Today, we live in a society that has become too materialistic and has been defined by the brands we use. We adore people who have lavish lifestyles with the notion that money is equivalent to happiness. Our society dictates that we must wear designer clothes, use expensive gadgets, and drive extravagant cars in order to acquire a high self-esteem and feel some sort of belonging.
A contributing cause to this problem is advertising. Advertisements show us that we will achieve genuine happiness by buying their products—they assure us that our problems will be solved once we purchase the product. Data suggests that an average person is exposed to an estimated number of 5,000 advertisements a day, and we are bound to fall under the temptation of at least one of those 5,000 advertisements.
We learn from the Bible that temptation takes the form of a test or trial designed by God which aims to give a person the opportunity to do evil and commit a sin. In advertising, that is exactly what companies sell: Temptation. Advertisers play with the consumer’s emotions and turn their wants into needs. Many would argue that advertisers “do the work of the devil” as they toy with our psychology and manipulate our decisions. However, most of us would say that we do not easily succumb to the ads that we see and that we have full control of our decisions; but let’s ask ourselves, how many times have we bought a product just because it was sold on a limited offer, there was a great deal that we just cannot refuse? With persuasion as the advertisers’ greatest tool, many question the ethical issues surrounding the practice and its industry.
An infamous example would be the case of De Beers; considered as one of the best advertising campaigns in history as they were able to turn something practically worthless into a valuable and heavily sought-after product. De Beers is a multi-billion-dollar company that specializes in diamond manufacturing. In the 1940s they were able to create the tradition that we are all familiar today, engagement rings.
Another would be the case of Joe Camel Cigarettes. Their campaign was targeted towards adults aged 18-24, but internal company documents revealed that they also targeted the adolescent. Due to the success of its campaign, the number of underage smokers tripled by its first year of release and after five years, the numbers quadrupled. The campaign continued to run for 10 years until it was finally pulled out due to years of controversy and negative criticism from the public.
After knowing more about the De Beers and Joe Camel campaigns, we would definitely believe that advertising is a way for the companies to deceive its consumers in order to gain larger profits. But at the end of the day, advertisers are simply trying to deliver a message from the company to its consumers by different means. Advertising plays a vital role in our society. Without it, businesses would suffer, consumers would not be made aware of products and their benefits, basic comforts would be rare, and educating the masses would not be possible.