Advertising is a discipline that draws on the knowledge of social psychology applied to marketing and attempts to direct each purchasing decision we make. Closely linked to studies of influence and persuasion, it manages to modify our habits, becoming a phenomenon that transcends the mere act of buying and selling.
The language it uses and the reality it shows us seek to respond to the desires, needs and motivations of an audience, which is not usually recognized as such.
Advertising is omnipresent
Guérin is forceful when he states that “the air we breathe is composed of oxygen, nitrogen and advertising.” Advertising is omnipresent.
It invades all spaces, it settles in our homes, it sneaks into our electronic devices, it fills social networks and the mass media. It manages to guide our conversations and our thoughts, we reproduce its slogans and we hum their melodies. It is a leading part of our external reality and our internal world.
Advertising as an agent of social modeling
From sociology it is stated that advertising is an agent of social modeling because, in addition to influencing purchasing habits, accelerates the transmission of attitudes and values and can even transform them. It transmits a hegemonic discourse, it creates a certain reality for us, a perception that will end up shaping our symbolic thinking and also our desires (Romero, 2011).
However, the vast majority of us will hardly admit to being influenced by advertising. “There are as few people who admit the influence of advertising on their purchasing habits, as there are crazy people who admit their madness” (Pérez and San Martín, 1995). Psychology repeatedly shows us that we are wrong if we believe we are free from its influence.
In the game of seduction, the publicist has an advantage. He knows the frustrations, prejudices and intimate desires of his target and turns them into the perfect packaging for a product that, supposedly, will solve any weakness of his client. In this way, advertising not only informs about the qualities that the product has, but also provides it with additional values that are not even part of it. It is a kind of illusionist art, capable of covering the product with a black light that hides or reveals what the advertiser wants to show, not what really exists.
Advertising plays a substitutive function when it exchanges symbol and productgetting the consumer to want the symbol with greater impetus than the product itself that they think they need.. It is a fetishistic behavior associated with the need for distinction, status and recognition that all humans have. The cosmetics manufacturer, Charles Revlon, defined this substitution effect perfectly when he stated: “in our factory we make lipsticks, in our advertisements we sell hope” (Ibid.).
Advertising is classist
Advertising appeals to class consciousness with its strategies. Each advertisement is directed to a target audience or a specific sector of society. Each object is given a symbolic value that serves to create in the consumer an illusion of social advancement if they own it. At the same time, advertising tries to avoid in its stories scenes that show class division or social conflicts, while it forces a fictitious social equality by creating products for any purchasing power (Romero, 2011), categorizes types of consumers and satisfies them with products adapted to their needs. each target.
Advertising also has a problem-eliminating function, or “brave new world” effect. Always tries to present a beautiful, playful and fascinating world, in which consumption is related to leisure, beauty and well-being, that is, it presents us with a “beautiful side of life” ignoring any other less desirable reality, de-dramatizing our daily life.
Know it to prevent its effects
In addition to its economic value, we observe how advertising has a notable social value. It is positive to learn to recognize its various values to avoid possible harmful effects. For example, learning to detect when it may be used as a means of ideological pressure, or to recognize its classist capacity when it categorizes us according to different types of consumption. Many researchers maintain that advertising is alienating because it alienates us by creating new needs, or when it digests a certain vision of the world.
Advertising stereotypes and uniforms us by proposing models and fashions that we will follow en masse, matching our criteria., ideals and tastes. It is the depersonalizing effect of advertising, which homogenizes a society that aims to be plural but, paradoxically, will take advantage of this unification to try, again, to locate products that seek to provide distinction and uniqueness to the buyer, since we all like to be special (Carnegie, 1936). In this way it makes us enter a spiral of depersonalization-distinction from which it is difficult to escape in the consumer market in which we live.
“To announce is to delve into open wounds (…). You mention the defects and we act on each one of them. We play with all the emotions and all the problems, from not being able to stay ahead, to the desire to be one of the crowd. Each one has a special desire” (Della Femina, cited in Pérez and San Martín, 1995).
- Carnegie, D. (1936). How to win friends and influence people. USA: Simon & Schuster
- Pérez, JM, San Martín, J. (1995). Sell more than just jeans. Advertising and education in values. Communicate (5) 21-28.
- Romero, MV (2011). The advertising language. The permanent seduction. Spain: Ariel.