its effect on consumers I was able to see why some people would view advertising as manipulation. What I did not understand, and still do not understand, is how the consumer can allow themselves to be manipulated. Even worse, how the consumer can convince themselves that a bad purchase was somehow the fault of advertising.

The most difficult part about writing this paper was trying to display what side of the argument that I was on while remaining a “mediator”. I am still not sure if it will be absolutely clear to the reader. I have never written anything quite like this essay and therefore the project itself was a challenge. Research has become a little easier for me as this class has progressed. The overall challenge of the assignment itself was rather enjoyable. Reading all of the different resources and finding out why people feel that advertising is manipulative was rather interesting as well.

This topic was decided upon rather randomly. I was reading something on the internet about McDonalds winning a lawsuit that was brought against them by a parent. I was interested in how a parent, or any adult, could blame advertising for a purchase that was made. I am not particularly concerned about the issue of marketing versus manipulation. What does amaze me is how people refuse to take responsibility for their actions.

Advertising: Marketing or Manipulation?

A child walks into a McDonalds, looks at the toys on display in the small plastic box at the counter, and asks his mother for the toy. The mother, persuaded by her natural instinct to see the child happy, purchases the Happy Meal containing the toy. She may or may not have taken into account what her child was going to consume in that Happy Meal. Her purpose for the purchase was not the nutritional value of the food but the happiness of her child. This is a perfect example of advertising at work. The McDonalds was able to sell their product (the chicken, fries and soft drink), and the mother was satisfied by the happiness her child displayed upon receipt of the toy. The McDonalds used the inexpensive toy to convince the mother to purchase food for the child that may or may not have been needed. The argument that stems from this situation is whether advertising is marketing or manipulation.

Advertising is a centuries-old tool that is used to support industry. This is accomplished by using the power of persuasion to encourage consumers to make purchases based upon perception and stereotypes . Claudia Nicolau writes "advertising uses fully the stereotypes...for influencing the behaviors of the potential consumers, showing in this manner their omnipresence in the daily life"(Mihaela). Industry revolves around creating products that the consumer wants based on the stereotypes that make the consumer think they need them. Advertising is often used to make the consumer believe that they need an item when in actuality they merely want it.

Marketing is defined by Merriam- Webster as "the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service" (Merriam-Webster). The world itself is one enormous market that every person is a part of. There are buyers and sellers of goods, senders and receivers of information, entertainers and those that wish to be entertained. All business owners and companies that produce merchandise or services use advertising as a tool to inform the...
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