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Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Advertisements do more harm than good

Advertising has grown to be an industry worth many billions of dollars across the world. Almost all public space has some advertisements in sight, and all forms of media, from newspapers to the internet, are also filled with advertisements. Whilst this helps companies sell their products, and helps consumers to learn what is on offer, many believe that this huge amount of advertising can be harmful. It may make people want too much, or things that they cannot have, or it might make them feel inadequate when they don't have something. Research shows that children can be particularly open to these kinds of risk.


The levels of advertising, these days, have become excessive.  For instance, it is not easy for one to walk down the street, ride on a bus, watch television or read emails without seeing advertisements. It is unfair to have people’s lives intruded by a huge quantity of information they might not want.

Advertising leads to many people being overwhelmed by the endless need to decide between competing demands on their attention, a kind of tyranny of choice or choice overload. Recent research suggests that people are on average less happy than they were 30 years ago, despite being better off and having much more choice of things to spend their money on. The claims of commercials bombard people, raising expectations about a product and leading to inevitable disappointment after it is bought. Shoppers often feel that a poor purchase is their fault for not choosing more wisely, and regret not choosing something else instead. Some people are so overwhelmed that they cannot choose at all.

It is not always easy for people to choose to ignore advertising, because advertisers use many unethical methods to get their message across. For example, posters have attention grabbing words, or provocative pictures. Some advertisements today are disguised as pieces or art or public information and hence many people don't realise they are being marketed to. By targeting people’s unconscious thoughts advertisements are a form of brainwashing that take away people's freedoms to make choices.

Many advertisements do more than just advertising products. Some try to make people feel inferior if they don't have the product, or if they have something which the product would change. Perceptions of beauty and fashion in particular have been terribly distorted. For instance, many young people have low-self esteem, and lead unhealthy lifestyles because they feel they should be thinner and more attractive like the models they see in advertisements. This leads to serious problems like eating-disorders and self-harm.

Advertising gives the impression, especially to children, that they can and should have everything they want. This makes people too interested in material things. People are becoming more selfish and obsessed with their possessions, and losing their values of patience, hard work, moderation and the importance of non-material things like family and friends. This harms their relationships and their personal development, which has serious effects for society as a whole.

Advertisers do not aim at the welfare of the society when they do their work, and they only care about making profit. This means that they regularly advertise unhealthy or harmful things. For example, fast food advertisements are a major reason that many children are obese. The advertisements just try to make children eat as much food as possible without any concern for the health costs.

Advertising gives an unfair advantage to big businesses. Small companies might have much better products, but they cannot afford to advertise them as well and so people don't find out about them. This restricts the quality of products for consumers, and places a huge roadblock to the success of small businesses.


For many companies advertising is an important part of their income and therefore they put advertising on their property. For example, football teams would have much less money if they were not sponsored.  And no-one is forced to view advertising as one can turn the television off between shows, or just avoid advertisements in newspapers.  If one does not want to see advertisements, they can be ignored.

Advertising has a positive role to play in modern society, helping us choose between competing goods. Many advertisements draw our attention to products with new features, for example more powerful computers, telephones which are also cameras and music players, or foods with added vitamins. Other advertisements try to compete on price, helping us choose the cheapest or best value products.  In most cases, advertising does not force us to go shopping but we require food, clothes, gifts and entertainment.  What advertising does is to help us make better decisions about how to spend our money, by giving us more information about the choices available.

Advertisements which use very sly methods like subliminal images, that is, images which are shown so quickly the viewer doesn't consciously realise they saw them, are already banned.  At the same time, companies try to present their products in attractive ways, which is companies just being creative. For example, it is unfair to argue that it is unethical to paint supermarkets in bright colours to make their food seem more appetising.  People make unconscious judgements all the time and we frequently try to influence these choices by the way we present ourselves. This isn't brainwashing and it is the same case with advertising.

The media and celebrity magazines do much more harm, by mocking unattractive or overweight people, and glorifying models who are often dangerously thin. Advertisements never criticise people, and if they do, it would affect the image of companies behind them. Their aim is to understand and provide what people want, and therefore their advertisements only reflect what people think.  If people's perceptions are wrong, then it not the advertisers' job to put them right, but politicians, the media and schools.

Our society is built around the idea that companies produce things that people want, and this is what makes us prosperous. If consumers suddenly stopped buying products it would affect people whose job it is to make them.  The economy will suffer terribly. Obviously, some people are very materialistic, but most people buy what they need, and sometimes, it is their right to indulge in some luxury.  This is a much better situation than one in which people can only afford to buy the things they need.

Advertisements which promote unhealthy things are becoming very rare. Cigarette advertising is almost extinct, and alcohol advertisements are being more restricted. Fast food companies are changing their message to promote healthier options as it is bad for businesses to be viewed as harming children. Public pressure and successful regulation will always bring any advertising problems back under control.

If there wasn't advertising then small businesses would have no chance at all to make their product well known. Advertisements can actually level the playing field, if you have a good new product, and market it in a clever way then it doesn't matter how small your company is, you can still make consumers interested. The more you restrict the freedom of information, the more this helps the large companies who everyone already knows about.


Commercial campaigns
outdoor signs
advertising support
billboards (GB)
hoardings (US)
brand image
market coverage
mass advertising
mass communication
mass media
advertisement s
advertising agency
advertising agent
advertising budget
advertising campaign
advertising columns
media planning
neon signs
prime time
U.S.P. Unique Selling Proposition
Use the words in the word bank to fill in the missing words in the sentences below

Word Bank: regulate, confirm, produced , consume , share ,
publicity, sponsor , compete, packaged, advertisement, advertise

1. You should always­­ ________ information you give over the phone.

2. Governments in the UK and the United States ________ cigarette advertising.

3. The ________ of our product appears on all major search engines today.

4. We need to get as ________ much as possible for our company, so that people will know about us.

5. Many large sport companies like Nike and Puma _______ sports events.

6. Our _______ of the market is only two per cent.

7. Small companies find it difficult to _______ against large multinationals.

8. The biscuits are _______ by machines.

9. Women _______ more chocolate on average than men.

10. Retailers often _________ a new product by putting it in the most
eye-catching places.

11. Chocolate is _______ from cocoa bean.