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Consumers Behaviour Shaped By The Media Advertising Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 1960 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The mass media in today’s society has shape the way we act, think and react to certain outcomes in our lives. It has such an impact on the choices we make and the choices that are available for us to make, that we sometimes don’t even know it’s there. This often creates an awareness of the roles and attitudes we are expected to react to through commercialism. “Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don’t have for something they don’t need” (Rogers, 2004 ) and these desires of wanting these certain products are largely the results made by the mass media. Perhaps, marketers should look at a different way of targeting consumers without having to mould their minds in such a way that has changed our uniqueness as an individual living in today’s global world.

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Consumer behaviour is often described as the way we make decisions in purchasing specific products. Factors such as economic, demographic, psychological and social influences have played a major role in influencing our behaviour as consumers (Quester &McCarthy, 2001). However, as we go into depth, the long term consequences of commercialism are much more serious than we imagine. So are we to blame the firms and organisations for manipulating our minds as consumers? Or are we too fragile to resist such temptation.

According to the American Marketing Association (AMA), consumer behaviour is defined as “the dynamic interaction of affect and cognition, behaviour, and environmental events by which human beings conduct the exchange aspects of their lives” (American Marketing Association 2006).

While another definition has defined consumer behaviour as “The study of individuals, groups, or organizations and the processes they use to select, secure, use, and dispose of products, services, experiences, or ideas to satisfy needs and the impacts that these processes have on the consumer and society” (Hawkins, Best, Convey & Koch, 2004).

So we ask, is this definition still effective in this scenario, especially when our attitudes and perceptions are being tampered with? Some people feel that they are not affected by advertising, but they are. The media not only advertises directly, but they also try to appeal to people on an unconscious level “It’s harder to persuade them when they’re thinking” (The Ad and the Ego, 1997) shows just how manipulative the media can be. For example, in 2001 the tobacco industry tried persuading its customers by using terms such as “light” to mislead smokers into believing that those brands are safer. They also made it seem like smoking is a part of everyday life. In many ads that promote tobacco, smoking is introduced as a natural part of having a good time. This as a result encourages consumer into supporting tobacco companies by purchasing their “light” cigarettes.

Advertising is the means by which goods or services are promoted to the public (Petley, 2003). The advertiser’s goal is to increase sales of these goods or services by drawing people’s attention to them and showing them in a favourable light (Petley, 2003). According to (Arens in Ayanwale, Alimi and Ayanbimipe, 2005), the mission of advertiser is to reach prospective customers and influence their awareness, attitudes and buying behaviour. They spend a lot of money to keep individuals interested in their products. To succeed, they need to understand what makes potential customers behave the way they do. Advertising is a marketing function, and Kotler (in Bokor, Werner and Richardsson; 2004) claims that advertising can have a number of different, possible objectives. One objective can be to inform customers about new product or a price change, while another objective can be to persuade. In this sense advertising is a phenomenon that aims to persuade or influence people (Bjurström, 1994).

Most of the critics today believe that the use of commercialism has dramatically changed the way consumers behave and the way they carry out their lifestyle. Looking at the examples present in today’s society, it’s possible to say that these theories may be pretty accurate. For example, Advertisers often emphasize sexuality and the importance of physical attractiveness in an attempt to sell products. They often emphasise thinness as a standard for female beauty, and the bodies idealized in the media are frequently atypical of normal, healthy women. You are continually competing with everyone around you to be noticed, to be seen, to be admired, to be successful. Ads urge us to become what we behold. It is advertising which defines physical beauty for women. Modern advertising conditions women to strive for an unattainable standard of beauty all in the service of selling products. Women frequently compare their bodies to those they see around them, and researchers have found that exposure to idealized body images lowers women’s satisfaction with their own attractiveness (Magazine Models Impact Girls’ Desire to Lose Weight, Press Release, 2008). As a result, the depiction of thin models has adversely impacted women’s body image, which has led to unhealthy behaviour as women and girls strive for the ultra-thin body idealized by the media. Advertising images have also set unrealistic ideals for males, and men and boys are beginning to risk their health to achieve the well-built media standard.

Advertising that pushes people to be small and eat large supports eating disorder thinking and behaviour. The continual onslaught of emaciation, body surgery, and diet publicity actually convinces many people that the lifestyle being portrayed is normal. Such media portrayal validates starvation, cutting behaviors and binge and purge cycles. Plus, this portrayal can delay recovery work. If a person with an eating disorder is subjected to a barrage of images and messages celebrating the symptoms of her illness, she may believe she is living well and wisely and will not seek treatment. This is a cultural phenomenon that is tragic. It contributes to people taking pride in their illness, proselytizing eating disorders, destroying their health, ruining relationships and, in far too many cases, shortening their lives.

So do advertisers see such an impact they’ve done to consumers?

The main objective of advertising is to convince the consumer to behave in a certain manner which is most favourable for the advertiser. It may influence the consumer in different ways, because the advertiser spends an enormous amount of money to sell his product in the most creative and persuasive manner possible. Before 1900 advertising was mostly informational. Ads described products and appealed to consumer’s logic and judgement. World War I and the 1920s saw advertising shift from text to more emotional and image-centered modes. Advertising became less about products and more about the emotional and social lives of the people buying the products. The growing industrial economy dictated that not only goods but also markets for goods needed to be mass-produced. Soon, advertisements began to promote anxiety, discomfort, and inadequacy among the population. “You’re not OK the way you are”, “You need help. You need salvation” Ads generate anxiety and doubts making us feel uncomfortable in our skins. This we call the ‘production of discontent’ (Hawkins, Best, Convey & Koch, 2004).

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Advertising sells more than products, it sells values, images, concepts, and above all, normalcy it tells us who we are and who we should be. Advertising teaches us above all to be consumers. It teaches us that happiness can be bought, that there are instant solutions to life’s complex problems, and that products can fulfil us and meets our deepest human needs. We live in a consumer culture, saturated with mass media images. Much of our physical, informational, and cultural space is for sale – billboards, TV, magazines, newspapers, even the area behind home plate. All of these spaces pitch products promising to improve our lives. We are all, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, affected by this advertising, often in very subtle ways. What’s important is not our experience of any one ad but that of living in an advertising environment which repeats certain messages again and again. We don’t see it very well because we re-surrounded by it all the time.

Like Richard Pollay (in Pollay, W; 1979) explains that “just as a fish don’t think about the sea, we don’t think much about ads because we are surrounded by this ad environment from birth to death”. He argues that one of education’s goals ought to be ‘to get the fish to think about the water. In order to understand ‘modern society,’ he concludes, ‘advertising is the best place to look.’

Humans are ‘meaning-making’ creatures, always wondering ‘who i am?’ and ‘why do things work the way they do?’ After a century of experience, advertisers understand the power of symbolism and strive to discover symbols that make people react in predictable ways. Advertisers try to create stimuli to make individuals salivate ‘if you can grab people their emotions, you can get them to follow’. We have a cultural disposition to believe what we see. The human brain processes images and words differently. What we reflect on, consider, and even argue with logical appeals built on words, but we don’t ‘talk back’ to images. Advertisers realize that people are more easily influences by images than words.

Seeing advertisements on the television, billboards or hearing them on our favourite radio stations has become a part of our daily lives whether we like it or not. Being exposed to numerous advertisements do affect our behaviour in some way what so ever. As a consumer myself, I strongly believe that advertising has a detrimental effect to people’s behaviour in many ways. We tend to follow our primary instincts and forget the real values in life. By acting on our insecurity and self-consciousness advertising makes us more inclined to products we are once happy with. We covet and envy our friends. We become greedy and are never satisfy with what we have. Advertising has created consumerism which affects our ability to communicate with each other. Most people nowadays prefer sharing their thoughts through electronic mail or latest cell phones than personal contacts. We have definitely become more distant from one another and consumerism is probably the main cause of this social alienation.

On the other hand, while advertising have a negative impact on our personality it may also have a positive impact on economy. The fewer commercials we see, the less amount of money we spend. For a large company and its competitors, advertising has become the only way of introducing products to the customers and for us sometimes it is the only way to learn about what they sell. One of the main indicators of a healthy and strong economy is the money flow or how much money is spent, in other words how much money advertising has succeeded to get out of our pockets. This results in low unemployment rate and increase in our standards of living. Despite the fact that advertising will be thriving on our weaknesses in the years to come, we should try not to become slaves to material things and do our best to retain core values which after all distinguish us as human beings.


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