Social ill-effects of Advertisements

Social ill-effects of Advertisements

Though advertisements have several positive effects, there are equally strong arguments focusing on the ill-effects of advertisements. The ill-effects of advertisements on society are the escalation of national crime rate, decline in the respect for leadership of every kind, establishment of illogical loyalties, exploitation of women and children and deliberate sale of products. There are other ill effects perpetuated through the use of objectionable appeals; techniques and, language, etc.

Social ill effects of Advertisements
Social ill effects of Advertisements

Advertising is also criticized on the grounds of deception, manipulation and bad taste. Another objection relates to the social effects of advertising such as its influence on social values and life styles. It is believed that the pervasiveness of advertising has an impact on the value systems of society.

1. Deception

It occurs when an advertisement, introduced into the perceptual process, either differs from the reality of the situation or affects buying behavior to the detriment of the consumers. This deception not only pertains to the information content in advertising but may also arise from misplaced emphasis in presentation.

One advertisement claimed that a hair dye would color hair permanently. If someone exposed to the advertisement believed that the dye would hold good even for hair not yet grown, suggesting a single application of dye would last for years. Is the claim deceptive?

There are other issues as well.

  1. How can dishonest and careless advertisers be detected, prosecuted, and punished?
  2. To what extent can self regulation be relied upon?
  3. What are appropriate remedies?

These questions and others make the issue of deception a complex area for an advertiser, the media, and the government. But we can say with certainty that deception takes place when there is a misrepresentation or omission, or practice that is likely to mislead.

2. Validity of Information

We can pose five questions to the information provided in advertisements to test their validity.

1. Is the claim testable?

2. Is competitive claim of superiority defensive in terms of normal or extraordinary but reasonable use?

3. Does the claim apply to all models and types in the product range, or just to some?

4. Can the message be misinterpreted by a reasonable person?

5. Finally, the test for relevance is also important. Does the advertisement address itself to what consumers want to know?

3. Manipulation

Critics of advertising fear that the freedom of choice of consumers is restricted by the power of advertising since it can manipulate buyers into making a decision against their will or interest. Such manipulation can be brought about by playing on the subconscious motives of people, using emotional appeals. Even genuine persuasive power of scientific advertising can have such effects. However, it must be pointed out that the power of manipulation in advertising has been exaggerated. People probably make their own choice most of the time for reasons best known to them only.

The communication of information about a product is usually accepted as being true by the consumer. However, when advertising utilizes appeals that go beyond such a basic communication task, the charge of manipulation through emotional appeals is raised. Then the implication is that consumers will be led to take less than optimal decisions by such emotional appeals.

There is also a view that advertisers have the power to manipulate their audience. Many large companies have the capacity to get a vast exposure for their advertisements. Furthermore, these companies can utilize advanced and scientific advertising techniques to make an impression on consumers. However, it must be realized that even the most sophisticated approaches have their own limitations. Secondly, buyers’ choices are determined by many basic behavioral characteristics and so advertising usually exerts only a marginal influence.

4. Advertising as Offensive or in Bad Taste

Another common criticism of advertising, particularly by consumers, is that advertisements are offensive, tasteless, irritating, boring, and so on. Consumers can be offended by advertisements in a number of ways. Some object when a product like contraceptives is advertised. Most media did not accept advertisements for condoms until the AIDS crisis forced them to reconsider their restrictions imposed.

Critics feel that some advertisements are created in a very bad taste. Their reasons are based on the following

1. Bad tastes in advertisement can creep up in several ways. The product itself, message content, and techniques used are some of them.

2. Another dimension of bad taste is the timing of the advertisements. Too many advertisements at ‘prime time’ television can create a bad impression. But often media indulges so to get more earnings. But the viewers end up in viewing the programme fragmented so much that continuity is the casualty.

3. Objectionable appeals like over emphasis on sex, assuring instant relief, luring consumers by tall claims, such as becoming a millionaire overnight (while the probability is just one-millionth), depicting competitor’s product in undeserving poor light, etc., are very common. All these border on bad taste.

4. Objectionable techniques such as high voltage light and sound effect, employing unpleasant people or voices, repetitive messages unchanged for years etc., are considered bad-taste in advertisements.

5. Another criticism relates to the product itself. Advertisement on cigarettes, alcohol, etc., may only mislead the people, especially the youth.


Negative views on advertisements is based on the contention that consumers are duped by misleading information and hence advertising should be strictly regulated. It will be illogical to draw a conclusion without considering the various aspects of interface of advertising with individuals and institutional buyers and society