Advertising, Marketing and Media
The Industry from a digital perspective
Does Advertising shape society, or merely mirror societal trends? Advertising is the process of communication whereby a person or group of people are persuaded to take some form of action, usually to make a purchase or participate in a particular behaviour. Studies undertaken by the Media Awareness Network estimate that on average, the typical North American will see 3000 ads per day (2010). With such a high level of advertising around consumers every day, is it likely that advertising shapes society, or that it merely mirrors pre-existing social trends? This is important because should advertising shape society, the high numbers of advertisements in existence could have a substantial impact to society’s wellbeing, as well as the ethical issues surrounding the messages and behaviours advertisers are trying to achieve.
Advertising Shapes Society
Advertising creates brand equity and generates sales, both of which lead to increased wealth. The power and money possessed by today’s corporations is staggering. Data from the World Bank (2005) and Fortune Magazine (2005) show that of the world’s largest 150 economic entities, 95 are corporations and only 55 are countries. These companies and organisations can spend millions or even billions of dollars on advertising to achieve behavioural change, usually to increase their market share or purchase a product. Alternatively, advertising can be used to increase the number of people using their products or services. This gives companies and organisations the potential to significantly alter the market, and in some situations alter social norms and perceptions.
These masses of wealth are presided over by self-serving companies which can cause an ethical and potentially legal dilemma. According to Bocking, there are many cases where “industry buys science” (2009). His research states that the companies who use science to conceal hazards include car manufactures, lead refiners, asbestos miners, nuclear processors, chemical producers and drug manufacturers, amongst others. Not only that, some of the companies most involved in fighting cancer caused by tobacco have profited greatly from producing anti-cancer drugs. This has lead to a heavy focus on healing and assisting those who are diagnosed with cancer – instead of dealing with the intrinsic issues and working from a preventative level to discourage the widespread use of tobacco. Advertising products such as tobacco has now been banned in most western countries – but that does not necessarily mean tobacco advertising does not exist. Cigarette companies funnel a huge percentage of their advertising budget into ‘subliminal brand exposure’. Philip Morris, which manufactures Marlboro cigarettes, offers bar owners financial incentives to fill their venues with colour schemes, specially designed furniture, ashtrays, suggestive tiles designed in captivating shapes similar to parts of the Marlboro logo, and other subtle symbols that, when combined, convey the very essence of Marlboro – without even mention of the brand name or the sight of an actual logo. This has resulted in studies showing up to 96% of participants who, when shown these images, thought of the tobacco brand or of smoking cigarettes, but the majority could not identify why (Lindstrom, 2008).
In 2002, the European Union passed a law stating that no advertisements may show a tobacco company logo or any cigarette product. However, Marlboro has had a long association with Ferrari and Formula 1 and up until this year, had displayed a ‘barcode’ logo down the body of the Formula 1 car. It is claimed that the barcode represented a pack of Marlboro cigarettes, due to the colours, shapes and sizes of the image. Neuro-marketing studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have shown the areas in the brain which respond to reward, craving and addiction to have the exact same...
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