Guide to Writing Essays about Advertising

Advertising is used to help show consumers what is available and to help them decide what they want

A number of different techniques are used in advertising to illustrate the positive and even negative sides of a given product. Usually, this is achieved in the way advertisements are used to draw the consumer’s attention to products. If you are to look at some of the research that has been done to get the general public’s view of advertising, you will see that a high percentage of the population look on advertising as being beneficial. The reason for this is that they consider advertisements to be necessary and informative.   

Nonetheless, despite this level of positive opinion, some people believe that advertising has many negatives sides, not least in the way it influences the consumer and society in general. Some things that cause advertising to be seen as negative are: 

  • the ethics underlying how advertising is done
  • the economic side i.e. it is not thought to be economically viable
  • the notion that the effects of advertising on the public are demeaning
  • the social aspects i.e. that advertising is not always truthful in the way certain products are promoted.  

The factors listed above are just some examples of how advertising is seen to have a negative impact on modern society.

As far as intellectual opinion is concerned, a lot of people from this group see advertising as something that has a corrupting effect on society, thereby generating criticism of the social structures of which society is made up. For example, some intellectuals argue that advertising teaches people a host of things that are at odds with what society wants to teach in terms of upholding good and essential values. Such people would argue that advertising introduces consumers to life’s “good things.” The inference here is that people are introduced to things that represent the pleasures the world has to offer. Such pleasures are items that people can only purchase upon seeing them advertised but that still do not guide them in their daily lives. For example, advertisements do not encourage people to be honest and kind, to behave in a mannerly way, to value friendship, to respect the laws to which we are subject to, or to understand duty. These morals are the ones that guide people and enable them to live together in a pleasant and conducive fashion. Yet, many advertisements promote flash cars, fine dining, fancy perfumes, and other luxuries. These items are offered to satisfy certain desires in humans but they do not help shape our society in a way that would be deemed morally desirable. Some people feel it is hugely important for society to give priority to those things that are important and steer it in the direction of happiness and well-being.

Where the ethical aspects of advertising are concerned, this is an industry that places a lot of emphasis on people’s sexual and emotional desires. This is contrary to what a lot of scholars deem important. Some say that advertising keeps the wheels of industry turning. While this is certainly the case, there are some ads that fail to comply with the ethical beliefs and values of various societies. Most societies, for example, would say that anything that touches on matters of a sexual nature is quite crucial. Some would say that these matters are not suitable for open discussion without considering the different people they concern. For instance, some advertisements should be aimed only at those who are of a suitable age to discuss such matters. Hence, only people who have reached an appropriate age should be exposed to products of a sexual nature. On the other hand, however, it is difficult for advertisers to aim their advertisements only at adult consumers. Because of this, then, most advertisements are put into the public domain without excluding those of a younger age. This has the potential to lead society into a moral decline with the young being exposed to a number of issues that are not in line with the morals deemed desirable by society.

Then there are the commercial or economical aspects of advertising

Numerous critics have taken issue with the fact that advertising is an activity focused on specific sectors. A lot of advertisements are focused on products that do not enhance productivity when people use them. Indeed, some people’s productivity can be reduced by using certain products, thereby diminishing the person’s importance to society. Some products reduce people to beings that are different to what they previously were. They grow less productive in the economic sense, thereby reducing the overall economic performance of the society to which they belong. Such products may include tobacco, alcohol, fast food, and so on. Fast food can cause people to become obese and their bodies weaker despite them becoming larger. Alcohol use can turn people into drunks and it can result in the consumer contacting one of a number of life-claiming diseases. The advertising of products that have such negative impacts should not be encouraged since they slow down the growth on an economy i.e. when people’s health is negatively affected by certain products.     

In terms of the ethical aspects, at least one professor has criticized the advertising industry by saying that ads do not tell the full truth. A lot of people would agree that advertisements present only some of the truth about the things being advertised. Essentially, advertisers draw consumers in with sugar-coated information about a product, which is not always the full truth. Their reason for doing this is to encourage more people to buy their clients’ products. However, this strategy often attracts large numbers of customers who are tempted to buy certain products in order that they may enjoy some of the great things they have seen advertised. Therefore, it is very important that advertisers provide adequate and as much information as possible about various products. It is desirable for them to provide honest and factual information. Essentially, not giving clear, honest, and factual information about products is a serious issue on the part of advertisers and it does not comply with the high moral standards that most societies aspire to. This failure is one of the main contributing factors to the negative perspective that many people and society in general have towards advertising. So, advertisers should be urged to provide sincere information in relation to the different products people might have an interest in.

Returning again to the economic side of advertising, it can be said that advertisements should be aimed at representing the primary issues within a society with a view to improving the economies in different countries. A number of scholars and economists feel that important institutions i.e. hospitals and educational establishments are among those that should be targeted in a significant way in advertisements. However, in many advertisements, emphasis is placed on a number of things that are not helpful to society in general. The aforementioned institutions should be the center of focus in a lot of cases since these are needed (and used) by all the members of virtually every society. However, instead of focusing advertisements in this way, advertisers often target different industrial sectors and draw attention to those things that distract people from their primary aspirations. Hospitals and schools should be the highest priority if an economy is to thrive. Schools educate people who go on to create strategies that help economies develop and grow. In a similar vein, hospitals are instrumental in providing effective treatments that improve the health of those who build societies.  

To fully understand how a lot of advertisements contribute in a negative way to individuals and society as a whole, it is necessary to look at an example of an ad that has all the component parts of a good or bad advertisement. Take the ad for sprite, for instance. Here, the slogan says that this drink helps people to “obey their thirst.” This is an advert that is used globally by Coca-Cola to market its product. It attempts to show that it is only those who drink Sprite who are interested in quelling their thirst. In reality, a person can satisfy their thirst with plain tap water or even bottled water, both of which are products everyone can afford. Hence, this advert is an example of one that shows how promoters use flowery language to persuade consumers.  

Based on the negative impacts of advertising as outlined above, it can be said that advertisers should – at the very minimum – provide honest and factual information in respect of any products they promote. This approach would enable consumers to make genuine purchases so that they end up with the product(s) they intended to buy. This strategy would, in turn, improve trust between producers and consumers.