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Is Advertising Creating Artificial Needs?

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Does advertising create artificial wants? Mariya Krasteva Most companies nowadays perceive advertisements as a way of survival. Big corporations who gained the largest market share in their industry never stopped advertising, because they are not sure what the effect will be and if they do it, how soon they are going to be forgotten. The market has a need for different and innovative ways to entertain and attract customers to buy, but companies are sometimes crossing the line. Whether advertising creates artificial wants is a very controversial issue.

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The first thought on that issue is that advertisers do really influence consumer’s wants and desires, but is it so? People differentiate from animals because they are rational human beings with the capacity of making reasonable choices. Being rational allows them to make rational choices and decisions in terms of what to buy and in this case which advertisements to perceive as reliable. People have the right to choose how to spend their money and the right to pursuit happiness and comfort by buying products that will make them happy and satisfied.

However John Kenneth Galbraith, a well-known economist who defends anti-consumerism, says that everything people want beyond their basic needs is neither “urgent”, nor “important”. But addressing Abraham Harold Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, in order to live normally, human beings require more than just to satisfying the “physiological”, because people have inborn need for “safety”, “love”, “belongingness”, “esteem”, and “self-actualization” needs. Considering that a truth Galbraith is not right because without feeling safe, beautiful, powerful, happy, looking fancy, being desired, respected, loved etc. people would not be able to live and will not have any desire for improvement. In order to prove that people have free choice and are able to make rational decisions I would address real life examples that are not connected to consumer behavior. People have free will to choose who to love based on perception and criteria, or feelings. People can make a decision, legal or not, to start stealing, in other words human beings are capable of shaping values according to what they perceive as “good”.

When it comes to self-actualization needs, deciding whether to struggle for educational and intellectual improvement, they choose to be motivated or to give up. People are also using free will to decide if they want to go to Para planning and rise up their adrenaline or stay at home watching TV and feeling safe. They also choose the group or type of people in the community they want to belong to. They can decide what to respect and honor, for instance in terms of political views. In contrast, Professor Galbraith states that people let advertisements not only influence, but also shape their buying decisions.

He questions people’s rationality, underestimates their ability to think, implying that people are easily manipulated and bullied. As opposed to Galbraith’s logic putting it in the context of today’s world people are more educated and not that easily manipulated by the advertisements in terms of choice for a few reasons. Firstly, the most recent economic crisis brought changes in consumers’ buying decisions and behavior in terms of rational choices, because they are even more price sensitive, struggling to find the affordable equilibrium between the quality and price, concerning almost everything they buy.

Secondly, today it is harder to persuade a person. The consequences of continuous exposure to the cluster of advertising messages over the years and previous bad experiences made many people exclude advertisements from their buying decisions. Consumers are getting more and more careful and advertisements lost credibility in persuasive messages. According Galbraith people are not giving so much thought while buying something, he states those human beings are easily manipulated and make impulsive decisions.

In contrast the hierarchy of effects approach suggests that, purchasing a certain product is not a simple act, but more of a process that starts with “awareness”, “knowledge”, “liking”, “preference”, “conviction” and ends with “purchase”. So considering this long process it is people’s right to make “bad” decisions because they know what they are doing. “In the common view, advertising associates a given brand or product with a prestigious person or a romanticized lifestyle, and suggests that the use of the product will transform the consumer into a more beautiful, more desirable, or more energetic human being.

The consumer, believing or half-believing this, and consciously or subconsciously coaxed by the ad’s suggestion, buys the product. With most Americans most of the time . . . this notion that advertising directly affects consumer choice explains scarcely anything about why consumers buy what they do. ” I am not trying to prove that business is never crossing the line or anything like that, but when it comes to their want to be “beautiful”, “desirable”, ”energetic” they are willing to do everything. Galbraith states that advertising leads to social destruction, because it is the tool that companies use to create artificial wants.

In his work “Affluent Society”, the market creates a want and provides a product to satisfy it. But people are not going to be easily influenced if what the advertisement provides is something they do not want or need. Sometimes consumer’s desires are stronger than their rationality when it comes to the stage to make a buying decision. It is healthy to be slim and for one reason or another most women want to look good, skinny and beautiful. Their demand provokes supply, but sometimes the market cannot respond to their want in an effective or healthy way.

There are so many products on the market like pills, tea, coffee created for this particular purpose. What I observed in customer’s behavior a few years ago clearly proves that human beings have inborn wants and sometimes they are willing to sacrifice a lot just to gain what they want. There was one Bulgarian company producing such food supplements advertising them as the best, most efficient, fast and healthy way to get slim. As a result more than fifty customers using that product got in hospital with heart problems during the summer, a few months after the product was introduced.

This case was not covered by the media and never became public enough, so I started spreading the word to my friends, family and acquaintances. I succeeded to persuade a most of them that their life is more important and there is a risk for their health. But a few of them never listened to me because the product had results and that was exactly what they wanted. Galbraith would state that the want to be slim is artificial, but all human beings have a free will to decide how they will feel better and have a their own perception of beauty.

Professor Galbraith also suggests that there is a direct dependency between the high production and the constantly increasing wants, I would rather state that there is a dependency between innovation and increasing wants. A good example is Apple’s successful demand predictions, responding nowadays’ fast changing environment and the business trends of efficiency and fast reactions, when customer have a constant need to be wired with the internet and be able to react to a situation every second. The introduction of the iPad, however raises the question whether its’ strategy is product driven nd if Apple is trying to convince people they need it when they do not. Considering the existence of iPhone that has very similar features, some may argue that there is no need for iPad. But this product cannot be artificial because again the company fulfilled a predicted demand for a larger device that will actually comfort consumers, while using it for long hours and for more purposes. The advertisements of Apple’s products provoke potential customers to identify themselves with the commercial.

Galbraith would consider this approach to reach people as a manipulative and persuasive way to create artificial want, but it is making the consumer visualize possessing the device and what he or she can gain from it. Consumers are the one that make the decision whether those products would have some value for them and bring them joy. Professor Galbraith also states that advertising and high production are affecting the society negatively exposing them to the “popular culture” where “one man’s consumption becomes his neighbor’s wish”.

On the contrary Hayek states that it is absolutely natural to try to keep up with others and buy things other people around possess. According to him there are just a few “absolute” needs that are independent of “social environment” and “cultural inheritance”. But advertisements are not the major reason why people buy certain products. How advertising sells is putting a life in a product, filling it with feelings, experience, desires and thus making it just a package of emotions.

I do not agree with Galbraith that this trend is bad because if the anti-consumerism trends take over the development will stop. In contrast, the market today is getting better and better in terms of satisfaction of the consumer, fulfilling every need, desire and preference. Advertising is used for both persuasive and informative purposes. The informative purpose of advertising is considered purer and more natural because its purpose is to make people acquainted with the product and differentiate it from the others.

The informative ads are mostly used to promote products and support competition showing ways to satisfy the basic needs of human beings. But the manipulative purposes of advertising are mostly used in order to sell products of companies with product driven strategies. Galbraith addresses exactly those products and the way they are promoted by advertising, using psychological needs as a tool to persuade the audience what they want. For instance I could address a woman that wants to look beautiful, fancy, desired. The way to obtain that feeling is buying clothes, lipstick, make up etc.

A lipstick is not making her beautiful but makes her feel that way. When people around compliment and look at her, it is most probably because she radiates her feeling of being beautiful, desired and different, not simply because of the color on her lips. This woman cannot be persuaded that her wants are artificial because using these products makes her satisfied. Considering cars for example, people need an automobile for transportation and they are making choice when buying a vehicle in accordance with their needs, wants and preferences.

But if we assume that the car is a basic need in the Galbraith theory then we should choose a car which is efficient, fast, not that expensive and the operation costs are cheap. Though, there are vehicles of brands like Bentley, BMW, Ferrari that are considered fancy, well known as an expensive symbol of social status. The difference in the purpose of getting from point A to point B is nonexistent comparing luxury cars to the average automobiles on the market. Generally those luxury cars are advertised in a fancy way with a lot of hot chicks around and some would say an artificial want is created in order to promote certain lifestyle.

But if I one day obtain such a property I would feel happy, important, fancy, joyful etc. What would make me buy it instead of the average car is how I am going to feel possessing it. I do agree with Galbraith that “When a man has satisfied his physical need, then the psychologically grounded desires take over”. But he implies it is bad and actually human beings do not need anything more than just satisfying our primitive needs – “food”, “shelter” and “sex”. That is what I do not agree with because otherwise what motivation for living will people have?

They will not have incentives to struggle for anything more, thus there will be no progress. In response to that Hayek states that this means that Galbraith does not have an respect to progress and the history of evolution. Hayek addresses the need for education, love of art and literature as a tool to prove that Galbraith is not right. For instance, reading books makes people more educated, entertains them and provides them with new experiences. According to the theory presented in the book “Affluent Society” if a book is advertised in a persuasive way, then it is a product with a small value.

But reading and learning as an educational process is what makes us go forward and develop and differentiates us from the other animals. What advertising does is creating feelings and experiences. But the want and the need are not artificial, on the contrary they exist. Though people do really feel the effect of obtaining the object- they like themselves more and feel better. For example the manufacturers of the Power Balance bracelets that state that the product” improves strength, resistance and flexibility”, provide “concentration”,” relaxation” etc.

It is obvious that this bracelet cannot provide us with what they state, but our belief can, so the effect of this product may be associated with the one of the placebo. From pragmatists’ point of view giving life to a product, in other words the feeling created by advertising is beneficial for both businesses and consumers. Companies gain profit no matter what successful advertising strategy they use. From customer’s point of view they have a need to feel in a certain way and it doesn’t really matter how they are going to obtain that feeling with or without a product with artificial features. According to classical utilitarianism, we do not desire a thing because it is good, rather the thing is good because we desire it”. What advertising does is good for the majority, firstly because it helps people gain what they want and makes them happy, while the companies gain prosperity. If the act is good for the majority, then it is right. If it was up to me I would encourage the use of advertising creating the product’s value and satisfying natural inborn wants. From my observations on this topic I would conclude that the wants are not artificial but the discussed products’ features are.

For me it is very important that advertising creates value to products with no need, because they actually provide happiness, motivate, and improve consumer’s life. But sometimes companies are lying and selling products that will not meet customer’s expectations and even worse sometimes those products are harmful for people’s health. Those companies are doing everything to gain profit but here is where people should use their most important feature of all – rational thinking. Stating that advertising manipulates us and creates artificial wants is not an excuse for our irrational buying decisions.

WORK CITED Solomon, Michael R. Consumer Behavior. N. p. : Pearson Education, 2011, 2009, 2007. Print. Phillips, Michael. Ethics & Manipulation in Advertising : Answering a Flawed Indictment. N. p. : Greenwood, n. d. Ebrary. Greenwood Press, 1997. Web. <http://site. ebrary. com/lib/aubg/Doc? id=5003895&ppg=121>. Schudson, Michael. Advertising, the Uneasy Persuasion: Its Dubious Impact on American Society. New York: Basic, 1984. Print. Galbraith, John Kenneth. The Dependence Effect. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1958. Print. F. A. Hayek,“The Non Sequitur of the Dependence Effect” in Tom L. Beauchamp & Norman E. Bowie (eds. ), Ethical Theory & Business, 2nd edition. Rohrer, Finlo. “What Are Power Balance Bands? ” BBC News. BBC, 01 July 2011. Web. 19 Oct. 2012. <http://www. bbc. co. uk/news/magazine-12135402>. – public service broadcasting corporation White, Robert. “Utilitarianism. ” Lecture notes. ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society (The Riverside Press, 1958) [ 2 ]. Solomon, Michael R. “Consumer Behavior,” (2011, 2009, 2007) [ 3 ]. Phillips, Michael J.. Ethics & Manipulation in Advertising (1997) [ 4 ]. Michael Schudson, Advertising, The Uneasy Persuasion: its dubious impact on American society. (1984) [ 5 ]. Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society (The Riverside Press, 1958) [ 6 ]. F. A. ”Hayek,“The Non Sequitur of the Dependence Effect” [ 7 ]. Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society (The Riverside Press, 1958) [ 8 ]. Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society (The Riverside Press, 1958) [ 9 ]. Rohrer, Finlo. “What Are Power Balance Bands? ” BBC News [ 10 ]. White, Robert. “Utilitarianism. ” Lecture. notes

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Is Advertising Creating Artificial Needs?. (2017, Jan 31). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/is-advertising-creating-artificial-needs/

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