As I read through the most recent issue of Shape, I am enticed by ads for magic diet pills, whitening toothpaste, and even miracle cream for my face that promises even though, “it might cost it little bit more,” I’ll know it’s worth it. In “Can’t Buy Me Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel,” written in 1999 by Jean Kilbourne, Ed. D, she explains how deeply advertisers coax themselves into our daily lives, especially women. Kilbourne claims that advertising has become a part of our environment and considering that the average person views over 3,000 advertisements each day, the evidence supporting that is overwhelming.
Advertising is everywhere we go; we see and hear advertising in magazines, newspapers, billboards, television, radio, internet, and even the classrooms. In the article, Kilbourne describes how advertising supports almost every communication, not by selling products to us but by selling us to the products’ manufacturers. Advertisers compete against each other for the opportunity to deliver their product to the consumers thru the media and companies are investing excessive amounts of money on psychological research in search of specific words and images necessary to capture the attention and money of consumers.
Advertisers primary target audiences are children and women, who are the most effortlessly influenced. Internet marketers are attempting to inscribe “brand loyalty” to children as young as four years old by manipulating them into being customers without their knowledge. Advertisers are collaborating with schools by providing “free” materials or money in exchange for exclusive rights of their products. Media persuades advertisers to focus on kids easily influenced by peer pressure and thus eliminating any personal liability.
They claim that advertising does not influence anyone but peer pressure does exist, especially with youth because they lack the maturity to handle pressure from their friends. They are easily influenced because they want to fit in and advertising plays an important role in peer pressure with ads for tobacco and alcohol permeating our youth’s minds. For the other side, ads aimed at women offer comfort, power, and gratification; things that women often struggle with.
Advertisers encourage you to develop relationships with inert objects by seducing us with the allure of a gorgeous man if you are wearing their dress and their expensive perfume. Advertisers regulate our longing for their products by ensuring us that it can be trusted, even when people let us down. Kilbourne’s evidence on the toxicity of advertising on our culture is astonishing. Deriving from over twenty years of experience, she discloses the dangers of advertising, particularly for vulnerable women due to their desire for relations with others, including products.
Women’s self-image is suffering from the unethical diet industry’s advertising, making women feel conscience about their weight and physical appearance leading to eating disorders. Magazines feature articles that consist of “Drop a Jeans Size in 21 Days,” “Get Super Sexy Hair,” and “Look 10 Years Younger Today! ” The pages preceding the articles contain ads for Dove Chocolate, Body Sculpting Bras, and Jose Cuervo Margaritas, which will not help you lose weight, look sexy, or look younger.
While some people may Kilbourne too confrontational, she provides ample evidence to support her claims. A revolution is required. We live in a culture permeated by consumerism, with consumers sacrificing time and income to stay loyal to a particular brand. We are more prone to damage the environment by using up the resources at a higher rate than other societies, contributing to global warming, yet companies spend over $200 billion a year on advertising. We need to understand the addictive power that advertising holds over us in order to get control of the addiction.
Kilbourne names this big lie for what it is and challenges us to "redefine freedom, liberation, and rebellion in our own terms. We can turn these advertising messages inside out. We are free when we are not addicted, when we can be our real selves, when we are as healthy as possible in body and soul, when we are authentically sexual (which means loving and treasuring our imperfect bodies, as well as each other). We can and must unhook ourselves from the lure, the bait of advertising. "