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How Does Advertising Affect the Ways in Which We See Ourselves Through the Media?

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You know your marketing team has done a great job when they explain how advertising – your advertising – influences people to view your website, read your content, click on your ads, respond to your queries and, ultimately, become your customer. You know your marketing team has done an exceptional job when they have presented this information in such a way that it whets your appetite to learn more about how advertising influences people's behavior on a more fundamental level, or how it forges bonds, shapes perceptions and makes some habits seem cool while others a waste of time.

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We usually assume that advertising functions mostly to tell us about the properties of a product. A particular detergent might advertise that it gets stains out better than competitors, that it smells good, and that it leaves clothes feeling fresh. We believe that these properties are ones that will help us to choose the detergent we want to buy. However, ads also do other things. One thing they do is to take a product and to put it next to lots of other things that we already feel positively about. For example, an ad for detergent may have fresh flowers, cute babies, and sunshine in it. All of these things are ones that we probably feel pretty good about already

And repeatedly showing the detergent along with other things that we feel good about can make us feel good about the detergent, too. This transfer of our feelings from one set of items to another is called affective conditioning (the word affect means feelings).

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Advertising has been defined in the literature as a form of communication employed to promote products and services of an organization “primarily to generate sales and secondary to create a brand identity, introduce new products and services, communicating a change in the existing product line and helps in communicating social messages to the masses” (Kumar, 2012 p. 22)

These are noble objectives by any standards, but it is evident that contemporary advertising goes beyond these objectives into other inconceivable intentions.In their seminal article about the effects of alcohol advertising on young people, Smith and Foxcroft (2009) acknowledge that “healthcare researchers and workers have shown associations between exposure to alcohol advertising and drinking behavior in cross-sectional surveys” (p. 4). This particular study found that onset of alcohol consumption in adolescent non-drinkers at baseline was substantially associated with exposure to alcohol advertisements in traditional, print and electronic media.

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In any event, the advertising industry will never act as the first pioneer instigating social change-but that doesn’t mean it can’t be an important part of the process. We consume massive amounts of advertising day in and day out, and when this content promotes an inclusive picture of society, marketing and advertising can work as an accelerator for social progress

It’s value is not in starting the fire, but in fanning the flames. Advertising’s cultural power stems from its ability to shape our perception and give a voice to those outside the mainstream. So what social issues will our advertising address over the next twenty years? To figure that out, we must first stop and ask ourselves — who aren’t we listening to today?

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Hayko, G. (2010). Effects of advertising on society: A Review. HOHONU, 8, 79-82. Web.

Joshi, R., Herman, C. P., & Polivy, J. (2004). Self-enhancing effects to thin body images. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 35(3), 333-341.

Just Jared, Inc. (2013). Budweiser Super Bowl Commercial: ‘Clydesdales horses.’ Web.

Kalliny, M. (2010). Are they really that different from us? A comparison of Arab and American Newspaper Advertising. Journal of Current Issues & Research in Advertising, 32(1), 95-108.

Kumar, A. (2012). Dimensionality of consumer beliefs toward billboard advertising. Journal of Marketing & Communication, 8(1), 22-26.

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