Advertising has become more manipulative than informative

Advertising can be seen everywhere.

Photo courtesy of morgueFile/DMedina

Advertising can be seen everywhere.

Zoey Becker, Online Opinion Editor

Ever since we are born into the modern world that we live in, advertising surrounds everything we do.  We see it every single day in the media, in public places like malls and by the sides of the roads, and everywhere else you can imagine. Unwanted ads pop up on computers and phones, and they are a part of watching live television that most of us have learned to live with. While Mirriam-Webster defines advertising as, “the action of calling something to the attention of the public especially by paid announcements”, it seems to be much different from simply calling attention to things. Advertising has most definitely crossed the line from informatie to manipulative.

Advertising, from the start, has been aimed to manipulative it’s target audience. From war propaganda to Sarah McLachlan anti-animal cruelty commercials, America has a long history with it’s intent in its ads. The current purpose of advertising has certainly evolved from the purpose that it should be, which is to simply inform its audience. Now, advertisers will do whatever it takes to make their audience feel something in order to manipulate emotions. Whether it’s to make you feel sad (which is usually the case, as this is the easiest emotion to manipulate), happy, fearful or angry, the main purpose of that commercial or pop-up ad is to make you feel any emotion that is necessary to convince you to buy that product. It’s easy to take ads too far, making heart wrenching ads just to get viewers to buy a certain car or product. Your emotional response to any type of advertising affects how you perceive the product and gives you an easily controlled bond to the product- usually, if you see a particularly sad or funny advertisement, you will definitely remember the product next time you see it in a store and may even buy it just because of that. The general purpose of an ad is to get you to stop thinking rationally and instead base your actions on an emotional response to that ad.

There are a few types of ploys used by advertisers to draw you in and control you. One of the most common ones is fear and “examples”. Have you ever seen an anti-smoking commercial? The images of the ex-former smokers with no teeth or holes in their throat are meant to scare viewers and leave an effect on them. One commercial against smoking that was launched by the FDA  uses this tactic to the extreme features a girl peeling off her own skin in a convenience store as the cost to buy a pack of cigarettes. Every time that commercial comes on, most people recognize it and talk about how gross it is. Even though it is pretty gross, this is exactly what the FDA wants; they want people to talk about it and to recognize it, a common form of control. Playing this commercial stresses the dangers of smoking to every each and every one of its viewers, because it is disturbing and recognizable, and also gross and cruel to play every single commercial break.

Another way that viewers can easily be manipulated by advertisements is when commercials use very catchy, recognizable slogans. With a clever slogan and a ad that uses humor, many younger viewers will be drawn in very easily. Once they are drawn in, it isn’t uncommon to find that the phrase will be used more often in real life, and will be coined as the phrase from “that commercial”. This brings the brand’s name into the lives of many people and it makes it easy to gain immense attention. This one is sort of hit or miss- you can end up with a great one such as “Jake from State Farm”, which everybody recognizes and connects the funny ad to how state farm just has the best insurance, or one that no one would remember.

Finally, a very commonly used technique is desire. When characters in a commercial are very rich or very attractive, we viewers often can’t help but want the same as them. This often can lead viewers to believe that if they simply buy this miraculous product, they can have the same lifestyle as the people on TV do. Obviously this isn’t true, which causes companies to be emotionally manipulative and inaccurate.

Advertising has come a long way since the media first began employing it, but in the end the main goal is always going to be manipulation of the audience by attempting to get inside their heads and control their emotions. This can be stopped if we realize this as viewers and think the next time we see an ad on TV, on our phones, in stores or on the Internet. We need to realize that we have more power then what we see on TV. If we use willpower, it is not that hard to deny the manipulative power of the advertisements and pay no mind to them.