Advertising and ethics: how to live together?
It’s no secret that advertising is regulated by law. The ubiquitous advertising calls to buy this or that product must comply with the strict articles of the Advertising Law, the Consumer Rights Act, and a number of other legislative acts.
And, as you know, all over the world good lawyers can turn any laws to the benefit of their company. They find loopholes that allow consumers to convey scandalous and ambiguous advertising and thereby stand out among competitors. But basically in laws all the frameworks and prohibitions are set more or less clearly. Not prohibited – it means allowed.
However, there is another area in the advertising industry in which the question of what is possible or not in advertising is more vague than in legislation. This area is the ethical and moral aspects of creating and placing advertisements. Here there really is a whole field for compromise and debate.
For example, take the usual, at first glance, an ad from a famous brand that created a new ketchup especially for children. It seems that there is nothing wrong with this product: the composition is completely natural, no preservatives or other harmful additives. However, let’s look from the other side: do children need to eat ketchup at all? Many parents try to instill a healthy eating habit in their children. And this oh how not easy! Well, small consumers do not want to eat a healthy salad. They strive to grab another bright harmful “yummy” from the store shelf, or, at worst, pour a piece of boiled chicken with the same ketchup or mayonnaise. And a ready-made, accustomed consumer of sauces, sweeteners and taste-improving additives, which are so rich in the food industry, grows from childhood.
This is one of the most striking examples of how advertising aimed at a child’s audience can instill brand loyalty at an age when a person does not even realize the existence of brands, competitors, segmentation or market niches. And suppose even that the manufacturer had the best intentions: not just to increase his sales by influencing an additional audience that is not protected by internal criticism, but really to make ketchup, which does not harm due to its natural composition (although it is worth noting that the amount of sugar consumed with similar sauces exceeds any norm). But often it is precisely cold calculation that drives manufacturers, marketers, and creators when creating a product or promotion concept.
And the question is precisely how not to cross that line between the desire to find “insight” and create an “illusion”?
There are a large number of techniques and tactics with which advertising can manage consumers, whether they want it or not. And it is precisely on this “do not want” that marketers are very active. Here are a few options for impacting consumers through advertising:
Advertising “for the subconscious.” Fortunately, the technology of influencing the consumer’s subconscious mind directly, for example, using hidden frames, words or images that are invisible to the eye, but prompting a certain action, is prohibited in many countries. It is hoped that the legislation in this case works. At the same time, there is a completely legal, but similar in its effect, method of motivation: repeated repetition of the name of the product, its slogan, or corporate melody. Thus, it is “deposited” in the memory and pops up when there is a question about the purchase.
Association of the advertised product with happiness, a better life, financial success or gaining some new status. In general, in the modern interpretation, marketing as such is intended to sell not just a product, but rather the emotion, value that arises due to the acquisition of this product. And here lies that very invisible line: will the advertiser overdo it by drawing a dream for promoting an everyday product, and will the product itself be disappointed by the absence of long-awaited consequences? Will the eaten chocolate allow me to feel on a paradise island? Will new mascara give the opportunity to find a crowd of fans? A new car will help to become a better driver? On the one hand, yes. Self-hypnosis often helps to roll mountains, and having bought a desired thing, a person can be inspired by new placebo effects for new achievements. But it happens the other way around: bitter disappointment, increased disbelief in oneself and the doom of the pursuit of a dream.
Attraction of authority. Toothpaste will be much more trusted if it is “advised by four out of five dentists” or if the advertised cream uses (it says in the video that it uses) a local celebrity, or even better, a world-class one. Of course, many understand that it’s impossible to verify whether the celebrity really uses this cream, how many times, how generally this celebrity looks “in life”, and even if he suddenly uses it, what of that? However, the technique works. And brand ambassadors exist in almost any field.