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Is advertising immoral?

Advertising thrives on manipulation tactics. Influencing the subconscious. Subliminal messaging is no longer allowed, but there are plenty of other tactics being used.

Like those little fake droplets of condensation on soda ads or the sound of the can popping open and the fizz noise from the carbonation.

Fear tactics, repetition, color psychology, consumer data collection, packaging items to appear "fresh" when they've been sitting on the shelves for months...

Or playing on subconscious desires.

Axe body spray decided to find out who their target audience was. It was the novice teen-young adult, inexperienced in love. So, they showed them a guy who was doused in their products-- suddenly becoming a magnet for beautiful women.

The advertisements were so successful, they ended up with a branding problem. Teenage boys who were considered "geeks" or "nerds" were using it heavily. Worse yet, some schools even banned it-- because they were dousing themselves in the stuff and it was potent.

Marketers study patterns, people, and what impacts them. So, is it immoral to use these advertising and manipulation tactics to sell products or is it just good business?

What do you think of it all?

silvereyes 8 Mar 13

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Well. Yes and no. If you have a product or service you are trying to sell, you have to be able to get that product/service out there. And it only makes sense to present it in a favorable/desirable light. I would say that is morally acceptable. The problem comes when that presentation is misleading, intentionally or otherwise.

Case in point, due to physical limitations my mother can't have a traditional job. So she knits and crochets. If she couldn't advertise her product she would basically have to live exclusively on goverment welfare. But if she were to claim her product was bullet proof, or even that a wool product (which is a reasonably common allergen) was synthetic, that would be immoral.

I think that like with most questions regarding morality, it come on a spectrum with plenty of grey area.


Wait, wait… hold up. Are you saying that I could be irresistible to women if I use tons of Axe body spray?

@silvereyes I've got the second part down, but I'm not a teenaged boy — unless… does it count if I'm emotionally stunted? 😛


There is no such thing as truth in advertising.
They're allowed to lie, and lying is immoral.
So, yes, advertising is immoral.
See what I did there?

@Akfishlady Thankee!!!!


The way it's used by most businesses is immoral, but I think the culture of consumerism as a whole is one big problem.


Just spreading seeds:

So good to see Bill Hicks again. I followed his career ever since he first appeared in Rodney Dangerfield's night club. Tragic loss when he died so young.


It still boils down to choice for me. The consumer is making the decision to purchase or not.

@silvereyes i get you and i do think alot of advertisement is suggestive but its still a decision the consumer is making. No matter how good a sales pitch is, the responsibility is on you to control your own finances.

@silvereyes It is unfortunate. I have a relative who works in marketing for walmart. They intentionally placed certain items in view to get you to spend more in their stores. plus they rarely keep those hand carry shopping baskets. They want you to get a big grocery cart and fill it up

@twshield They hate me, I think. I go in like it's a war zone. I get exactly what I came for, rarely falling for placement or sales.

@arnies your brain is not easily influenced unlike the general public


I refuse to watch adverts, avoid whenever I can.


It is immoral. It manipulates everyone eventually. Even people strong in who they are will succumb to it if innundated with it long enough. It's one of the things I noticed when I stopped watching TV 25 years ago. The goal of any advertisement is to get you to buy their product. The best way they can get you to do that is to make you think you will only be a complete person if you have their crap. In other words, you will never know true happiness until you own whatever it is they're selling.

True happiness comes from within. Turn off the TV, the radio, and get Social Fixer for your Facebook so you can eliminate the ads from your newsfeed.


I think it is up to the consumer to be aware when it comes to advertising. You shouldn't be able to make false claims, however. But if you are dumb enough to buy a car because of a guy/girl in a bathing suit, well, that's on you.


If it is based on societal norms.... society is well aware of decptive advertising, is that normal? Is the advertising harmful in any way? Is the advertisement immoral or is the person who made the ad immoral? Can ads bed deceptive, sure, are all deceptions immoral, no. Just some things to think about.


Yes it's immoral. It's possible and legitimate to simply make people aware of what you're selling and the REAL benefits of the product. It's another one entirely to create irrational desires for things people didn't even know they needed (which generally amounts to making them think they need things they actually don't).


It's immoral because most people don't see or understand the manipulation (another way terminal skepticism serves me well). It stands out so prominently to me that I get angry. For example, I love motorcycles and their ads are just fucked! All I want is clear shots of the bike and specs. What I get is goofy looking hipsters riding to coffee shops. It's like this with just about all ads. This bullshit lifestyle bandwagon ads. Rant over. Yes, it's immoral and I hate 99% of all ads I see or hear.


A resounding "yes." Businesses use allowable tactics, and it makes them money. Is it good for business owners? Yes! Is it good for human nature? No!

Ninety-three percent of communication is through body language, and Albert Mehrabian's study has shown that if there is ambiguity between our words and our body language, we subconsciously believe body language. Politicians (and lawyers) now are schooled in body language (watch Secrets of Body Language), and it's not far to the next step for those in power to manipulate words and body language to fool masses of people to their own end. That will happen, because capitalism creates competition, but it also creates greed. It is greed that contributes to the downfall of our society.


Advertising is a tool. In itself it is amoral. You can use the same tactics for good causes too. It's been said that "stupid criminals make stupid cops." In that same light, if one's skepticism is not tested, how would one sharpen it?


Yep. It is immoral. Its goal is to convince you that you need a product, and does so by any means necessary, thereby showing no concerns to moral


Yes I think so, although I am not sure that affects me personally; I can see how children 'need' to have the 'new' trainers etc. to keep up with their peers or be ridiculed and some of them cost and arm and a leg and we have people sleeping rough on the streets - I don't know how to square that circle for my self. I wish we could start over again. Shpping seems to have taken over where religion ended.


Yes, much advertising is immoral. Whyen it attempts to convince people to buy things they do not need and plays on the weaknesses of people, it is not treating people with dignity and respect.


They are only as immoral as society allows them to be, it is all about making money from consumption. Government have banned many advertising methods in the past including subliminal advertising although I do occationally see those single frame once in awhile if I do I can choose to report them to the CRTC here in Canada and the network, station and advertiser will be fined large sums of money or even lose their license.


When Orson Wells broadcast "War of The Worlds", we as a society realized the impact of this new electronic media. The early days of television contain the RESPONSIBILITY of that media in informing the public, honest reporting, etc. The realization of the persuasive force of television triggered regulations on this new avenue into the livingrooms of the US family. Fast forward and the bottom line is sales, profits, return to investors. Along with all this, Edward Bernays (Sigmund Freud's nephew) is known as the father of public relations. He used his uncle's theory in working in the US advertising industry to increase sales. He helped the tobacco companies sell cigarettes to women, who up until then did NOT smoke due to stigma. SilverEyes, your question, "Is advertising immoral?" has only one answer in my mind, "YES!!" Good topic!


Not so much advertisement anymore. Back in the day, yes. When you were seeing ads for stuff like smoking cigarettes to be healthy.

Now that's more regulated. It's the PR department you have to watch out for. That's their job, to make shady companies look good.


Advertising was my career before I switched careers to play music. To me it is only immoral when you advertise a product that could or would harm someone if they use it, cigarettes for example without a warning in your ads. It would be very difficult to have a business without a way to let people know about your business or product. Capitalism couldn't exist without it. If you don't like capitalism then I could see why you would feel that way.


Ads are one reason I don’t watch broadcast tv or listen to radio. If it weren’t for YouTube and app ads, I wouldn’t see any but billboards.


The thing about advertising is that they have to keep upping the ante. It's a kind of immunity: what worked in sales last year doesn't work this year. It's the consumer's role to say no. Advertisers have to trick them to say yes.

Ethics? Not the advertiser's problem. They have to yank that money from consumers any way they can. If it means making promises they can't keep, fine. If it means not talking about the negatives a product might have, fine.

You see, advertising is the way it is because people are the way they are. The reason people have money to spend at all is precisely because we have all built up a good sales resistance.


In the respect it gives and creates jobs it is a like a fetish with a good imagination you can create a new one every week. In the way it manipulates people into buying something they do not need or want the psychology needed to go in the trash can next to the subliminal ads.


If it is plain and simple, creating awareness that a product or service is available, I am fine, even appreciative. But please, don't try and "sell" to me, I am smart enough to be able to decide for myself.

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