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Does Advertising Create Artificial Wants?

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Does advertising create artificial wants? Your answer should discuss John Kenneth Galbraith’s ‘dependence effect’ and F.A.Hayek’s response.

Nowadays, the media’s power is indisputable and it is not accidental that it is called the fourth estate. That power represents the possibility to exert influence on people’s behavior. Nowadays one very hot and disputed issue is the advertisement effect on the consumers’ buying behavior. Well prepared campaign can influence consumer decisions and make them buy certain product. The modern world is a world of overproduction. We are surrounded by all kinds of goods- some urgent and some not so much. Certain goods are sold quickly while others remain on the shelves. Every company seeks to put on the market such a product that will grab the consumers’ attention, and make them feel incomplete if they do not have it. But among the abundance of goods, a product may remain unnoticed. That is why corporations rely heavily on advertising to sell their production. They have realized that not the quality of the product, but the advertising sells it. Advertising companies strive to convince the consumers that the product is extremely urgent and without it a person’s would be less happy than others who have it. There are different strategies that companies use in order to touch the consumers’ subconsciousness- they play with customers’ emotions, they rely on celebrities to advertise the goods, and they target the deceivable children.
Advertising is the most powerful medium for creating artificial wants and desires. It is not the consumer who motivates/rules the industrial system rather it is the company that decides what should be produced and then create the wants into the consumer’s mind. The thesis that consumer wants what he is advertised is also supported in Kenneth Galbraith’s essay “The dependence effect” where he defend the fact that goods that are created by advertising cannot be urgent and are shaped by it. In his essay, John Galbraith analyzes a very hot issue in nowadays society- the advertising, its function and purpose. According to him, the myth of the omnipotent consumer who determines what to be produced is refuted. Nowadays the relationship between the consumer and the producer goes in the other direction- firstly, corporations create products and then they form what the consumers’ mind would want. Consumers’ society is created of wooden heads that do not know what they want and let themselves be ruled by the powerful corporations. Consumers are following the trends that they observe in the people around them and take into consideration needs that are actually not necessary. And all these artificial wants are created by the powerful advertisements, which with their skilled and fine workmanship mesmerize consumers and lead them to spend millions each year on things that are unnecessary and useless in most cases. As a result of great advertising, most people soon realize they have bought goods that cannot be used for anything other than to satisfy purely imaginary needs. Needs that exploit a strive to a useless and pointless extravagance.
I want to clarify what is the difference between needs and wants. According to the dictionary, the word need is explained as a necessity and essentials. Therefore, needs are the things without which a person cannot live- needs like food, water, air, heat, light, etc. Wants are requests, desires, and inclinations. Nowadays a person is no longer limited by what is necessary, but constantly tries to surround herself with things that make her life more comfortable. Therefore, the needs are essential for the person’s existence while wants are essential for comfortable and cozy living. Gilbraith wrote in his essay that modern production creates the wants that it seeks to satisfy through advertising which is exactly what the “Dependence effect” is. He called ads “a system to create needs” (Gilbraith). Those created needs are what we call artificial wants. Аdvertising stimulates false needs, that are imposed on people’s minds - false desires that would not occur without advertisements. The user responds inadequately by submitting fаlse information about his or her needs. The circle advertising → false needs (called artificial wants) → wrong signals → unnecessary goods → advertising turns infinitely and distorts the society’s perception of what the real meaning of needs and wants is. All these wants are artificially created by advertising and are designed to support a person’s comfortable way of living. They are not essential for one’s survival. And just because of that reason, corporations spend millions of dollars each year in order to develop well-planned advertisements that are so powerful they can create artificial wants which in turn are essential for a companies’ prosperity.
In today’s world, materialism seems to spread rapidly affecting more and more people. This phenomenon has taken alarming proportions and threatens the new generation to live inadequate life with unrealized potential. That is due to the growing popularity of people’s commercial lifestyle. In the past, the most important things for people were to have something to eat, to have a place where to sleep, and enough money to support their family. In the 21th century our values have changed drastically- satisfaction is no longer based on what we are and what skills we have but on what stuff we possess - phones, TVs, cars, luxurious homes. As George Carlin said in one of his stand ups: “All they want is the shiny stuff. That's what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get...more stuff!” Contemporary people stress more attention on satisfying their consumerist desires rather than on anything else like family, skills and values. Companies take advantage of a people’s weaknesses (mostly the desire for material possessions) and develop powerful advertisements that target exactly those consumer weaknesses in order to convert them into more sales and higher profit. In today’s busy and stressful life, people think that possession of more staffs will lead to higher satisfaction. But materialistic wants can never be satisfied- for example, after buying the latest phone, you then want the latest car, the latest fashion clothes and so on… your desires never end. Actually satisfaction never comes and desires continue to appear and become more and more intense. Consumers act on the base “The more- the more” as Winnie the Pooh said. And that is exactly at what corporations aim because higher consumption leads to higher profitability. Companies have realized that by relying on consumer’s materialistic nature they can develop advertisements that can provoke the tendency to turn them into active buyers.

There are other very well-known tactics, besides relying on the materialistic approach that advertising uses in order to shape what a consumer wants. One very subtle strategy is when advertising tries to reach and touch a customer’s feelings and emotions. What the ads are trying to do is to inspire and connect the different feelings and emotions with the possession of a certain product. For example, an ad for a new kitchen appliance inspires into the housewives the desire to have one, because the result of its possession will be a happy and well-fed family. Playing with the user’s emotions accelerates the process of creating a desire and a subsequent purchase. This type of advertising relies on emotions and stresses on the beneficial side of the product and on the positive emotions of its usage. Emotional ads lead to higher consumer involvement and higher retention which results in an increase in sales. Usually people buy products mainly driven by emotions rather than rational decisions. As Niaz , Ghani and Sadia Aziz proved in their paper:
Emotion is a main factor that holds an important position in advertising […] Emotional advertisements create more positive feelings toward the advertisements than interesting and informative advertisements.

Emotionally involved people are more likely to buy a product if ads succeed to touch their minds. Customers, driven by their feelings, are convinced that the advertised product would bring them the desired emotional satisfaction whether it be happiness, security, freedom, difference. That is why nowadays corporations are spending a lot of money for investigating their targets in order to penetrate into their minds and make them personally attached to what is being sold. Another very interesting and popular tactic used in advertising is targeting children. The number of ads created exactly for this part of the audience is an evident proof. Advertisement aims to suggest a want to the most vulnerable ones like kids, because they are prone to manipulation, they are naïve and easily misled. Today, advertising plays an important role in society and it has a huge impact on the young children’s minds. The ads created for children are designed to attract their attention and lure them into certain wants. And since children, in most cases, are unable to purchase a certain product, they demand it from their parents. If they do not receive it, they start crying, getting angry and start getting into troubles. Parents, wanting to satisfy their children’s needs, are usually pushed to buy the desired product or go to the desired place. Therefore, advertising can have negative impact not only on a child’s mind but also on the family’s budget. Parents should be careful with the powerful campaigns because only one exposure to certain advertisements can cause a want into a child’s mind. As Melissa Dittmann wrote in her article
[..] after just one exposure to a commercial, children can recall the ad's content and have a desire for the product.( MELISSA DITTMANN)
Every day, children have access to some sort of media whether it is Internet, television or radio. “A recent study found that a majority of all U.S. children have televisions in their bedrooms” (advertising children) which makes it possible for ad massages to reach the young part of the audience. Also kids are subjected to advertisements in all aspects of their everyday life- at home, at school, on the street or on the television. Usually kids lack supervision from their parents which leads to different interpretation of the massages they saw or heard. The problem comes from the fact that children only see the colourful image of some toy or a tasty food but they cannot fully understand the advertisements and to make rational decisions based on them: “That lack of adult interpretation is a concern because young children tend to accept ads as fair, accurate, balanced and truthful” (Melissa Dittmann).
Most advertisements that target kids are related to fast food, candies and toys. One example of fast food company that targets young children is MacDonald’s. In its campaigns the lunch in any of the restaurants is presented as an adventure. What they can get from the meals is satisfaction, happy family hour and of course toys and fun. But the opposite side, the body damages and the health risk, of this unhealthy food is not shown. Because of their vulnerability and exposure to unhealthy food, American children are one of the most.
The last powerful strategy, that I want to stress my attention on, used by corporations in order to promote their product is the usage of celebrities in their campaigns. The efficiency of that technique is due to the consumers’ identification with whose celebrities and the desires to be like them. The use of celebrities is not only an effective way to reach the intended audience but also an opportunity to strengthen the consumer’ emotional connection with the brand. Corporations stake on well-known movie actors, politicians, singers, models and athletes who indicate that the advertised product or service is part of their life. Everyone more or less is eager to live like a celebrity, to have their perfect figure, cars, houses, holidays and whatnot. What makes advertising so very successful is the fact that most customers identify themselves with the celebrity and believe that the advertised product is worth buying as long as the celebrity uses it:
“campaigns featuring celebrities are no more or less likely to be successful than those which use any other creative technique such as humour, side-by-side comparison, product demonstration, fantasy or slice of life.” (How marketers can use celebrities to sell more effectively)
For example, the cosmetic industry usually employs good looking singers, actors or models and use them to convey the desired message that is: “If you want to be as beautiful as I am, you should use that product”. By using famous and attractive celebrities, corporations succeed to penetrate into the consumers’ minds and create artificial wants.
For an advertisement to be successful and powerful, several factors should be taken into consideration. According the Journal of Consumer Behaviour 4 different types of criteria should be accomplished in order for a campaign to be effective: “‘fit’, ‘fame’, ‘facets’ and ‘finance’” (How marketers can use celebrities to sell more effectively). First the celebrity should be able to embody the advertised product and the brand. For example the diaper ads where would be inappropriate to use a famous rugby player who looks coarse and crude. Second, different target groups need different celebrities. Third, it has to be decided which strength of the celebrity will be used in order to promote the product. And finally how much the famous person wants to be paid. Carefully planned campaigns have the potential to create artificial wants and higher demand for the advertised product.
Last thing that I want to look at is the opposite view of one very famous writer Friedrick A. Hayek. In response to the Gilbraith Dependence Effect, he wrote the “The non-sequitur of the dependence effect”. He disagrees with the statement that “production creates the wants it seeks to satisfy” (Gilbraith). According Hayek, there is no difference between urgent needs and non-urgent wants. People cannot be only limited to their basic needs like food, sex, shelter because if that is the case, they would not achieve any development and would still inhabit caves and would sleep under the open sky. If we take the Gilbraith position and conclude that the desires/wants are not important then “the whole cultural achievement of man is not important.”- like literature, art, music, dance. (The Non Sequitur of the "Dependence Effect"). Another argument that Hayek makes is that not advertisements but the culture and environment affect the way consumers make decisions. According him ads are designed only to inform the buyers and to promote them the product but nothing more.
Advertising is an integral part of humans’ everyday life and surround them from all sides. It is this which convinces people that they need a certain product and is designed with the purpose of increasing the consumption and usage of that product. Almost always campaigns act subconsciously and when a person thinks about what he or she should buy usually in his\her minds emerge footage from the commercial. To create greater impact advertising usually incorporate some well-known techniques like using celebrities, targeting children, relying on consumer’s emotions and materialism. Advertising is a manipulation on the public by inculcating them needs that are not urgent and that people will never think of if campaigns do not exist. As conclusion, advertisements are designed in order to create artificial want that production seeks to satisfy.

Niazi, Muhammad A., Usman Ghani, and Sadia Aziz. "The Emotionally charged advertisement and their influence on consumers'attitudes." International Journal of Business and Social Science 3.1 Jan. (2012). Web. 19 Oct. 2012. (advertising children)

Dittmann, Melissa. "Protecting children from advertising ". American Psychological Association. June 2004 , Vol 35, No. 6 <>. (How marketers can use celebrities to sell more effectively)…...

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...potential buyers and receiving value from the potential buyers for the value that they have received. When marketers want to create something that has value to the potential buyers, marketers must know first, what do the potential buyers need or want. As a marketer, it does not make any sense if we sell something that does not have value, or if the marketers want people to purchase something that they do not need of even want. Marketers can not force anyone to do something. They can only ask them to buy their product or service. Some people might not care about what they are asking for. So, in the business of selling product or service, we know word “marketing”. Marketing is an art of identifying and meeting the people’s needs and wants. It is all about communication between two parties that profitable for the both sides by exchanging value. Marketing is not that easy to do. As we know, we can not mess with the “free will” of the people around us or people that we see as the potential buyers. It is up to them if they are willing to buy the marketers’ products or service. In this case, the marketers have to do their marketing activities. Their job is to tell people that their product or service is suit with the people’s need or want. Therefore, the marketers have to know what do people need or want. How can the marketers find out about what the people need or want? They analyze the potential buyers. They have to collect data about the potential buyers. The data is all about......

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