Monday, November 26, 2012

Manipulating Advertisements

In the article, "Advertising: the Magic System", the author, Williams, talked about the emergence, growth, and change in the advertising world. Williams quotes the book The Ethics of Advertising that says advertising is a "cynical manipulation of the infant mind". This quote really stood out to me. I can't help but wonder, are our opinions that easily changed? Can we not think for ourselves? And even if we can think for ourselves, why do we so easily believe something that is so clearly outrageous? For example, Williams mentions ads from the 1930's that were notorious for stretching the truth. I found this ad online for "goggles" that one is suppose to wear at night to give them better vision ( Where is the consumer's common sense? How could "goggles", which are basically sunglasses, help your vision at night? It would be interesting to see the product numbers after advertisements like these. After all, it is the advertisers' job to persuade the customer.

If we look at the gradual change in advertisements, the strength of persuasion has still remained the same. For example, in 1930 print ads like ( and we see that the way the product is presented, the spokesperson for the product, and the content about the product is very important. Today with our technology, these things are still the same. In my opinion the best advertisement out there thus far, the Old Spice commercials (, we can see that advertisers have just evolved with the art of advertising. With more to work that just print advertising, advertisements have more leeway to become more than just a slogan or catchphrase. With more than 42 million YouTube views, the Old Spice commercials have gone viral. It was no longer just a commercial, it became gifs, memes, and parodies. An advertisement like this is ever lasting. It affects more than our decision to buy the product, but it also becomes something we talk about and is intertwined with media. It is crazy to think how much advertisements affect our lives even without us even really realizing it!


  1. I find the video professor Retzinger showed in the lecture this week explains your question at first ("are our opinions that easily changed? Can we not think for ourselves? And even if we can think for ourselves, why do we so easily believe something that is so clearly outrageous?") very well. One of the scholars, (sorry I can't recall his name), says that images are more often used than words in the ads in order to make us believe. Words, as we hear it, often cause our brain to work - understand, argue, counterargue; while images, as we see it, there seems only one choice we can make - believe it! That's why ads seem more and more powerful today, especially ads in tv!
    But, to ask the question how powerful ads are makes me feel like a question back to the reader-response theory, it's just interesting to see how the advertisers try all their best to make ads more and more catchy, even in the extreme way, to turn the consumers from rational to irrational(emotional).

  2. Karen, I think Yiting makes a good point in her response here, about the transition from more factually based, textual advertisements toward more graphical, indirect ones. As for how credulous consumers can be, I always think of those "Cash 4 Gold" commercials. Unfortunately, I think seniors are often the ones targeted by such manipulative scams and advertising methods.