Today, advertising influences consistently consumers to the extent that some specialists (Blanchard & Bowles, 1993) warn against the negative impact of advertising on the behavior of consumers. In this respect, the debate concerning advertising and its impact on consumers mainly refers to the possible impact of advertising on the consciousness of consumers to the extent that they cannot control their choices and act in accordance to standards and norms imposed on them by advertising. On the other hand, some specialists (Moy, et al., 1999) argue that advertising may not have any negative impact on consumers, who have the free will to choose goods or services independently of advertising. In such a context, a number of ethical issues naturally arise. At this point, among the major ethical considerations involving advertising and its impact on consumers, it is possible to single out the potential of advertising to control the mind and consciousness of consumers, the impact of advertising on consumers’ behavior and choices, the potential impact of advertising on children and adolescents, whose psychology and personal philosophy are not shaped, and many other ethical considerations.
In spite of attempts of companies that use advertising to promote their goods and services to position advertising as a mere marketing tool that helps companies to promote goods and services offering customer a choice without controlling their mind or shaping their buying habits, the impact of advertising on consumers is significant. At any rate, it proves beyond a doubt that, today, advertising is present everywhere in the life of people. Such spread of advertising results from the emergence of mass media, including not only print media but also TV, Internet and other media that have become available due to the development of information technologies and telecommunications. Therefore, people will face substantial difficulties, even if they attempt to avoid advertising consciously. When they receive certain messages, they will hardly be able to ignore totally these messages and advertising works in the same way. In such a situation, it is obvious that companies using advertising should conduct responsible policies to avoid the negative impact of advertising and, especially, to avoid the use of unfair and unethical techniques, when consumers are forced directly or indirectly to buy products or services being advertised.
Advertising as a tool of the mind control
Advertising is an essential tool used by companies to promote their products or services. At the same time, today, advertising is widely used to promote brands and to shape a positive image of brands of companies, which help them to improve their marketing position. In actuality, the positive public image of a brand is as important as an effective advertising of products or services because consumers readily buy products of recognizable brands, whereas unknown brands are likely to fail to gain attention of consumers without the active promotion and large scale advertising campaign. Anyway, whatever the subject of advertising the main goal of companies using advertising is to persuade consumers to buy their products or services. In other words, the ultimate goal of advertising is to influence habits and behavior of consumers.
In such a context, many specialists (Bovee and Thill, 2005) argue that advertising can have a huge impact on the consciousness of consumers and, what is more, advertising can potentially define choices and behavior of consumers. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that advertising traditionally aims at the persuasion of consumers to make choices desirable for companies using advertising.
Therefore, a priori advertising does influence consumers because the influence of consumer behavior is its original goal.
At this point, the question concerning the extent to which advertising influences consumers arises. In actuality, views of specialists on this question vary consistently. On the one hand, some specialists (Bagdikian, 2007) believe that advertising does not have a significant impact on the consciousness or mind of consumers. On the other hand, many specialists (Hart, 2004) stand on the ground that advertising is a tool of the mind control. In this respect, it should be said that specialists (Moy, et al., 1999) believe that advertising influences consumers defining certain models of behavior, shaping their buying habits and preferences. As a result, consumers become mere machines that fulfill orders they receive from advertising.
At first glance, both views on advertising and its impact on consumers seem to be antagonistic but quite radical. In fact, it is impossible to deny the impact of advertising on consumers and their choices because, in such a situation, advertising is just pointless.
If there is no impact on consumers, companies will not use advertising to promote their goods and services because without any effects of advertising companies will waste their money. At the same time, the view on advertising as a tool of the mind control seems to be too radical because consumers, even if they are exposed to the impact of advertising, still remain individuals who are capable to think and take decisions on their own. This is why many researchers (Hart, 2004) are skeptical in relation to advertising as a tool of the mind control. However, it is hardly possible to underestimate the impact of advertising on consumers and their choices and behavior.