Advertising takes money, whether purchased through an online advertising service, print ads in a newspaper or commercials on radio and TV. Designing the ads and the copy costs money, as well. On the high end, companies spend up to $2.6 million for a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl. While the positive impact of advertising is bringing in sales dollars, the negative impact is felt by those who are the target of the advertising.
Advertising aims to present a product in the best light possible. There is some leeway in the creative process. As the Gecko in the Geiko ads says, “That’s just a dramatization, of course,” referring to the idea that if you ask Geiko representatives for an English muffin, they’ll serve one up toasted with butter and jam. The problem arises when the dramatization crosses the line into falsely representing a product. Hefty fines can result from false advertising when levied by the Federal Trade Commission.
Direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription drugs has resulted in unrealistic expectations about the effectiveness of drugs and their side-effects, according to the Food and Drug Administration’s study “Patient and Physician Attitudes and Behaviors Associated With DTC Promotion of Prescription Drug.” Voice-overs give the downside to the drug, but the visual images show healthy, happy people. It’s not unusual to hear that even death may be a side-effect of a prescription drug. Beauty and health products may also not live up to their promises, resulting in wasted consumer dollars. Disclaimers are often hidden in very small print on product packaging and in out-of-the way spots in ads.
Advertising is ingrained in American culture, from children’s programs on Saturday morning to talk shows and prime time TV. Advertising even invades movies through product placement. It’s not an accident when a movie hero holds up a can of Coke instead of Pepsi. Advertising influences how people feel about themselves — often in a negative way. Based on the images they see in advertising, women often feel they should be thin and beautiful and hold down full-time jobs while also being full-time mothers. Advertising communicates that men should be handsome, tall, athletic, caring husbands, thoughtful fathers and virile at all times. These images are often unrealistic and unattainable.
In his study “Review of Research on the Effects of Food Promotion to Children,” Professor Gerard Hastings found there is a link between food advertising and children’s preferences regarding what they will consume. Ads for many sugary cereals encourage children to ask their parents for those particular products — regardless of whether the products are good for the children. It’s not coincidental that the most heavily advertised toys during the holiday season end up being the top sellers. Children are susceptible to advertising.
Although people often focus on the negatives when they discuss the effects of advertising, it is important to note that advertising does have its positive side. In fact, some of our society’s most important messages have come through advertising, like “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” In addition to promoting important social messages, advertisements can also spark the economy by fostering competition and innovation.
Public Service Advertisements
Public service advertisements are often the first things considered when people discuss the positives of advertisements. These advertisements market a social concept of importance to the general public. Many public service announcements run messages about health, safety and national security. In the United States, the Ad Council, a nonprofit organization, sponsors many public service announcements. Their famous lines include “Loose lips sink ships,” a 1942 advertisement run to promote national security during World War II. However, other nonprofit organizations, the government, faith-based organizations and private companies also run public service marketing campaigns. For example, the U.S. government has run a number of advertisements about the importance of disaster preparedness.
In addition to public service advertisements, traditional advertisements that market a product or service can offer social benefits. In fact, according to Megan VandeKerckhove, a student at the University of Florida’s Interactive Media Lab, advertising is free speech, and it can work to promote free speech. According to VandeKerchkhove, this is especially true in countries where free speech has been suppressed. Advertising there, especially when it comes from the Western world where free speech is embraced, can encourage the idea that free speech is important. Furthermore, freedom of choice and advertising-supported entertainment, which is often a promoter of social change, are two important components of society that are both promoted through advertising.
Advertising has a number of positive effects on economies both in the U.S. and abroad. According to the International Advertising Association, advertising can encourage companies to compete and provide new products. This encourages more consumers to buy because these products meet the needs and wants of more consumers. Thus, the economy is positively affected. In addition, advertising can help create more jobs. As the demand for products and services goes up because of advertising, more people are needed to manufacture, supply, ship and test those products and services. Thus, more jobs are created.
In addition to encouraging consumers to choose the products that are best for them, advertising, at least in democratic nations, allows individuals to learn about the wide variety of lifestyle and political choices available to them and choose the ones that they find best. For example, in the United States, candidates for an elected position often run advertisements that discuss their strengths and the opponent’s weaknesses. These advertisements encourage Americans to compare and contrast the candidates and choose the one with whom they most agree.
-Diane Jakob (Diana Hakobyan)