Is Advertising a Mirror or a Maker of the Evils in Society

This paper is discussing ethical evils which are used within advertising and the relationship this advertising has within today’s society. Complaints in advertising have increased by 7. 9% since 2006 with violence being at the centre of these complaints (ASA, 2007). We will centre this paper on violent advertising, but, we will also look briefly at two other ethical issues within advertising, racism and alcohol we will look at the arguments for and against the effects these forms of advertising have within today’s society.

Complaints in violent advertising are on the increase, between January and October 2007, 1748 complaints were made (ASA, 2007). Violent advertising is not all the same, there are different types of violence within advertising the identifiable core areas where violent advertising is present is within film and game advertising, advertising featuring guns and knives and other types of advertising depicting types of violence such as domestic violence we will be looking at these areas within the paper, along with the interpretations of violent advertising and specifically looking at how it can affect children.

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Racism within advertising are now rarely seen due to modern day standards of equality but when an advertisement is seen to be sexist or racist it sparks a debate within society, we will discuss the impacts of such advertisements. Alcohol is not necessarily considered as an evil within today’s society but when the advertising is viewed by people under the age of 18 it can present a problem, we will look at the effects that advertising can have on persons under the legal drinking age. Is advertising a maker of evil in society

Before we can start to look at violence in advertising it is important that we understand what violence is, the modern day interpretation of violence states that the definition of violence came to the conclusion that there is various types of violence and it cannot all be accurately defined (Berger, A. 1994) which therefore means that perceptions of violence can be different within society today. The committee of advertising practice (CAP) ruling on violent advertising is “Marketing communications should contain nothing that condones or is likely to provoke violence or anti-social behaviour. The CAP codes are put in place so not to cause problems within advertising, those who do not apply with the CAP codes may be subject to sanctions (Eleventh edition of the British Code of Advertising, 2004).

One of the major issues that needs to be addressed is how children see this advertising and if this advertising makes violence seen as acceptable behaviour within today’s society, previously research suggests that children’s understanding of advertising remains at a superficial level until early adolescence (Oats, C. 001) therefore suggesting that if children were to be exposed to violent advertising it would not make a significant impact on them because they have a limited understanding on what the advertising is portraying. In contrast to this a new study has shown that what we previously thought the age of children’s understanding to advertising is much lower with children understanding the advertising at the age of seven (Owen, L. 2007), if violence is being portrayed as a positive thing within advertising and children are being exposed this, it could have an impact on the way children act within today’s society.

The concern with violent advertising is the how it could effect children’s attitudes towards life, children have a high exposure to advertising it is estimated that through television alone they watch to 40,000 advertisements a year and these figures may still be underestimated, it is also suggested that such high exposure to advertisement will change attitudes this has already been seen through children’s eating habits and the relationship this has with advertising. REFRENCE MEDIA HANDBOOK) This can therefore lead us to believe that a high exposure to violent advertising would change their attitude within life. Children’s television now only represents less than 30% of their total viewing and now watch other programs not aimed at them, this is a concern in advertising as they are viewing advertisement which are potentially unsuitable for them (O’Sullivan,T, 2005).

Children watching television programs unsuitable for their age causes concern, advertisements played during the breaks are not going to be targeted at children and will therefore contain inappropriate content which could effect the attitudes of the children watching and would therefore make advertising a maker of an evil within society. Violent advertising is frequently used within the film and game industry, these advertisement are often seen within today’s society not necessarily as television advertisement, but as still images in shop windows, on bus’s or as posters and therefore easily seen by children (ASA, 2007).

Recent violent advertisements have shown one man strangling another, blood splattered on a wall and guns being pointed, all of which encourages violence. The locations of these advertisement have meant that they would be seen by people under the age of the target market, through drawing on the information in the studies on children’s understanding on advertising it could again have an impact on way children view guns and violence and they could easily integrate it into their everyday life making the advertising a maker of an evil within society.

Fashion advertising has often produced some controversial and violent advertising, Benetton were the first clothing brand to do this and were shortly followed up with Diesel and Sisley producing their own violent advertising campaigns, the main purpose to this advertising was too employee shock tactics to create a certain type of reaction to their product, but, has this advertising made an negative impact in society today?

Violent advertising is controversial and therefore it is very important that the imagery used agrees with the intended message of the campaign, otherwise there is a risk that the picture sends out an image which could be interpreted falsely The intended advertising is meant to make the persuade the target market and through the imagery and the brand could also persuade the target market that violence is an acceptable, and possibly leading to changes in the behaviour of the receiver. Andersson, S. 2004) Diesel released a poster advertisement advertisement (2005) which depicted a topless man tied up with an unfinished game of noughts and cross’s scared into his back, around him where two others holding whips.

The complaint was that this advertisement was “excessively violent and offensive, condoned violence and was degrading, particularly because the poster could be seen by children” in defence of this advertisement Diesel stated that intended to be an “ironic interpretation of the communication codes used by the fashion industry, to challenge the conventional way of thinking and communicating, and to promote debate and stimulate different points of view” This response to the complaint being made would suggest that this advertising is intended to be a mirror of violence within today’s society and not intended to affect behaviour, but, should sole responsibility be put on Diesel or should the blame be shared with the magazine in which the advertisement was displayed?

Marie Claire magazine being a magazine that reports on fashion, culture and beauty argued that their magazine is aimed at adults and would therefore not be seen by or cause harm to children, but offense to some of it readers. (ASA. 2005) This violent advertising has been considered as acceptable too adults as it is seen only as a interpretation, therefore implying that children are the main concern when it comes to violent advertising as they would not see the message which the advertisement is trying to deliver but only see the violent imagery and interpret it in the wrong way. Racism is an evil within society today and is still found within advertising today, CAP (2004) addressed the issue of racism within advertising by creating a code that states “Marketing communications should contain nothing that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence.

Particular care should be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or disability. Compliance with the Code will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards of decency” this is another code put in place to prevent advertisements from creating ethical evils within society today. Cadbury’s released an advertising campaign for the chewing gun Trident, the advertisement showed a black man speaking in rhythm with a strong Caribbean accent. The ASA received 519 complaints based around the advert being offensive and racist, ridiculing black people and the Caribbean culture. The advertisement was deemed as offensive by the ASA and was not be shown again.

This was the second most complained advertisement of 2007 showing that many people found still find this type of advertisement offensive and is still therefore an evil within society and is an issue which should be addressed. (ASA,2007) A study performed by Jill K Maher (Date) discussed the use of ethnic representation within in children’s advertising. Advertising has used different types of ethnic prejudice, stereotyping and showing minorities in bad roles, “Children’s thoughts and beliefs regarding ethnic minorities are influenced by the messages and images they see on television, both programming and advertising”. It also states that children don’t just watch advertisements but they learn from them as well, which can present a problem if children learning messages which are seen as racist and therefore evil within today’s society.

Racial prejudice such as stereotyping is within advertising today and it is dangerous as children are likely to draw their opinions on the character portal used within advertising, if the character is race stereotyped or seen as having a bad role within the advertisement, children may have learnt those stereotypes represented, if ethnic minorities have a bad role within the advertisement then children will again think negatively towards that race. It is therefore important for children to get a true sense of the roles played by different races and the interaction they have with the advertising and is therefore a maker of an evil within society. Alcohol advertising has presented a problem within society for encouraging under age drinking.

In 2006 alcohol advertising reached expenditure of ?194 million (ASA, 2007), studies have shown that 88% of 10-13 year olds are aware of alcohol advertising and 76% of these could indentify 3 or more adverts when the brand name was masked. Alcohol concern, 2004) These findings prove that underage drinkers are well aware of alcohol through advertising but does this encourage underage drinking? As part of growing up young people want to be older then they actually are, this was confirmed in the research carried out around young people and alcohol advertising. Alcohol advertising often use’s attractive well dressed people in bars, clubs and parties this imagery is appealing to people under the legal drinking age as it promotes the lifestyle which they want to have but are no yet older enough. This form of advertising is only mirroring society today but when viewed by underage drinkers it can become a maker of an evil within society through underage drinking.

The research also suggest that within society today it has become acceptable for adults live a youthful lifestyle, youthfulness associated with irresponsibility, unsafe and excitement which is what many adults today look for and advertising uses this “kidult” marketing to aim their products at adults, and while the kidult marketing is aimed at adults it can blur the advertising lines between children and adults therefore creating confusion to between these two sectors. Advertising that has used this method promotes freedom, lack of sophistication and a worlds free of responsibilities, with these characteristics displayed in alcohol advertising it can lead to irresponsible and childish behaviour with adult drinking which therefore makes this form of advertising a contributor towards the binge culture an evil within today’s society. ASA,2007) Brining these cultures closer together through advertising presents issue’s due to legal restrictions on drinking and adult drinkers responding to the characteristics presented within the advertisements which can contribute to creating evils within society today. Is advertising a mirror of society Does advertising mirror society today, Richard W Pollay and Katherine Gallagher (1990) would suggest that advertising is a mirror as it does reflect culture, but, it will only mirror certain messages and attitudes, it is selective reinforcement of behaviours and values it also continuous to say that as culture change so will advertising. Has society now changed to the extent that violence is part of our society and therefore advertising? This would therefore make it a mirror of today’s society.

As suggested by Andrew Brown (2004) advertising only is their to perform against other competition if advertising was not used then consumer would be unaware that the product exists, it is not advertising that has caused problems within society but it has created awareness and knowledge. Today we live in a society where every one is looking for something to blame their own problems on and advertising is an easy target to place blame onto. The author then goes onto argue that advertising to children is a common practice and while they made need special protection they should not be cocooned to advertising but educated so that the advertising could lead to a better life style. Chris Preston (2004) also states that it is easy to blame advertising for being an irresponsible influence on children.

These papers both agree that it is easy to place blame on advertising and that maybe we should not just take advertising into consideration when looking problems our children have, but, that we should also look within society today and see that many of these problems already exist and that advertising has just been mirroring them. In response to the effects that advertising can have on children a study carried out by Rosemary Duff (2004) stated that “children enjoy advertisements that entertain” violent advertisement are not aimed at or to entertain children, therefore suggesting that children would not pay attention to such violent advertising and it would not affect them.

The paper also states that the impact of advertising on children’s attitudes is not to be considered significant and that the main influence comes from their siblings and peers. It finally suggests that while they do absorb some advertisement they also disregard many of them. When looking at violent advertising it has been used in order to reduce real life violence. A campaign was carried out in Northern Ireland to reduce knife crime, the campaign produced violent imagery of knifes, real scenarios involving knifes and consequences it can lead to such as serious injury or death. This violent advertising was aimed at 11-18 year olds and its intentions where to prevent knife crime, the violent advertisements were a mirror image of what knife crime can lead to.

Through using violent advertising it is able to communicate to the 11-18 year olds and they can be influenced, the advertising campaign shifted the attitude of violent knife crime and changed the behaviour towards knifes (IPA,2007) . Using violent advertising in this context only a mirror’s society today and has had a positive influence in the reduction of knife crime therefore suggesting that violent advertising is not only acceptable but when used in the right context should be encouraged. A different argument is present by Jill K Maher (Date) is racism is an evil within society today but if ethnic stereotypes are not seen as misleading then this form of advertising can lead to success with ethnic communities and can build brand loyalty.

Stereotypes have naturally formed within the human mind whether for good or bad, the reason for this is being it allows faster thought processing. This reasoning suggests that this advertising acts also as a mirror within society. In today’s society an ethical evil can be different things to different people so it is important that we address this issue. An article on consumer’s response to offensive advertising by Kara Chan (2007) stated that “offensive advertising is context sensitive” this suggests that variable levels of ethical evils are acceptable within advertising but it is dependable on what is being advertised and the level of relevance it has to that the advertisement.

It is also important to take into consideration that the U. K has many different cultures and each culture has different standards, a study on the consumer’s response to offensive advertising: a cross cultural study say’s “Chinese consumers were most offended by advertisements with indecent language, anti-social behaviour, racist images, and nudity” Different cultures find different forms of advertising find offensive, Britain contains cultures and will therefore have contradicting opinions in what different cultural groups consider to be offensive, Chris Preston (2004) suggests that “When something is held to be for or against the interests of society, it invariably amounts to a position in relation to a particular view that is held by a sub-group within society. Society represents such a diverse ultiplicity of sub-groups that it is difficult to consider anything that is in the interests of everyone within it. ” Within society today it is difficult to ensure that all the cultures dwelling in Britain are not offended by advertising, but, because of the amount of diversity in culture that Britain contains this is difficult and therefore the ASA provide codes of conduct that all advertisement have to meet to minimise wide spread offense. Ethical evils within advertising today create debate for advertising being both a maker and a mirror within society. We have identified that there are many ethical evils presented within advertising and each one comes with a different concerns.

Violence is clearly a problem in advertising today especially within the fashion marketing industry, they have produced some of the most graphic images in advertising which have been seen by the public. Through looking at the research I would suggest that this advertising is unsuitable to be presented to society at the present time firstly because of the implications it can have on younger children , many of these advertisement are not unsuitable for a younger age and despite the advertisement being aimed at an older target market there is little the advertisers can do to prevent children from seeing it. Due to its graphic nature in comparison to other violent advertisements its is more likely to have significant behavioural effects on children and is therefore more likely to become a maker of an evil within society.

From my research it is clear that racism within advertising is now much less apparent within advertising today and if there are issue’s with racism they are only very small, looking at the research I feel that this is not a real issue within advertising and stereotyping will always be present it is only if these stereotypes are portrayed in a bad way does it raise concern for advertisement becoming a maker of an evil within society. Alcohol advertising is a clear problem within society, but, it is difficult to stop society wanting what it cant have, the advertisement are now under strict regulation in order to prevent its appeal to underage drinkers, although the new style of kidult marketing does raise concern for both binge drinking and underage drinking and could therefore become a maker of an evil within society.

From looking at all areas of research it is clear that advertising does create imagery which could be argued to be promoting evil but many of these images created are diluted to the extent that they are quite playful and even so many of these evils the advertiser use are present within society today and therefore the advertising is reflecting what people would only normally see. When advertising does create an evil which is not normal for society to see then there would be a clear argument for advertising being a maker but because this rarely happens and when it does it is quickly taken away from the public eye it does not cause a deep enough impact. I would Therefore suggest that advertising is only a mirror of society.

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