How we Let Advertising Manipulate us

Our society is unsurprisingly but alarmingly familiar with advertising, considering how often we encounter marketing tactics on a daily basis. These advertisements work tirelessly to shape the way we live and think. Products, services, and even ideologies are fed to us constantly. Although most people would like to believe that advertising does not influence them, it would be unrealistic to deny the power advertisements have on our society. On a daily basis, similar to how a child is faced with the daunting prospect of eating an unfamiliar pile of mush, we are spoon-fed messages that many of us choose to swallow completely, or at least taste hesitantly.

Clickbait Ads

Contrary to popular belief, advertisements aren’t always just visual appeals. There are certainly plenty of billboards, commercials, and magazine ads persuading people to feel a certain way about a product or service, but advertising has evolved in tandem with technology; advertising has now become a sensory experience. Think about the way a product marketed to you feels or smells, or how an advertisement uses sound to grab your attention. Whether an advertisement is a minute long commercial or a ten-second clip, the minds behind that advertisement have most likely spent copious amounts of time researching consumers and tweaking their intended messages until the advertisement is as close to perfect as possible. 

Maybelline Expertwear Eyeshadow

Thanks to tracking technology, targeted advertisements creep their way into our newsfeeds, innocently beckoning us to give each advertisement our undivided attention. Our self-control can only allow us to ignore these advertisements for so long, however. How many advertisements tailored to our lives do we have to see before we finally give in? In this way, advertisements can be dangerous; they give us the illusion that we as consumers are equally as in control as the advertiser, but this simply isn’t true. By clicking on an ad, we give the advertiser what they want; attention. We are spoon-fed, and whether we throw a tantrum about what is being fed to us or not, the end result is usually predictable; we give in at some point, probably because we know it is inevitable. Eventually, we start to enjoy and even appreciate the messages transmitted to us. 

Not all advertisements are harmful; in fact, many products or services are genuinely more efficient or helpful in our everyday lives. There are advertisements created to shed light on relevant social issues, health issues, environmental issues, and everything in between. Advertisements can be educational and thought-provoking, and not to mention creative. Nevertheless, these advertisements remain intentional and determined to evoke a set of emotions or actions from consumers.

While advertisements usually succeed in getting consumers to listen and respond to them, their influence extends far beyond how we react on a situational basis. The most terrifying yet fascinating part of these marketing ploys is their ability to alter the way we perceive the information being relayed to us. Nowadays, ads are notorious for marketing a product or service as being capable of making consumers feel something. Now, we aren’t just told to buy products; we are told to buy them because of the way these products will make us feel. We will feel beautiful. Or empowered. Maybe stronger. Faster. The products we are buying will make us better people. 

How do we as a society avoid being manipulated by advertisements? How can we appreciate or at least respond to their messages without feeling overpowered? The easy answer would be to avoid these messages completely, but this is borderline impossible. Perhaps the only way to avoid being powerless against these advertisements is to understand their power in the first place.