Chapter 13: Advertising Advertising is definitely not a modern trend in presenting one’s product to the public; however, the strategies of advertising, whichever medium the advertising takes place in, are definitely new and improved. It cannot be denied that without advertising the consumer would be in the dark as to which product is best suited to his or her needs and wants, and consequently which product to buy. It also cannot be denied that advertising is often used as a tool to attract consumers to products that are either useless or harmful to the consumer.
One can see ads enticing the younger viewers to use harmful products like tobacco and alcohol, portraying them as “fun” and “enjoyable” only, without adequate warnings to their harmful effects. Of course this is done based on an audience research to find which images will be more attractive to the target audience. This is something I find very disturbing in the advertising industry. To be specific, I find the advertising campaigns of tobacco and cigarettes very misleading. Often in the ads the smoker is portrayed as successful, rich and healthy, often involved in sports or some other outdoor activity.
The man or woman is also presented to be with a beautiful person of the opposite sex, with a huge white-toothed smile plastered on his or her face. Unless you have a lot of money to afford plastic surgery, extravagant leisure activities and accessories for even your Chihuahua, you are not the person represented in the ads. Today, research has shown us the harmful effects of smoking. For instance, we now know that a smoker has weak lungs and cannot be actively involved in strenuous activities.
Further, smoking causes cancer and other respiratory diseases, not to mention infertility and heart diseases. Add to that the fact that it is next to impossible for a smoker to have clean, white teeth, as nicotine staining is inevitable. However, we never see the smoker in an ad as we would in real life. An example of this would be the Marlboro cowboy. A smoker, he is always shown doing something in the outdoors “the Western way”; whether he is alone, with his horse or his friends, he is always active and always smiling.
When I compare this image with my uncle who is as avid a smoker as the Marlboro man, I see a huge difference; my uncle is incapable of being involved in physical activity, just walking to the park with his grandchild makes him tired and winded. Moreover, his teeth and fingers are yellowed with nicotine stains and his wife, instead of dancing all around him, is always complaining of the tobacco smell that permeates from him and his clothes.
The doctors have recently told my uncle that if he continues to smoke as much as he does, he will die of cardiac arrest soon, as three of his four arteries are clogged because of his history of smoking. Yet are any of these effects found on the Marlboro man in the ads? The answer is a resounding no. Such advertising is done to attract a particular demographic group, men, especially those between the ages of 18 and 35, towards the product being advertised. Images that are attractive to this group are shown to be associated with the product being advertised in a gimmick to attract their attention as well as to get them attracted to the product.
I do agree that free speech is to be fostered in all walks of life; however, a line should be drawn between free speech and irresponsible misstatements that are, now, a part and parcel of advertising. Advertising agencies should be made to be more responsible and have a system of checks and balances, in the case of cigarettes, for example, the ads should give an equal portion to the harms caused by smoking, otherwise, it is akin to fooling the public.