Advertising – Precious Information Or Vicious Manipulation



Is advertising the ultimate way to inform and help us in our daily decisions or is it just too powerful form of mass deception used by companies to persuade their prospects and customers to buy products and services they do not need? Consumers in the global village will have to increase the number of advertisement messages and spending for advertisements is increasing accordingly.

It will not be exaggerated if we conclude that we are “soaked in this cultural rain marketing” through television, press, cinema, Internet, etc. (HACKLEY and Kitchen, 1999). But if thirty years marketing communication tools were used mainly as a product-centered tactical way, now the promotional mix, and in particular the advertising focuses on signs and semiotics. Some argue that the actions of Market ‘Finally, “turn the economy into a symbol so that it means something to the consumer” (Williamson, quoted anonymous, marketing, 2006: 569). One important consequence is that many of the contemporary advertisements “are selling ourselves” (ibid.)

The above process is influenced by the commodification of products and blurring of their own perception of the consumer to offer companies. To differentiate and position their products and / or services companies today employ advertising which is sometimes considered not only bad taste, but also as deliberately intrusive and manipulative. The issue of bad advertising is topical to the extent that organizations like Adbusters have adopted the technique of subvertising – show real plan behind the modern advertising. The Adbusters magazine editor-in-chief Kalle Lason commented on corporate image building communication activities of large companies: “We know that oil companies are not very friendly to nature, and the tobacco companies do not really care about ethics” (Arnold, 2001). On the other hand, “Ethics and social responsibility are important determinants of such long-term profits to survive long-term profitability and competitiveness of the organization” (Singhapakdi, 1999). Without communications strategy that revolves around ethics and social responsibility concepts of Total Quality and customer building become elusive. However, it could not light a clear ethics formula of marketing

ADVERTISING -.? Valuable information or cruel treatment

In order to gain insight into the consumer perception about the role of advertising we have reviewed a few fields, and four in-depth interviews. Various articles reach opposed conclusions. These differ from the ones stating that “the ethicality of corporate behavior is an important consideration in the purchase decision” and that consumers “will reward ethical behavior by a willingness to pay higher prices for a product that the company is” (Creyer and Ross Jr., 1997) to others stressing that “although consumers may express a desire to support ethical companies and punish unethical companies, the actual purchase behavior is often little effect on ethical concerns” and that “price, quality and value outweigh ethical criteria in consumer buying behavior “(Carrigan and Attalla, 2001). With a focus on advertising as the most prominent marketing communication tool we have constructed a set interview consisting of four themes and nine questions. The conceptual framework of this paper is based on these four themes.

Theme I. Ethics in advertising

first theme consists of two introductory questions about the ethics in advertising in general.

IA How would you define ethics in advertising?

The term ethics in business involves “morality, organizational ethics and professional deontology” (Isaac, cited Bergadaa ‘, 2007). Every industry has its own guidelines for their ethics. However, the main four requirements for marketing to be legal, decent, honest and truthful. Unfortunately, in a society where a course of action by companies is determined by profit targets the use of marketing communications messages “may constitute a form of social pollution through the potentially damaging and unintended effects it may have on consumer decision-making” (HACKLEY and Kitchen, 1999).

One of the interviewed respondents stated that “the most successful companies do no need ethics in their work because they have built empires.” Another view is that “sooner or later is that not ethical will face the negative consequences.”

IB What do you consider the importance of ethics in advertising?

The second question is about the importance of moral relations with / target audiences and how consumers / customers view it. In different research papers we have found quite opposing conclusions. Ethics of business seems to be evaluated either as very important in the decision-making or not very serious factor in this process. An example of rather extreme stance is that “disaster awaits any brand that acts cynically” (Odell, 2007).

It may seem obvious that the responsibility should be carried by the advertiser because “he is a key responsibility in keeping advertising clean and decent” (Bernstein, 1951). On the other hand, the company’s actions are defined by “the canons of social responsibility and good taste” (ibid.). One caller said:

“The only obligation to decent advertising is the one who profits at the end of the company’s profits should not be at the expense of society ..”

Another stated that “our culture and the social awareness determine the good and bad in advertising “.

increased importance of marketing communications ethics is focused on the need to apply more dialogical, two-way communication methods. The “demassification technologies have the potential to facilitate dialogue”, but “mono logic” attitude is still the dominant one (Botan, 1997). Arnold (2001) notes that the cases of Monsanto and Esso which had to pay “the price for [Their] one-way communications strategy”. In this train of thought we reviewed the ethics in advertising from two different angles indicative of our respondents and different perspectives in the review papers. The first is that it is important to have one common protocol contained in the law. The other affirms the independence and responsibility of every industry to set its own standards.

Theme II. What type of regulation should be the leading one in the field of advertising?

Next theme draws attention to regulation system should be the primary one. The generally accepted opinion is that both self regulation and legal controls should work in synergy. In other words, the rules of procedure is designed to support the law. However, in certain countries there are stronger legal controls over the advertising, eg in Scandinavia. However, self-regulation of the industry is selected in the Anglo-Saxon world. . However, not everyone agrees with the laissez-faire concept

One of our respondents said

“I believe that governments impose more stringent regulatory framework and harsher punishment for companies that are not in accordance with law.”

Needless to say, the social acceptability varies from one culture / country to another. At the end of the day “good taste or bad is largely a matter of time, place, and man” (Bernstein, 1951). It would also be probably impossible to put crystal mode of the era of the Internet and interactive TV. For both types of regulation should be applied with the ultimate aim to achieve a balance between the sacred right of freedom of choice and information and minimizing possible widespread offense. Put differently, the goal is to synchronize the “different ethical framework” dealers and “other community” to fill the “ethics gap” (Hunt and Vitelli 2006).

Theme III. Materials in advertising.

Probably a controversial issue in the field of marketing communications is the content of advertising. Nwachukwu et al. (1997) identify three interests regard moral judgment ads: “individual autonomy, consumer sovereignty, and the nature of the product”. The individual autonomy is concerned with advertising to children. Consumer sovereignty deals with the knowledge and sophistication of the audience Whereas advertising for harmful products are in the middle of the public for a long time. We have added two more perspectives to arrive at five questions in the conducted interviews. The first concerns the advertising that indicates a sense of guilt and praise affluence that in most cases can not be reached, the second is advertising stimulating desire and satisfaction through the acquisition of material goods.

III.A. What is your attitude to promote harmful products?

A typical example is the advertisement of cigarettes. Nowadays we can not see slogans like “Camel Agrees throat” (Chicken Head, accessed September 25, 2007) or “Chesterfield – Packs more pleasure – because it is more fully packed” (Chicken Head, accessed September 25, 2007). General advertising, sponsorship and other marketing communications means are already prohibited to be used by cigarette manufacturers. Surprisingly, most of the answers of the respondents were not against the cigarettes advertisement. One respondent said:

“People are well informed about the consequences of smoking so it is a matter of personal choice.”

As with many other contemporary products the shift in communications messages for cigarettes focuses symbol and image building. The same is true for alcohol. A well-known example of emotional advertising is the Absolut Vodka campaign. From Absolut Nectar, with Absolut Fantasy to Absolut World the Swedish drink actually aims to be Absolut … Everything.

Advertising of hazardous products is even more harshly criticized when it is aimed at audiences with low individual autonomy, ie children. Two key elements in this respect are the manipulation of cigarettes and alcohol as a “rite of passage into adulthood” and the fact that “sales of health-hazardous products (alcohol, cigarettes) to develop freely without much disapproval” (Bergadaa, 2007).

III.B. What is your attitude towards the advertisement to children?

children are not only customers, but also consumers, influencers and users in family decision-making Unit (DMU). Additional difficulty is that they are too impressionable to be deciders in the DMU. At the same time it is not a secret that marketers apply “the same basic strategy of trying to sell the parent through the child’s claim for the purchase” (Bernstein, 1951). It is not surprising then that “spending on advertising for children has increased fivefold in the last ten years and two thirds of commercials during child television programs are for food” (Bergadaa 2007). In the US alone children represent a direct purchases market of $ 24 billion worth (McNeal cited Bergadaa, 2007) which certainly is at the top of the agenda of many companies. While utilizing children’s decision-making immaturity advertisers often go too far dematerialising their products and “teleporting children out of the tangible and into the virtual world of brands” (Bergadaa 2007). Teenage virtual worlds like Habbo where snack food brands run advertising campaigns are already a fact of life (Goldie, 2007). The imaginative worlds are popular not only online. Hugely successful for creating a fantasy world is Mc Donald’s. The company is at the top of the European list of advertisers kids but more than half of the children are advertising for junk food.

Some countries are harsher restrictions to the children advertising.

• “Sweden and Norway do not allow any television advertising to be directed at children under 12 years and no ads at all are allowed in children’s programs.

• Australia does not allow advertising in programs for children of preschool age.

• Austria does not permit advertising in children’s programs in the Flemish Region of Belgium no advertising is allowed 5 minutes before or after programs for children.

• Sponsorship of children’s programs is not allowed in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands, but it is allowed, it is not used in practice. “(McSpotlight, accessed September 20, 2007).

According to research by Roberts and Pettigrew (2007) the most common themes in children advertising are” grazing, the denigration of core foods, exaggerated health claims and implied ability of certain foodstuffs increasing popularity, performance and mood. “But junk food is not the only reason for concern parents According to a study of the Kaiser Family Foundation (Doll Iver, 2007) parents are concerned about the amount of advertising on the following products (in order of importance) :. toys, video games, clothing, alcohol / beer , movies, etc

The interview respondents were unanimous: “. The advertising to children should be strictly monitored “Similar results were obtained in surveys by Rasmussen Reports and Kaiser Family Foundation. Nevertheless, there are legal means just one part of the protection of children. The other part involves” the decision-making responsibility of parents and teachers, “which is “to assist children to develop a skeptical attitude toward the information in advertising” (Bergadaa 2007). The market itself should also participate in shaping the moral system of our future and “each brand should have its own deontology his – code of practice regarding children – rather than rely on industry codes “(Horgan, 2007)

III.C. Do you think there are many misleading, exaggerating and confusing advertisements. Are many ads promising things that are impossible to achieve?

There will be no exaggeration to state that advertising is in a sense “salesmanship addressed to masses of potential buyers rather than one buyer at a time” (Bernstein, 1951). Since “salesmanship itself is persuasion” (ibid. ) We can not just blame the advertisers seeking sales goals. However, in the last twenty years or so advertisers have increasingly applied semiotics in their messages and as a result advertising have begun to function more and more like a symbol. One extreme case in this stream of advertising is the creation of idealized image of a person who uses the advertised product. Bishop (2000) draws our attention to two “typical representatives of self-identity image ads” which entice consumers to project the respective images to themselves through the use of a product

– “The Beautiful Woman”;

– .. “The Sexy Teenagers

By setting such stereotypes advertisers not only mislead the public and increase the impact of products but also provoke low self-esteem of consumers At the same time they promise results that in most cases are simply impossible to achieve. Instead of promoting “‘glamorous’ anorexic body images” communication messages should be used “different types of body” and should drop the idea of ​​the “impossible physical body images” (Bishop, 2000).

to question III.C one of the respondents said

“Customers these products [the advertised through thin models] are mostly people who do not have the same physical characteristics. For me, this type of advertising is deliberately designed for people to make them feel not finished, far from attractive social outsiders “

However, in another interview that:”. Everyone has their own way of evaluating what is believed and what is misleading. Consumers are sophisticated enough to know what is exaggerated. “

Similarly, Bishop (2000) concluded that” image ads are not false or misleading “and” whether they advocate false values ​​or not is a matter for subjective reflection. “The author argues that image ads do not interfere with the internal independence and if people are misled, it is because they want it. It’s all about the free choice of our behavior and no advertisement can change desires. Maybe the truth Our lies somewhere between these two extreme positions.

III.D. What is your attitude towards advertisements that include a sense of guilt, and praise affluence that in most cases can not be reached?

A specific case of controversial advertising is the one used to “promote not so much self indulgence as self doubt”, one that “seeks to create needs, to fulfill them, creating new anxieties instead of allaying old” ( HACKLEY and. Kitchen, 1999) A reaction interviewee says our

“It’s not just a matter of advertising. It has to do with social inequality and the desire to do what you can not. “

HACKLEY and Kitchen (1999) refer to this discrepancy and that” when reality does not fit the image of wealth and the result is a subjective feeling of dissonance. “The case could elaborated further through the next question.

III.E. ads are stimulating desire and satisfaction through the acquisition of material goods moral?

We live in a society that is more or less marked by materialism. Advertisements are often blamed the fuel consumption is said leads to happiness. The role of promoting satisfaction with the acquisition of material goods has become so important now “media products are characterized by relativism, irony, self-referentiality and hedonism” (HACKLEY and Kitchen, 1999). Is the popular saying “those who die with the most toys work” really inspiring in consumer behavior and could consumption be cured emotional dissonance? This seems to be the case provided a brand succeeds to enter in the evoked set of consumer choices. This new “kind of materialism” goes hand in hand with “the emergence of individualism via sheer hedonism along with narcissism and selfishness” (Bergadaa 2007).

theme IV. The amount of advertisements justified?

IV.A. Do you think there is too much advertising?

Review of food advertising aimed at children in Australia Roberts and Pettigrew (2007) revealed that “28.5 hours of television programming children sampled the 950 ads.” Indeed, we are all bombarded with ads on television, Internet, print media, etc. The amount and content of marketing communications messages puts information processing ability of the consumer to test. Exposure marketing overload often leads to selective perception diluted consumers. Whether our responses are defined by “confusion, existential despair, and loss of moral identity” or the “Act constructively to the [communications] Leviathan and become intelligent, cynical, streetwise” (HACKLEY and Kitchen, 1999) is a matter open to debate.

Two opposite streams of attitudes were produced in our research. One stance is concerned about the undue amount of advertising. The stream proclaims that “If it is commercial, so it is justified by the need.” We agree that communications overload may indeed have “a lasting effect on the social ecology of the developed world” (HACKLEY and Kitchen, 1999). If increasing communication pollution is not managed properly, both legal and industry perspectives still advertising will manage “to hoist their leg of her mouth and kick out a couple of own teeth” (Bernstein, 1951).


In preparation of this article we have used qualitative interviews depth to get a glimpse of what actual customers opine. We have also substantiated our presentation with reference to a number of influential articles in the field of ethics in marketing. In general, respondents us as well as various authors have taken two opposing stances. The first affirms that ethics in marketing communications matters considerably, but the other downsize the importance of ethics, thus highlighting the role of other factors in consumer decision-making, ie Price, brand loyalty, convenience, etc.

Market should understand “responsibility emerging picture of the future society” (the Bergadaa 2007). Not only is the need of legal ethical frame but also professional ethical benchmarks and deontology should be available. One of the main challenges is to avoid creating a “happy customer in the short term”, because “in the long run both consumer and society may suffer as a direct result of the actions of the market in” satisfying “consumer” (Carrigan and Attalla, 2001).

Concentration advertisement influence exerted on consumers is only one part of the equation. On the other hand, we can confirm that consumers are not morally subservient and according to the process model is a natural cognitive defense. The communication “offer us a theater of our own imagination” (HACKLEY and Kitchen, 1999). Consequently, we accept the reality in terms of their own experience. In this sense marketers do not create reality – they are simply a mirror of society. We argue that unfortunately this is not always the case.

Advertising often deservedly considered the embodiment of consumer freedom and choice. Despite this important role, when the choice is “between a candy bar and another, the latest savory snack or sweetened breakfast cereal or fast food” (McSpotlight, accessed September 20, 2007) and it represents but not choice and certainly not. healthy one

Word Bernstein (1951), said fifty-six years ago are still very much a matter of current interest: “It is not true that if we save advertising, save us,” but it seems reasonable to assume that if we do not save advertising, we might lose all. “

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