Sunday, June 5, 2011

Advertisements: Ideology and Manipulation

Have we been manipulated?

Origins of Advertisement

Advertisement is a technique used by society for a long time and represents the propagation, spread or transmission of any subject for a specific purpose. This technique can be used in an  attempt to influence the society buying behavior , to spread a political ideology, to guide the population on public health matters, to generate awareness for important causes, among other uses. Thus, we conclude that advertising may have positive or negative connotations according to its use.

Registers of advertisements were already observed in ancient societies, such as the Egyptian society that used papyrus to make sales messages and wall posters. The ad got a new meaning in the 17th century when the Pope Gregory XV established a special division within the Catholic Church, the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, to spread Catholic doctrine throughout the world to win new converts and stem the rising tide of Protestantism. Ads thus came to convey an ideology, in order to shape opinion and behavior of mass audiences.


TO STEM: (verb) to stop something unwanted from spreading or increasing, e.g.
These measures are designed to stem the rise of violent crime.

TIDE: (noun)
1. the periodic rise and fall of the sea level under the gravitational pull of the moon

2. a tendency of people to think or feel in a particular way; something that may increase or decrease (like the tides of the sea), e.g. 
"A rising tide of popular interest".

TO CONVEY: (verb) to express a thought, feeling or idea so that it is understood by other people.


The advertisements were also used in World War I, in the form of posters, as a means to justify the participation of the population and secure the resources to sustain the military campaign. For the first time the advertisement was used more widely as a tool of war. To achieve its objectives, the governments hired journalists and psychologists who developed persuasive advertisements. One example was the American Edward Bernays that in that period developed concepts such as ‘’collective mind’’ and ‘’manufactured consensus’’ used to try to manipulate public opinion using the subconscious.

World War II
In World War II the use of advertising was even more important and cruel, and reached the highest level in the history of dissemination of an ideology until then. During this period the ads were not used only by the Germany but for all countries involved in war such as the United States, the British Empire, Italy, Japan, among others, that used the advertisements as a way of motivating people and convince them that war was inevitable and necessary.

The United States, for example, used the advertisement to achieve their interests in World War II. In an attempt to reach the imagination of the population, the U.S. government used posters with kids (Patriots) under Nazi symbols, which generated a strong motivation in the population to help the government ''to save the children and the freedom of America'' from imminent totalitarianism. This technique is called emotional appeal. Watch this cartoon and see how the propaganda was shockingly directed even to children.

BOND: (noun) bônus de guerra (business) a document given to someone who invests money in a government or a company, promising to pay back the money with interest.

During that same period, the German government also used the ads to convince the German people about the necessity of war. In Germany, it was common the use of pamphlets, books, posters, magazines, banners, speeches and especially the radio to broadcast the base of his ideals ("One people, one Reich, one leader"). This shows us that advertising was extremely important in the course of World War II and through it people behavior could be influenced.
One slogan example:

"Jews, Democrats, and Bolsheviks are the gravediggers of humanity. For this reason we must fight on to final VICTORY."
                                                                                           —Nazi slogan stenciled on walls, 1944
 Examples of ads:

On that time, women didn’t have so much opportunity to work as they have today. So, imagine the impact of this ad on women’s mind. They wanted a job, and the war job represented a good opportunity to them and for a good sake!

SAKE: (noun)  a reason for wanting something done, e.g. "For your sake", “For God’s sake”.

The government asked women to save and donate used cooking fat (oil) to make gunpowder.

During World War II some sentences from the German minister of advertisement, Paul Joseph Goebbels, have made clear the use of this manipulative tool:

‘’To convince people to go to war, just make him believe he is being attacked ...’’
‘’If a lie is repeated enough, eventually convert in truth ...‘’
‘’All advertisement must be popular, adjusting its level to less intelligent individuals.’’
‘’ The greater the mass to be convinced, has to be less mental effort to accomplish.’’
‘’ The receptive capacity of the masses is limited and its comprehension scarce...’’
‘’The masses have great capacity to forget ...’’
‘’Any man who still has a residue of honor will be very careful not to become a journalist.’’

How Does Advertisements Work?
Advertisements generally employ symbols, whether in written, musical, or visual forms, and attempts to shape the complex human emotions towards a desired goal. In contrast to the ideal of an educator, who aims to foster independent judgment and thinking, the practitioner of ads does not aim to encourage reflection by presenting a variety of viewpoints and leaving it up to the audience to determine which perspective is correct.
Advertising in general transmits only information geared to strengthen its ideals and goals, and consciously uses a lot of techniques to do that. (See the topic: ''Advertising Techniques'').

 Take a look at these videos:
What Tools do Brands Use to Influence Consumer Behavior - Simon Sinek

Psychology of Consumer Behaviour

Advertisements today

Since World War II, technologies and strategies for disseminating ads have changed greatly. Television and the Internet have increased the speed and spread of information globally, so that it is very difficult not to be influenced by advertisements nowadays.

We are bombarded with advertisements as soon as we learn to speak. The industry currently spends billions of dollars on advertising to children.  Thus, the industry indirectly affects the parents using the children and with it, the parents generate a lot of profit for the industries. Using ads, the industries also begin to condition children to become future mechanical and unconscious consumers.

I've noticed these slogans positions, if you've noticed some others, please post a comment saying it.

Take a look at this excerpt from a documentary about the role of corporations in our society:
Child advertising
 Market to Children 2
 Office Hours: Children and Advertising

As history shows, advertising can be extremely effective and profitable. However, ads are not always successful. Its effectiveness depends upon a variety of factors, including the receptivity of an audience to the message and a favorable social context. This shows us that the important thing is that our observation does not become a passive acceptance, for that we must pass what we are shown through the depurative prism of our consciousness before we accept the "truths" that are offered. Thus, it is necessary that we understand the implications that advertisements have on our lives so that we don’t become a mere object of manipulation.

If you've liked this topic, post a comment about the advertisements and how it can manipulate our lives.

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By Marcel Pratavieira
Student of Barone English, third level.

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