Advertising: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

There are all sorts sources online with made-up figures claiming we see thousands of advertisements a day. Regardless of how many advertisements we actually come across in our daily lives, it’s quite a few, and these advertisements do have an impact on us.

Cost of Advertising

“UK ad spending rose 1.0% during the first six months of 2023, to a total of £17.5bn. This encompassed growth of 1.0% in the second quarter which was in line with forecast. Our full year forecast of 2.6% has been maintained with total spend reaching £35.6bn”AA/WARC Expenditure Report

The reason businesses spend so much on advertising is because it is so effective; it tends to bring them much more money than they spend on it, and that’s because of us…

Advertising isn’t ‘Bad’

Advertising, in and of itself, is not inherently bad.

  • It can help to spread awareness of things like the dangers of smoking or drinking too much
  • It can also help encourage people to go for check-ups, carry out at-home testicular and breast examinations, and educate us on how to spot the signs of stroke or how to conduct CPR.
  • Adverts can be used by not-for-profit organisations, and can help charities increase donations
  • It can help to pay for free content so that we can enjoy certain apps and sites without actually paying for them
  • Businesses can use adverts to help themselves grow and flourish, helping the economy

Advertising is a tool to amplify whatever message the business or person in question wants to put out there. The issue though is that more often than not, this message is directly related to putting money in someone’s pocket. The majority of the time, the aim of advertisements is to get us to buy something, and they can be very persuasive…

Creating Unnecessary Need

A study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that credit card spending triggers a chemical reaction in our brain similar to that of addictive drugs.  Essentially then, these advertisements are encouraging us to do something which we can find hugely addictive: spending money.

Advertisements often create unnecessary need; a lot of what we see advertised is something we never wanted before viewing the ad. Advertisers make you want and crave something you previously didn’t. They put that thought into your mind that your life will be better with this product in it.

Even when it comes to picking out something we do need, such as car insurance, our decision is often subconsciously influenced by advertising. We are drawn to the companies we have heard about before, the ones we have seen adverts for, as that makes them seem well-known and trusted.

Preying on Insecurities

Advertisements often prey on our insecurities. We buy makeup to feel less ugly, skincare because we hate our acne or wrinkles, new clothes because we want the body that comes with them on the model.

In short, our unhappiness contributes towards our impulse to spend- we want to make ourselves feel better. In fact, some advertisements serve to create this feeling of insecurity for us in the first place by promoting unrealistic body image expectations. Unlike what is shown on adverts, not every person in the UK has perfectly straight and white teeth, poreless skin, zero stretch marks, minimal body fat, and thick shiny hair. Some people do, and that’s okay too! But, many of us don’t… yet that is rarely effectively shown.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.