What is something you notice everywhere you go? No matter if it’s a walk in the park, going to class, or just browsing through social media, it’s there even when you don’t know it. If you guessed advertisements, then you are right. Advertisements are everywhere around us. Whether we notice it or not, it has been around for a very long time. Speaking of which, in ancient China, the earliest advertising known was oral, was recorded in the Classic of Poetry during the 7th century BCE of bamboo flutes played to sell candy.
With today’s advancement of the media, the numbers of magazines, newspapers, television, and radio stations, people are bombarded with thousands of advertisements daily. In this day and age, the desire to fit in and have the latest gadgets has been more prevalent than ever, but not all of us are fully aware of the dangers that could come with that. Chron describes advertising as, “Marketing and promotional efforts use advertising as a vehicle to move forward the agenda or image of a person, group, organization or event” (Chron, 2019).
The purpose of advertisements is to persuade audiences to become consumers, to buy the product or to promote a certain message for consumers to follow. Advertisements may be good for business, however, it can be manipulated in such a way that consumers are tricked into buying or following something that not only would not benefit them, but could hurt them in some way. This is called “false advertising”, and we, as consumers, need to be aware of the repercussions that come with falling into the trap of false advertising, as it looks beneficial to us and first but could potentially hurt us in the long run.
There are many ways an advertiser can gain consumers attention. Some of these methods include different types of lies. One of the methods is called “omission”. Advertisements that use the omission method tend to highlight the best features of that product, but they tend to leave the small details out. If a consumer sees a product that is talked highly about by their manufacturer, they will be deceived into thinking that the product is will do wonders for their life and will never fail them. However, because the manufacturer did not report any of the products bad points, the customer will be tricked into buying it under the false impression that it is the perfect product, when such a thing does not exist. Commision, also known as “an out and out lie,” essentially means that the truth is twisted in your favor. This can mean that either the whole truth is not entirely being told, or that the manufacturer is telling their truth, and not the truth of what their customers will expect. This connects to the omission method, as both of these methods will leave out little but crucial details about the product that the consumer may not want to hear. This way, the manufacturer will only say what the consumer wants to hear, and will result in the customer purchasing the product. These methods of lying are meant to manipulate the customer into buying products, which is unethical but it is still a very common thing that happens in manufacturing industries.
As seen in the short advertisement I chose called the ‘Unsung Hero’ by Thai Life Insurance, the man is portrayed as a caring and selfless person who devotes himself to bettering society. Everyday, he does various things in his daily life to lift the burden off the shoulders of other people. He does things such as helping an old woman push her heavy cart, feeding a malnourished street dog half of his lunch, donating money to a young girl in need of education. He repeats these acts everyday for a long period of time, not knowing that his actions had influence on the ones he was helping, as he was just performing these good deeds out of the good in his heart and not expecting anything in return. While he does not receive anything materialistic in return, he receives emotions and happiness instead, which brings him much more joy than anything else. This advertisement aligns most with commision because according to the advertisement, the man seems to be in low income class. The fact that he used only his pocket money to pay for the girl’s entire education is a little too unrealistic. On top of that, he also had to use money for the elderly woman’s bananas and his meals. Realistically, a person who is low income and lives paycheck to paycheck would not be able to do this, especially not everyday. Although this advertisement targets the emotions of viewers, ultimately it is not realistic.
Advertisers also use emotions to persuade consumers to buy their products. As shown in the ‘Unsung Hero’, when the little girl calls out her mom while wearing a school uniform, it reveals to the audience that the man’s hard work and generosity has paid off. This scene in the ad is strategically trying to manipulate the viewer’s feelings by using and stimulate the emotional part of the brain that influences how we make decisions. Using pathos is a very good method to persuade people to buy products and services, but it is unethical to deceive consumers in such a way. Emotional ads are designed to encourage anger, sadness, or joy which is targeted toward the brand’s goal. Through this advertisement we can see that Thai Life Insurance relies on pathos to evoke pity within consumers and persuade them to use their insurance because they know other methods will not work. If a customer is moved upon viewing the advertisement, they will think that the insurance is trustworthy enough to purchase services from.
False advertising can not only be found in commercials selling products, but can also be used for promoting trends. A prevalent issue that we see very often in society today is body-image, especially in women. It is no secret that society has very different expectations for men and women. Women are pressured to follow the expectations of society much more than men. Society rules tell women to look and act a certain way, and companies will take advantage of that and make money off of it. The fashion industry plays a very big role in this. Fashion and clothing companies will make advertisements with the target message being, “If you are a woman and you do not look like this, you will never be accepted by others.” And because women, like all humans, desire to be accepted by society, will fall into the trap of false advertising and get hurt in the long run. If an advertisement features a model that has a slim body, big breasts, big butt, and perfect skin, women will be under the impression that they need to abide by societal rules and go to great lengths to achieve those extremely unrealistic body standards. This can involve dangerous eating disorders, body modification such as plastic surgery, and unhealthy diet techniques, all of which can put the human body in danger. In 2014, Victoria’s Secret, a well-known lingerie brand that has advertisements all over the world, released a new lingerie line known as Body by Victoria’s Secret. This line featured a line of skinny, beautiful models to advertise their lingerie, with the caption, “The Perfect Body” in all capital letters. This put out the message that if you do not look like the models in the ad, you do not have the “perfect body”, which is so far from the truth as there is no such thing as a “perfect body”. This is a perfect example of false advertising, as this advertisement twists the truth in order to appeal to consumers. In reality, this particular advertisement can be very dangerous to its viewers, most of them being women and young girls, because they will feel compelled to follow these beauty standards. According to statistics from social experiments, studies show that 53% of 13 year olds and 78% of 17 year olds are not satisfied with their body. By the time they are adults, 91% of women are not satisfied with bodies. These statistics demonstrate how false advertising negatively affects body image in women.
Because we see advertisements wherever we go, sometimes we won’t think twice about it or even give it a second glance. However, when we do see an ad that actually appeals to us, we should think twice about whether or not we actually want to buy into it and face the potential consequences of doing so. Raising awareness of false advertising is something that we as a society should start to partake in more, as there are more victims of false advertising than we could imagine. First, realizing that most advertisements out there are solely selling their product or message for their own benefit and not for ours, though it may seem like the opposite. Ultimately, industries use advertising for their own financial gain and do not care if the consumer gets hurt in the end. False advertising not only negatively influences our body-image, but also our sense of trust towards the manufacturing industry.