Advertising is not taken seriously. Well, the word is right, we understand everything! Companies try to encourage us to buy their product, but we are not so simple either. If we need something, then of course we will take it. And do not impose unnecessary things on us! So advertising can simply be perceived as passing information. It’s even convenient, otherwise where do you find out about the emergence of new products or brands. It is so? Not really.

The main purpose of ads and banners is to increase product sales and bring profit to the manufacturer. But advertising also has a side effect: it can affect the life of a particular person and society as a whole. And there are many examples of this.

How advertising affects us

1. Makes you feel worse

The amount of advertising affects the level of satisfaction with life, and by no means positively. Scientists conducted study, which affected more than a million people in 27 European countries and lasted 30 years. This took into account other factors that could play a role, such as the level of GDP or unemployment. As a result, experts found that the more money a country spent on advertising, the less satisfied its population was with life. Moreover, the effect persisted for a year or two.

One of the reasons for this is that advertising broadcasts: without our product, you are not living well enough, not happy enough, you are not all right. And it’s one thing when it comes to a candy bar, and another when it’s about a premium car. Plus there are a lot of ads, you can’t buy everything. And even if the consumer does not plan to purchase everything that is shown to him, the sediment remains.

At the same time, those who buy the advertised goods live nearby. And a person tends to compare himself with others, which also does not add joy. After all, according to commercials and banners, these people are better, happier and more successful. That is, advertising contributes to building a hierarchy. Only people are measured not by, say, who has a higher position, but by those who have a newer smartphone.

2. Imposes his own standards

When advertising encourages you to think that you can become happier if you buy something, that’s half the battle. Often companies act more harshly and make you feel inferior without their products.

For example, in the fields of body positivity, there is still an argument about whether a person can decide for himself whether or not to shave his body hair. More precisely, claims are made mainly to women, there are no questions to men. Proponents of hair removal usually argue that it is more beautiful and hygienic, and a woman should only have hair on her head.

But until the beginning of the 20th century, American women, for example, did not remove anything in large quantities. But after Gillette decided to expand the audience. They sold their safety razors to men, it was time to switch to women. But the latter did not have beards. So in 1915, magazines launched a vicious attack on underarm hair. Considerations of hygiene were already in play. Also in the advertisement they pointed to actual sleeveless dresses – how to wear them without depilation? No way, here’s a special razor for you. In 1919, advertisements also began to include hair on the arms and legs, although the main focus was still on the armpits.

Marketing and Imposing Standards: Gillette Advertising
Gillette ad. Image: Wikimedia Commons

In general, throughout the 20th century, women were attacked with advertisements that ordered to remove hair first from under the arms, then from the legs (the hairs show through the stockings), then almost everywhere. A sleek body is considered the standard – and it’s all thanks to the ads.

Another example: the fight against cellulite. This feature of appearance, which manifests itself due to changes in subcutaneous fat, occurs in 85–98% women. That is, it is rather a norm, not a pathology. But New York beauty salon owner Nicole Ronsard launched an anti-cellulite crusade in 1973 while touting her “unique” diet to combat the problem, which she attributed to the accumulation of toxins in her body. And it has become entrenched in society that any self-respecting woman should devote her life to getting rid of cellulite. Although this is purely a visual feature, there are no problems from it.

3. Induces fear

Often, manufacturers play on the fears of consumers in order to promote their product. First of all, this concerns health, although it is not limited to them. For example, it is obvious that people with lactose intolerance or gluten intolerance have always been. But if you are not one of them, remember when exactly did you find out in principle that such problems exist? Not at the same time that products without these substances appeared on the shelves?

Moreover, thanks to all sorts of publications, one gets the impression that literally everyone should give up gluten and lactose. Especially gurus without education from social networks insist on this. Although science is against such an approach. Gluten harmful only for those who have an intolerance. But the unreasonable refusal of gluten-containing products, on the contrary, can lead to problems. Lactose intolerance on a human scale occurs more often. But many can still drink milk without any panic.

However, more and more people are choosing foods that are gluten- and lactose-free. Obviously, many do this not at all because they have read some studies, passed tests, revealed their intolerance to these substances and changed their diet.

4. Imposes a lifestyle

Let’s turn to history again. The roaring 20s are associated by many with liberated women in low-waisted dresses, who are all smoking cigarettes with a long mouthpiece. But in general, at the beginning of the century, smoking was indecent for women, it was considered the prerogative of men. What did not suit cigarette manufacturers – what a sales market is disappearing! Then the Lucky Strike company instructed marketer Edward Bernays to do something about it. And he hired a group of socialites who were supposed to smoke at one of the mass events next to the slogan “Torch of Freedom.”

Bernays didn’t even have to pay for advertising. The press itself placed photos of women smoking on their pages. A cigarette in women’s hands has become one of the symbols of emancipation. In parallel, there was an advertising campaign that promoted smoking as a means of losing weight. In general, the bad habit captured both sexes for a long time.

And this is not the only example. Let’s say people try to walk 10,000 steps a day. Although this is a marketing invention. Or snacking on candy bars because we’re told not to slow down, snickers because you’re not you when you’re hungry. Although this is obviously not the healthiest meal of the day.

Advertising doesn’t just make us buy something. It forms habits that then encourage you to spend money regularly.

5. Reinforces stereotypes

A stereotype is a pre-formed opinion about something. On the one hand, they make life very easy. Thanks to them, in repetitive situations, we can quickly make decisions. Let’s say “it’s dangerous to walk down dark alleys alone” is an example of a good stereotype. But there are also harmful ideas, especially if they concern other people. Such stereotypes make it necessary to evaluate a person in absentia, based on a formal attribute. For example, “a person with a tattoo cannot be successful” or “if someone is shown on TV, he is trustworthy.” The world is somewhat more complicated.

But advertisers are happy to use stereotypes, reinforce them and even come up with new ones.

So, everyone knows that pink is for girls, and blue is for boys. But why? Because that way you can sell more. After all, people who have money will no longer give clothes and toys of an older child to a younger one if he is of the opposite sex. They’re not the same color. But until the 20th century, no separation did not have.

On the other hand, advertising has to keep up with the times. Because if she broadcasts ideas that do not correspond to reality, this often causes outrage. For example, for a very long time in commercials about goods for children, fathers were either absent or were shown as clumsy, unable to cope with a child. But when Huggies launched a second scenario ad in 2012, it caused a wave of negativity. Because by this time, fathers were already quite involved in parenting.

How not to fall for advertising tricks

The honest answer is absolutely not. Some of the videos and ads will pass you by, some will hit the target. But a more rational approach to advertising will help developed critical thinking and awareness.