Essays: A Philosophical Look at the Ethics of Advertising

In order to understand the power of advertising as a tool of the mind control, it is necessary to briefly dwell upon the essence and mechanism of the impact of advertising on consumers’ consciousness or mind and possible effects of the impact. First of all, it should be said that researchers (Pine and Gilmore, 2007) lay emphasis on the fact that advertising affects both emotions and logic of the audience. In this respect, it is important to understand that, as a rule, through the impact on emotions of the audience, advertising catches the attention of the audience and focuses the attention of a specific message. At the same time, to convey the message clearly to the target audience, advertising refers to consumers logic. In such a way, the simplified mechanism of the impact of advertising on consumers is as follows: first, advertising affects emotions of viewers and second, advertising sends the message persuading consumers to buy a product or service being advertised. This simple mechanism functions perfectly well but, what is more important, this mechanism does influence consumers’ behavior and choices because they cannot ignore messages they perceive not only with their reason or mind but also with their emotions.

This is exactly where ethical concerns arise because the capability of advertising to influence consumers implies that advertising can be viewed as a tool of the mind control of consumers. Therefore, it is obvious that the scope of the impact of advertising on consumers may differ but it is practically impossible to deny that such impact exists. The extent to which advertising influences consumers’ mind depends on several factors (Wilkins, 1999). Firstly, advertising can be an effective tool of the mind control if advertising is successful. The definition of a successful advertising can vary but normally an advertising that is memorable, grabs the attention of the audience and stimulates consumers to buy the product, which is advertised, is considered to be a good and effective advertising.

Consequently, the more effective the advertising is the higher is the impact the advertising can have on consumers. Secondly, the frequency, at which consumers are exposed to the impact of advertising, does matter. What is meant here is the amount of time and frequency with which consumers are exposed to the impact of advertising. If consumers are regularly exposed to advertising, if they see, or hear, or read advertising on a daily basis, several times a day, they are more vulnerable to the impact of advertising than consumers who are exposed to the impact of advertising occasionally. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that due to the development of mass media, consumers grow more and more exposed to the impact of advertising. Thirdly, psychological peculiarities of consumers can also affect the extent to which advertising affects their behavior and choices. Psychologists (Hart, 2004) argue that some people believe easily to what they see or hear in mass media and advertising can easily affects such consumers, whereas some consumers are skeptical and suspicious to the information they receive from other people, mass media, etc. and these people are less vulnerable to the impact of advertising. Therefore, it is obvious that, depending on advertising and personal traits of character or psychology of consumers, the impact of advertising on consumers may differ and, in some cases, advertising can be a tool of the mind control. The latter means that advertising can not just stimulate consumers to make certain choices but also advertising shapes consumers’ habits and behavior. For instance, advertising that forces a consumer to buy certain product or service, regardless of the quality or price of the product or service, is definitely a tool of the mind control.

In addition, many researchers (Bagdikian, 2007) stress that often companies use unfair methods and techniques in their advertising that makes the latter a tool of the mind control. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the fact that often advertising is oriented on children and it is through children companies attempt to influence consumers’ behavior because often parents are unable to resist to their children and buy products or services their children are requesting or demanding. In fact, companies develop their advertising in order to influence children above all. They send clear and concise messages to children and present advertising in the plausible form to persuade children that they do need certain product or service. Children, in their turn, cannot help from asking their parents to buy the product or service they saw or heard about from advertising. As a result, parents often turn out to be under the double pressure: on the one hand, there is the pressure of advertising proper, while, on the other hand, there is the pressure from the part of their children.

Obviously, the use of children to reach their parents is unfair and companies that use advertising behave unethically when they use this technique in their advertising. At the same time, this technique proves to be very efficient and it helps advertising to become a tool of the mind control (Schenker, 2000). Moreover, some specialists (Bagdikian, 2007) warn against the negative impact of advertising on children. To put it more precisely, children are exposed to the impact of advertising from the early age. As the matter of fact children are exposed to the impact of advertising from the beginning of their life. The problem is that children cannot understand adequately what advertising actually is. Moreover, they cannot distinguish advertising and the real life or information that refer to actual facts and does not aim at the formation of consumer habits or behavior. In such a situation, children fail to understand that advertising is a tool of the mind control. In fact, they do not even understand that what they see or hear in advertising is a routine promotion of a product or service. Instead, if advertising is carefully developed and uses strong stimuli which affect children’s perception, children can obey advertising blindly and buy the product or service, regardless of their actual needs, wants, the quality or price of the product or service. What is more important and what makes advertising particularly dangerous as a tool of the mind control is the fact that advertising influencing children contributes to the formation of long-lasting habits and models of consumer behavior in children (Hart, 2004). In other words, since the early childhood, children start shaping their consumer behavior and habits under the impact of advertising. As a result, children develop strong consumerist inclinations that leads to the formation of the consumerist society, where consumption is the ultimate goal of the life of people, while the mind of people is under a total control of advertising. At any rate, this a probable future for children who are exposed to advertising regularly and systematically, while today children are widely exposed to the impact of advertising. Consequently, in a long run perspective, when children grow up, their consumer habits and behavior as well as their set of values will be shaped by advertising which they have been taking for granted since the early childhood and they will not be always able to understand clearly what advertising and its impact actually are. Even the modern society has already turned in the consumerist society, whereas, in the future, this trend will grow stronger under the impact of advertising.

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