Advertising Advertising, is defined as the act of informing or notifying; or to call the public's attention to a product or service especially in order to sell. Advertising is by far the most visible way in which businesses present information to the public. Over the years, advertising methods and objectives have stirred up quite a bit of controversy dealing with certain issues. Those who criticize advertising are concerned with specific practices linked with advertising. Critics are especially concerned with advertising which is directed specifically towards certain groups which they feel are "vulnerable." These groups include children, the poor, and the elderly. Other issues which strike up some opposing views toward advertising are advertisements that exploit women or use fear appeals, advertising that uses subliminal messages, and the advertising of products such as tobacco or alcohol. Many critics believe that advertisements manipulate the public into buying or doing things they otherwise would not do without the aid of the advertisements. With this paper I will discuss various aspects of what is considered manipulative advertising. "The Inconclusive Ethical Case Against Manipulative Advertising," written by Michael J. Phillips will help us to better understand the different viewpoints and arguments of the critics in regards to advertising.
The first question to be answered is; What is manipulative advertising? According to Tom Beauchamp, manipulation occupies a position about midway along a continuum of influences ranging from coercion, at one end, to rational persuasion, at the other(pp.3-6). He defines it as including "any deliberate attempt by a person P to elicit a response desired by P from another person Q by noncoercively altering the structure of actual choices available to Q or by nonpersuasively altering Q's perceptions of those choices"(p.8). Phillips defines " manipulative advertising" as advertising that tries to favorably alter consumers' perceptions of the advertised product by appeals to factors other than the product's physical attributes and functional performance(p.486). According to many critics all advertising is in some way manipulative, however this is an unfair statement because there is no way to measure the proportion of manipulative advertising to nonmanipulative advertising which reaches the public.
John Waide specifies the most common use of manipulative advertising by identifying a technique known as "associative advertising." "Associative advertising" is the act of favorably influencing consumer perceptions of a product by associating it with a nonmarket good that the product ordinarily cannot supply on its own(p486). For example contentment, sex, vigor, power, status, friendship, or family. Associative advertising seeks to increase the product's perceived value in order to influence people to buy the product. An ad that comes to my mind while thinking of associative advertisement is Gatorade's commercials that showcased Michael Jordan and a slogan "Be like Mike." If one were to drink Gatorade they could be like Mike, play basketball like Mike, an example of power, fame or even status, which in reality most people could not be like Mike whether they drink Gatorade or not.
The next part of the article deals with the autonomy-related objections to manipulative advertising. Autonomy means having the right or power of self-government. In so many words we have the freedom to choose what we buy, what we believe, and what distinguishes us as individual. With this article, if manipulative advertising really manipulates people in the way many critics suggest than all autonomy is taken away from society's consumers. This article suggests that consumers make purchase decisions which are completely out of their control. They have no means of "conscious or critical evaluation" or "independent or rational reflection." Lippke suggests that advertising has an implicit content which causes...
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