Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What's So Wrong with Advertising?

As an aspiring copywriter with a BA in Advertising/Marketing Communications, I often notice people complaining about advertising.  They say the messages are too invasive, too frequent and, my favorite, they make you want things you don't need.

If advertising is that powerful, how come it doesn’t work to stop people smoking, make them eat 5 fruit/veg a day, stop binge drinking etc.  Despite the Central Office of Intelligence producing hundreds of high profile public information campaigns, spending millions on advertising for over 60 years, it has not managed to readily alter public behavior.  -greenbanana.wordpress.com

Of course, it's much easier to make a shiny new car look appealing than to make sobriety a fad.  But the general idea holds water.  Now, I'm not here to argue the value of advertising.  Wait, yes I am.  But I'm not going to push the idea upon my readers that advertising is flawless and something to be praised.  (Though I think some ads are!)  But let me ask you this: Do you buy things?  There you go.  Without advertising, we wouldn't be aware of a product's USP, or unique selling proposition.  We wouldn't know what makes Skechers Shape-Ups different from Nike Airs, and therefore would not have those toned bums and thighs.  Catch my drift?

Let's talk about brand loyalty.  Earlier this month, Brand Keys released a list of the top loyalty leaders.  Topping the list is Amazon, followed closely by Apple's iPhone.  I've never heard anyone complain about Amazon's service.  In fact, I frequently use the online retailer.  I'm also an iPhone user, so you can see where I'm going with this.  People wouldn't buy these things, wouldn't be so loyal to these brands if they were bad.  Yes, iPhone ads make people want iPhones.  But the advertisers aren't lying, the phone really does have tons of cool features.  Do those people who think advertising is "evil" think the countless benefits of having Apple's smartphone should be hidden from consumers?  That's right, consumers.  Like it or not, you are a consumer.  Personally, I don't see what's not to like.  Since the beginning of human existence, people have bartered and traded for goods and services.  It's natural.  Get over it, people.

My friend, Alex, brought up a good point about advertising in schools.  I looked into it, and it turns out it's becoming a more and more popular way to generate funding for school programs, and even to keep teachers employed in this tough economy.  And it's true, school bus ads alone can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for a given school.  But those are ads on the outside of busses, while children are inside.  Advertisements strewn about the hallways of a middle school might be a different story.  Critics say children, who are impressionable by nature, should not be bombarded by advertisements in school.  Blogger, "Jaded Scribe," responds to this criticism by insisting, "Instead of trying to squash children's exposure to advertisements, parents should make sure the ads aren't their only source of information."  This is indeed what parents must do because, try as they may, nobody can eliminate advertising's presence.  Even though children hold no purchase power, you'd be hard pressed to find a parent who hasn't given in to his child's demands at least once.  I'd say advertisements in schools have definite benefits, raising money for programs that would otherwise become obsolete.  But you can be sure I won't stand for my child whining at me daily, begging for Twinkies because he sees them on his locker everyday.  Maybe we should get on board with bus ads and keep the Hostess banners out of gymnasiums.

It looks like Disney and other companies are getting a head start and trying to hook us from birth!  Is this something we should be afraid of?  Or should we just say "Hakuna Matata?"

My final point was brought up to me by my friend, Will.  He says:

The fact that America is the only developed country where prescription medicines can legally be advertised [bothers me]. You wonder why this country is f****d, it's because people are told day in and day out that they're depressed, or have restless leg syndrome.

I agree with Will.  It is messed up.  

A new study by researchers at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology looks at the effect of direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising on spending for prescription drugs. The study found that, on average, a 10% increase in DTC advertising of drugs within a therapeutic drug class resulted in a 1% increase in sales of the drugs in that class.

Applying this result to the 25 largest drug classes in 2000, the study found that every $1 the pharmaceutical industry spent on DTC advertising in that year yielded an additional $4.20 in drug sales. DTC advertising was responsible for 12% of the increase in prescription drugs sales, or an additional $2.6 billion, in 2000. DTC advertising did not appear to affect the relative market share of individual drugs within their drug class.  

You know what?  I don't think I want to touch this one.

Let's hear what you readers have to say.  Hope this gave you some insight into a topic about which I am quite passionate!

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