Blog Competition Entry: How Advertising can Change the Way You Act

 

I sit in front of the TV with a nice hot cuppa when the advert for Beats by Dr Dre comes on. If I buy them, I will have a better music experience. Not only that, I will be cooler, fitter, better. The 45 seconds are up. Another ad follows. Will I ever buy them?

The sociologist Max Weber suggested that ideas can serve as “switchmen”. They can change how we do and look at things. Will we respond to the ideas in adverts to buy a product or support a cause? Will we be – as opponents of advertising like to put it- manipulated?

I propose that the greatest determinant of whether I buy the Beats is the information I have about the headphones and its claimed benefits. From what I know, can I make the connection between the product and its promises and can I justify the price?

A little research can clarify these points. Indeed Jacqueline Waugh, from Edinburgh Napier University, found that 87% of consumers research products before purchasing them. We try to gain as much information as possible to make an informed decision. We aim for complete information.

In 1990, Dr Leiss et al recognised; “as soon as one lacks complete information, one is also exposed to the possibility of being influenced by advertising. One actually wants to be influenced by advertising to get an instant feeling that one has a perfectly good reason to buy this or that commodity, the true properties of which one knows dismally little about”.

Certainly we lack the time to research the vast number of products we consume. When was the last time you checked that Alberto VO5 shampoo really did treat split ends better than other shampoos? Or Gillette reduced the 5 o’clock shade?

We tend to rely more on advertising for the small budget items that we “care” less about such as food, cosmetics and cleaning products. We read reports, reviews and ask friends about the bigger budget items such as TVs, cars and houses.

So will I buy those Beats? If the ad caught my imagination then the price will push me to do some research. Whether I feel the social benefits of Beats will be met is something for me to think about based on my social relations. My decision would be reasonably informed, but not dictated by advertising. The ad suggested the idea, I explored it.

However, even if I don’t buy them, will the ad linger in my mind? Will I come to associate social acceptability with good headphones? As the sociologist Michael Schudson suggested “in the short run, most cultural producers have to be content with limited evidence of their power”. But what about the future – will we be manipulated by advertising in the long run?

 

AdSoc Blog Competition entry by Dasha Plotnikova