Television advertising too manipulative of consumers

Opinions Columnist | Journalism Senior

Commercials and other forms of advertising are too invasive and manipulative and should be regulated to only include factual information.

Every time they flip on the television, viewers are forced to spend an enormous chunk of time watching advertisements just to enjoy a few minutes of actual programming. In these ads, everything from competing brands of spaghetti sauce to children’s toys to freaking Snuggies are strategically marketed toward viewers.

This is understandable to a degree. Broadcast companies need to make money to fund programming, and other companies need to advertise their products. It is a match made in corporate heaven. The infuriating part is how manipulative these advertisements have become over time. It has gotten to the point where advertisements will try to appeal to the emotions and sexual urges of viewers just to sell soda and chips.

According to a Nielsen Media Research quote in a March 12, 2006 Entrepreneur Magazine article, more than 100,000 product placements appeared on the six broadcast networks during the 2004-05 season, a 28 percent increase from the previous season. The number of advertisements is increasing because commercials rake in cash for both the networks and featured brands, but unfortunately, this revenue comes at a cost for consumers.

According to a MarketingCharts report, companies spent $63.8 billion on television advertising in 2012, a number that is projected to rise to $81.6 billion by 2017. Companies pour money into research on how to make commercials more appealing to consumers. Advertising techniques such as emotional manipulation, sexual imagery, bandwagoning and appeals to working or high-class markets are all common methods used by companies to push products.

These techniques are used to manipulate the public, causing individuals to think less of themselves and seek material possessions in order to enhance their self-image. This line of thinking is dangerous and destructive to a healthy populace. It creates a society of individuals who think little of themselves, cannot exert control and tend to buy into ideals sold by corporations that ultimately do not care about them outside of their role as consumers.

Fortunately, there are various ways to remedy this. Consumers must educate themselves about manipulative advertising techniques so they can recognize when they are being played. Consumers must learn to control the urge to buy that has been implanted by advertising overload. In the big picture, individuals must simply recognize that purchasing products does not enhance their worth or desirability. Anybody who says otherwise more than likely only cares about making bank.

The responsibility does not only lie in the hands of consumers. Corporations can take steps to improve advertising. Large corporations could easily use their power for good by advocating positive messages that remind viewers of their self-worth in ads. They could provide excellent, high-quality products that do not need to rely on manipulative marketing techniques to sell. That said, it is unlikely most large corporations will change their ways unless an educated consumer base demands it.

I am tired of watching commercials of half-naked women miming oral sex in order to sell a bottle of vodka or a car. I no longer want to see a jar of spaghetti sauce being advertised as a way to bring the family together. I am sick of triggers and cues being so forced into my brain that every time I see a fast food joint, I can only think of burgers being stacked sensuously in slow-motion. For consumers, cash often says more than a vote. In that case, those dollars should be spent supporting companies who see consumers as more than bags of money.