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Is Advertising Immoral?

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Presentation on theme: "Is Advertising Immoral?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Is Advertising Immoral?
PHIL106 – 2010 Dan Turton

2 Does Advertising Manipulate Us? Reekie’s Defense of Advertising
PHIL106 – 2010 Dan Turton

3 Topic Summary Does advertising manipulate us?
Reekie’s defense of advertising Crisp’s limited critique of advertising Does advertising make us unhappy? Belch vs. Hamilton Hamilton again and wrap up

4 Assessment for this Topic
There will be one exam question on this topic (the morality of advertising) You will need to be aware of the arguments in lectures and the readings to be able to fully answer the question The question is a simple, obvious and fairly general one All of the four lectures and three readings on this topic will be useful to answer the question

5 Today Start addressing the question: An explanation of advertising
Is advertising immoral? An explanation of advertising A defense of advertising Setting up some of the moral issues

6 Advertising is… Communication from a specific source that intends to inform and influence the audience so that they believe something and/or behave in a certain way It is usually: Persuading people to purchase a brand/product Paid for Using mass media But some marketers are much sneakier…

7 Advertising might also be…
Rosser Reeves Manager of a successful advertising company While holding up two coins: “[Making] you think that this quarter is more valuable than that one”

8 Last Year ‘Fans’ were Tested
Volunteers were either Speights or Tui fans Blind taste test of four cups Everyone got most wrong Everyone preferred Speights slightly, but No one could even tell which ones were the same

9 Thanks to Duncan Reekie
Most of these arguments are his See his reading in the course book But, the cutting-edge research tailored to the NZ commercial, cultural and moral environment has been carried out by me

10 The Role of Advertising
Advertising supports marketing and business function. A modern business model: Perform consumer research Develop new product based on research Advertise product Sell product Importantly, both the business and the consumers benefit from this The business makes money for its investors The customers get what they have been wanting

11 The Benefits of Advertising
Advertising helps consumers decide what to buy Informs about the existence of new products Informs about new uses for existing products Informs about differences between products – laundry powder & razors Advertising provides incentives to: Make differentiated products, & Innovative products Who doesn’t like PS3s, wi-fi, iphones?

12 The Benefits of Advertising 2
Advertising is entertainment Many ads are: Funny Interesting Artistic Appealing in other ways

13 The Benefits of Advertising 3
Advertising is good for the economy It is a huge industry It employs a lot of people It stimulates economic growth by connecting more of consumers needs and wants with solutions Economic growth is good Means you can get more things you want

14 The Benefits of Advertising 4
Winston Churchill: “Advertising nourishes the consuming power of men. It creates wants for a better standard of living… It spurs individual exertion and greater production.” Advertising improves our well-being

15 So, What’s Wrong with Advertising?
Apparently, advertising deceives people into buying things that they don’t really need Apparently, advertising lies, deceives and misleads Apparently, advertising makes people think they need things that they shouldn’t even want Some people even think it makes us unhappy!

16 Advertising Doesn’t Lie
Reasons why advertisers don’t lie Misleading ads are reported and removed from circulation ASA: “Truthful Presentation - Advertisements should not contain any statement … which … is likely to deceive or mislead the consumer … or exploits his/her lack of experience or knowledge.” ASA: “(Obvious hyperbole, identifiable as such, is not considered to be misleading).”

17 Advertising Doesn’t Lie
Reasons why advertisers don’t lie Misleading ads are reported and removed from circulation Lies about product quality are soon discovered, making the lying company go out of business Really important product categories have extra regulations to prevent lying Advertisers don’t want to tarnish the reputation of advertising generally

18 Advertising Doesn’t Make Us Buy Things We Don’t Need
Advertising never forces anyone to do anything Advertising does influence our purchase decisions (at least it intends to) But what is wrong with that? Advertising can’t encourage you to want something you really don’t need Advertising can only help you fulfill wants and needs you already have

19 Should Advertising be Allowed to Help Us Fulfill Our Wants?
Should we stop people from helping others to fulfill their wants? Depends on the wants… Some things we want are bad for others Slaves, over-sized cars, blow-off valves Some things we want are bad for ourselves Cigarettes, highly processed foods, blow-off valves

20 Should Advertising Help Us Fulfill Our Wants?
Advertising obviously shouldn’t encourage or help people to harm others but… Who should decide what we should and shouldn’t want (for our own good)? What is better, freedom or having the government protect us from our own wants? Why shouldn’t I be able to do whatever I want with my money (without hurting others)? Consumer Sovereignty: Surely I have that right! Where do we draw the line?

21 Summary Advertising is good because:
It helps consumers decide what to buy It provides incentives for innovation At least some of it is entertaining Its good for the economy It allows us to improve our lives (as we see fit) by helping us to satisfy our wants and needs Busting the myths about advertising: Advertising does not lie or deceive Advertising cannot make people buy things they don’t want

22 Next Time Dan is back Read: Get ready to discuss:
Roger Crisp’s ‘Persuasive Advertising, Autonomy, and the Creation of Desire Get ready to discuss: Why advertising actually is immoral – it creates desires in us that we cannot even attempt to reject

23 Does Advertising Manipulate Us? Crisp’s Limited Critique of Advertising
PHIL106 – 2010 Dan Turton

24 Today Looking at an argument that a certain type of advertising is immoral Roger Crisp: “In this paper, I shall argue that all forms of a certain common type of advertising [persuasive advertising] are morally wrong, on the ground that they override the autonomy of consumers.”

25 Informative Adverts Crisp: informative advertising is usually OK because it facilitates (not overrides) the desire-making process E.g. Jacket on sale He already wanted that kind of jacket, now he knows where to get it (for cheap)

26 Persuasive Adverts Crisp: ‘persuasive advertising’ is
immoral because it overrides our autonomy (our ability to make purchase decisions for ourselves) Forms of persuasive advertising (by which the desire for products can be created): Repetition – drumming a brand into your head ‘Puffery’ – linking the product to unconscious survival and reproduction-related desires Subliminal ads – New Jersey cinema experiment

27 How Subliminal Ads ‘Work’
Unconscious emotional manipulation by Suggestion – often just the product logo Association – the logo and something good If you are aware of seeing/hearing it, then it’s not subliminal advertising (or it’s a failed attempt at subliminal advertising)

28 The Truth about Subliminal Ads
Subliminal ads alone can’t make you buy something that you didn’t want Purchasing a product is too complex a behaviour for subliminal ads to control Unconscious priming works sometimes Some priming is rejected

29 Arrington: Autonomous Desire
Desires are autonomous if we accept them E.g. Arrington sees an ad for hair dye He desires hair dye because he desires to look younger And, he is perfectly happy to have both of those desires Therefore, (according to him) his desire for hair dye is autonomous

30 Crisp: Autonomous Desire
Is Arrington’s desire autonomous? What if the ad showed a man (with 100% not-grey hair) in a position of authority and surrounded by beautiful women? Perhaps Arrington's real desires were for power and sex Show your experience and vitality

31 Crisp: How Adverts Persuade
They appeal to our unconscious desires Crisp: they might appeal to our “unconscious desires for power and sex”

32 Unconscious Desires? The unconscious desire for sex
Makes us laugh at jokes that aren’t funny The unconscious desire for power $$ is the best indicator of power these days Makes us angry/disappointed if we don’t get that promotion/job we were after Also makes us laugh at jokes that aren’t funny

33 Evolution by Natural Selection
Over many generations, types of organisms tend to develop traits that increase individual members chances of surviving and reproducing Unconscious desires for power and sex are traits that can help with this Therefore, we should expect to see a lot of traits that are conducive to noticing and getting power and sex

34 Unconscious Desires Advertisers don’t always target sex and power though Most ads for FMCGs are targeted at women or women and children Remember that Persil makes your clothes whiter? Well, that’s not all it does:

35 Crisp: Rational Desire
Persuasive advertising creates irrational desires If our main desire for a product is subconscious, then rationality doesn’t even come into it - we cannot possibly accept it or even consider it! Remember that an autonomous desire is one that we accept

36 Crisp: Free Choice/Autonomy
Being able to provide any old reason for why you bought something (like Arrington’s e.g.) isn’t necessarily helpful “But, I like Meow Mix”, “But, I like Grecian Formula 16” We need to weigh up the relevant reasons in order to make a free choice Persuasive advertising uses reasons that we are not aware of and so cannot evaluate

37 Crisp: Control or Manipulation
You control someone if you make them do something for reasons that they would not consider… reasonable. Making Crisp do a jig (by tying ropes to his limbs) just because I feel like it would be controlling him Making me buy hair dye because I unconsciously desire power and sex Adverts can do this

38 Crisp’s General Argument
Persuasive advertising unconsciously creates the desire for a product by drumming it into your brain or by associating it with sex, power or some other thing that is commonly and unconsciously craved Therefore, the real reason for our desire to buy a product is hidden from us, we cannot evaluate it Therefore, the desire is not autonomous Therefore, persuasive advertising overrides our autonomy/freedom of choice (which is immoral)

39 Summary Crisp: Persuasive advertising uses subconscious associations to try to make us desire products in a way that bypasses our autonomy Remember that this is a specific definition of ‘persuasive advertising’ Some adverts clearly try to be persuasive in the manner Crisp suggests Are such adverts immoral for trying to do this?

40 Next Time Read: Get ready to discuss:
Belch & Belch ‘Economic Effects of Advertising’ Get ready to discuss: Does advertising make us happy… or unhappy?

41 Does Advertising Makes Us Unhappy? Belch vs. Hamilton
PHIL106 – 2010 Dan Turton

42 Recap of Crisp Persuasive advertising uses repetition and subconscious associations to try to make us desire products Crisp thinks it works and that it is immoral because it overrides our autonomy It most likely works to some extent, because persuasive advertising is so widespread Does it actually override our autonomy, though? Is it manipulative enough to be immoral, though?

43 Today The advertisers argument for how advertising makes us happier
Hamilton’s criticism of that argument

44 Problem: Margin of Discontent
Margin of Discontent = Gap between what we have and what we want Happiness = satisfaction with how your life is going (no discontent) Examples of discontent : You have a Corolla, but you want a Porsche You work at McDonalds, but you want a job at Logan Brown You have a 14” tube TV, but you want a 21” flat screen

45 Hamilton’s Solutions to the Margin of Discontent
Hamilton mentions two possible solutions, but he thinks that the first solution doesn’t seem to work: Economic growth solution: “People satisfy their wants by increasing their possessions, thus becoming happier” ‘Sages’ solution: “Give up wanting”

46 ‘Neo-Liberal’ (Advertisers) Argument (Roughly According to Hamilton)
Reducing the Margin of Discontent makes people happier Economic growth helps consumers to reduce their Margin of Discontent Advertising encourages economic growth Advertising helps consumers to make better decisions about how to reduce the Margin of Discontent c) Therefore, advertising helps make people happier (by helping to reduce the Margin of Discontent in two ways)

47 Hamilton’s Refutation of the ‘Neo-Liberal’ (Advertisers) Argument
More $$ (economic growth) does not make us happier Therefore, P2 is false And, advertising does not help consumers to make better decisions about how to reduce the Margin of Discontent Therefore, P4 is false

48 Does $$ Make Us Happy? If 1. and 2. are both true, then why have
Reducing the margin of discontent makes people happier Economic growth helps consumers to reduce their margin of discontent If 1. and 2. are both true, then why have we gotten richer… but not happier? Evidence?

49 Adaptation Lottery winners return to pretty much the same level of happiness after 1 year The more we have, the more we want, and the more we think we need! Evidence?

50 So, Does $$ Make Us Happy? So, unless you are materialistic, more $$ makes very little difference to our happiness – much less than: A rewarding job A loving relationship Volunteering But materialistic people seem to have a pretty strange idea of happiness Having said all this… who would not want to win lotto?

51 Possible Neo-Liberal Response (Consumer Sovereignty)
Remember Consumer Sovereignty? Regardless of happiness, we have a right to do what we want with our money Economic growth gives people more freedom to choose whatever they wish to do with their lives and their money Without advertising consumers would find it very difficult to exercise this freedom

52 Hamilton Fights Back Advertisers claim to be helping consumers to freely choose how to best satisfy their needs and wants – but this is false! Consumers do not freely choose between products because advertising manipulates our preferences (Crisp agrees with this) – Consumer Sovereignty is a myth! More choice doesn’t help us satisfy our needs and wants Therefore, P4 is false

53 Consumer Sovereignty is a Myth!
Consumers do not freely choose between products because advertising manipulates our preferences Our preferences are formed inside, not outside, of the marketplace Indeed, consumers values, goals and personal identities are all formed inside the marketplace! Evidence?

54 The Abundance of Real Choice is a Myth
The abundance of choices advertising provides are limited to meaningless choices between variations of things that we didn’t need in the first place “Most advertising, unfortunately, is devoted to an attempt to build up… irrational preferences for certain brands… to persuade consumers [to] buy Bumpo rather than Bango” – Prof. Boulding Evidence?

55 How Well Did Hamilton Fight Back?
Advertisers claim to be helping consumers to freely choose how to best satisfy their needs and wants Hamilton claims that: Advertising coerces consumers into satisfying the greedy financial wants of businesses, not their own wants or needs Advertising doesn’t provide more real choice, so it doesn’t help consumers choose what they really want

56 Summary – You Decide Does advertising make us happier by making us richer? Or do we adapt to and waste our extra income on things that don’t make us happy? Does advertising help us decide how best to satisfy our needs & wants? Or does it make it harder to decide between a bunch of irrelevantly differentiated options?

57 Next Time Read: Get ready to discuss: Clive Hamilton: ‘Identity’
Hamilton’s idea that the whole point of advertising is to make us dissatisfied Exam tips!

58 Does Advertising Makes Us Unhappy? Hamilton Again & Wrap Up
PHIL 106 – 2010 Dan Turton

59 Today A quick recap, then
Clive Hamilton's argument that advertising makes us unhappy and is therefore immoral, then A summary of the whole morality of advertising section Tips for the exam question on this topic

60 Hamilton’s Argument that Advertising Makes Us Unhappy
The margin of discontent is a source of unhappiness Advertising perpetuates the margin of discontent by making us feel dissatisfied with our lives Therefore, advertising encourages us to be unhappy (via dissatisfaction with our current lives) Therefore, advertising is immoral (

61 Does Advertising Make Us Dissatisfied 1?
Advertisers and their critics both agree that advertising influences consumers… But, to what extent does it do it? And, How does it do it?

62 How Much Does Advertising Influence Us?
Advertising companies are in the funny position of: Having to tell their clients that they can influence consumers very strongly. While, Having to tell consumer rights groups that they have very little influence on consumers Anyone who thinks that advertising doesn’t affect them at all is wrong

63 Does Advertising Make Us Dissatisfied 2?
Remember Winston Churchill’s quote… He thought advertising was good because it made people strive for a higher standard of living… but how did it do that? Maybe by making everyone feel dissatisfied with what they have at the moment by showing them something ‘better’

64 Does Advertising Make Us Dissatisfied 3?
Never more so than with our prime biological motivators (for getting a good mate/s)… Status for men (or more directly; just getting women). Beauty (sexiness) for women. Real beauty for women.

65 Brand vs. Company Integrity
Crazy that some companies/brands advertise in a much more moral manner than others…. right? Wrong (In this case anyway) ! Remember that companies are there to make money (Charities are there to make the world a better place)

66 Does Advertising Really Make Us Dissatisfied?
Advertising either helps us solve our existing dissatisfactions, or Advertising constantly provides reasons to be dissatisfied and then helps us momentarily ‘solve’ them… and then tries to make us dissatisfied again! …Or A woosy in between position (only some ads are bad) Could ads that make us feel satisfied work?

67 Summary – Hamilton on Ads
Advertisers would say they help us all by: Helping us close the margin of discontent Raising the standard of living Helping us to exercise our consumer sovereignty and our personal choices about how to live Hamilton says that advertising is immoral because: It doesn’t make us happier like they claim it does, and It coerces us into a constant state of dissatisfaction

68 Section Summary: Is Advertising Immoral?
Advertisers help everyone by: Helping us close the margin of discontent Growing the economy & raising our standard of living Helping us to exercise our consumer sovereignty and our personal choices about how to live Hamilton: advertising is immoral because: It coerces us into a constant state of dissatisfaction Crisp: persuasive advertising is immoral: Because it overrides our autonomy and… It makes us desire products without us realising!

69 Exam Question Tips Approach: Ask Ramon about the exam format
Answer booklet provided Closed book (don’t bring notes etc. in!) Approach: Make sure every paragraph refers back to the main qn Be clear what you are arguing for Better to discuss 1 argument from each side in detail than all arguments in no real detail Use some examples Justify all of your non-obvious claims! The qn itself is obvious and requires a knowledge of all the readings and arguments from the 4 lectures on advertising

70 Find Out More The perils of consumerism and what to do about it:
See what the anti-advertising community is up to (and trying to sell to you): Don’t worry though! Find out how advertising is self-regulated in New Zealand

71 Do More Let the government know what you think about how advertising is regulated: Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman – minister of broadcasting TEL (04) (Parliament) Hon Simon Power – minister of commerce TEL (04) (Parliament)

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