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After the influence of salesmanship became publicly noticed in the 18th cent., the present complex form of advertising began to evolve. Nowadays, one cannot imagine his/her life without an openly sponsored offering of goods, services, or ideas through a variety of media of public communication. On the one hand, advertising convinces people to buy goods and services that they need. On the other, consumers fall victims to advertising myths, joining long queues for goods they do not even know the practical application of.
The main purpose that all advertisers pursue is to affect consumers’ preferences. This can be done at least in three genuinely different ways. First, advertising may simply enhance the value of a product in the eye of the consumer. This is the advertising that increases willingness to pay. Second, firms’ advertising efforts may be considered as a tug-of-war in which each firm strives to attract consumers by molding their preferences to fit the characteristics of its product; that is, each advertiser tries to convince consumers that what they want is the particular product their firm produces. This is the advertising that changes ideal product variety. Third, advertising may encourage consumers to attach more importance to existing differences between products. This is the advertising that increases perceived product differences (Fehr and Stevin 56). In each of the three cases, people become convinced that they buy what they need and adjust their buying habits to the current market tendencies.
But, unfortunately, the reality of modern life is such that consumers do not buy things that are necessary for their living; they buy things just to have them at their disposal. James B. Twitchell in In Praise of Consumerism (2006) claims that people do not buy things; they just buy hopes which are offered by the sellers. The better the hope is presented, the more chances to benefit from the customer the seller gets. This complex system of interrelation between the customer and the marketer results in the artificial values that consumerism creates after all.
Commercial culture and the rise of advertising as its integral component affects people’s attitude to the world around: advertisements foist off not only goods on customers but on certain patterns of life as well. Especially it is true when it comes to the youth who seems to be the most liable to the messages offered by radio, TV, and billboards. I believe that in this influence on customers’ moral principles and patterns of life that advertising has the essence of the hegemony that it creates is rooted. Through advertising not only the hegemony of one brand is established but the hegemony of patterns and ideas as well.
The direct consequence of this hegemony is that the consumer appears to be confused about what is being sold. For instance, in one TV commercial, a cool young couple is driving down a city street, their car’s windshield wipers clacking. They are so tuned in, they notice that the passing scene is rife with tempos, such as a boy bouncing a basketball, all in perfect sync with the rhythmic clack of their windshield wipers. What is going on? The thing is that the advertising of the Volkswagen model suggests: “your parents can’t understand this, but you can” (Wolkomir Richard and Wolkomir Joyce 662). Thus the audience is captured by the idea and only then by the very product.
In this state of total believing the idea that is being presented, it is very difficult for one to judge the validity of the information he/she gets. Advertisers cannot but benefit from this and use this unawareness of the audience for their marketing purposes. They seem to suggest: buying this and do not care whether it is as good as we claim.
In the 1950s, Rosser Reeves created a television commercial in which a hammer clangs an anvil to remind viewers how a headache feels (or maybe to induce one) while reporting good news: Anacin is “for fast, Fast, FAST relief…” Reeves would hold up two quarters. It was advertising’s task, he said, to make you believe those two quarters were different. Even more important, the ad had to persuade you that one of those quarters was worth more (Wolkomir Richard and Wolkomir Joyce 660). When one suffers from a terrible headache he/she does not have time to consider the usefulness of medicine to take: to believe the advertisement and to buy what is advised – this seems to be the only way out!
Every time we warn ourselves to be especially cautious with the advertisements which congest our life, we often fail. Gradually we become a mirror image of what we buy without making reasonable decisions about this or that buying. Representatives of the Frankfurt School argued that the modern world is technocratic and exists at the expense of spreading misleading information through mass media and pop culture that plays a pivotal role in the growth of the consumption cult. This idea is very relevant to the problem of advertising. I believe that consumers should take it in mind while buying this or that thing or ordering this or that service. As only in this case the customer’s status will change for the better.
Fehr, Nils-Hendrik, and Stevin Kristin. “Persuasive Advertising and Product Differentiation.” Southern Economic Journal 65 (1998): 56-57.
Twitchell, James B. “In Praise of Consumerism.” Perspectives on Contemporary Issues: Readings Across the Disciplines. Ed. Katherine A. Ackley. Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2006. 652-659.
Wolkomir Richard, and Wolkomir Joyce. “You Are What You Buy.” Perspectives on Contemporary Issues: Readings Across the Disciplines. Ed. Katherine A. Ackley. Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2006. 659-666.