When Ads Go Too Far

Advertising In Our Lives

We live in a society that marketing has become an integral part of our society as a whole. From commercials to pop up ads, even our clothes can be subject to a form of marketing. Whether we are consciously or subconsciously advertising a brand, fandom or even company we support on our t-shirts, to just scrolling through our social media feed, ads are meant to catch our eye and keep our focus. However with the strides that have been made in how to perfect the art of selling virtually anything, many have used advertisements to less than honorable, and often legal, means.


False Advertising

One of the less sinister forms Advertising can take, false advertising is as old as trade itself. False advertising, essentially means that your ad is misleading in some way or another, or downright a lie. It can be anything from selling simple tap water and claiming it came from X mystical source hoping to profit from the gullible, to making false claims to cure a disease, hoping to profit on fear.

As a matter of fact recently Amazon has taken down a number of products that falsely claim to be able to cure the coronavirus. CNBC reported on the fact and claimed that "Now, Amazon appears to be cracking down on mentions of the coronavirus in products listed on its marketplace. In one case, Amazon told a seller it would remove their listing for a surgical face masks because it made “unapproved medical marketing claims.”

Not to mention that this type of advertising has been so well documented, that, not only are there lists, but you also realize that not even the big, giants corporations may be tempted to indulge in the occasional false advertising. This list from the Business Insider has a few extremely interesting (and some rather fun) examples, such as Volkswagen falsely advertising some cars as environmentally friendly.

False, or Misleading advertising (as defined by the ccpc) is ultimately something everyone should wish to avoid. I wont list the damage it could do to your customers, as they can range from none to actually potentially harmful, but I will state that it is a very, -very- dumb idea from a business standpoint. You put your public image on the line for what essentially is a minor boost to sales. A boost which, you would earn many times over should you stick to having an honest relationship with your customers.


Other Negative Aspects

Truth be told, advertising lately is on a very thin line away from propaganda. As a matter of fact, Quora has posted a short post explaining the difference. But lately we, as a society, have started to realize the negative impacts advertising has in our society.

Chron, in their article has compiled a list in which they detail a few negative impacts advertising has created. Things such as "Advertising Distorts Reality and Creates Unrealistic Expectations" which is something one could suspect. But it also lists other things, such as "Advertising Adds to a Product's Cost, Which Is Passed Along to Consumer". Essentially, we can all agree that advertising has gone to a point where it is -over- used, and in such, the often ridiculous amounts of money spent towards advertising, do in fact end up creating more expensive products.

But things do not end there. The Balanced Careers in their article on the subject matter, seem to add a few additional things to discuss. The fact that many ads are targeting younger audiences using sex and violence, may have a negative, or at least unwanted, impact on society as a whole, and the fact that they do seem to be made to create artificial needs. That said, their article is pretty robust, and they offer a list of pros as well, which is something I found interesting.

Last but not least, it is not uncommon for ads to use common propaganda techniques, as after all, propaganda is a form of advertisement. UK Essays on their article on the subject recognizes that though those practices can, have and probably still are, used for to do more harm than good, in the end of the day, it is not fair to compare propaganda to advertisement, as they serve a distinct purpose, and one can have its uses. In their own words: "Regardless of the annoyances and potential destruction that advertising and public relations can cause it is a reality that they serve an important purpose.   Without public relations no one would feel the need to inform or educate the public at all regarding events that involve or affect them and the world they live in".

Final Thoughts

Ads have their own place in our society, for better or for worse. Do I think they have gone a bit overboard, and have shifted from "pieces of information" to "annoying swarm of pointless data"? Yes. Do I think they are also a necessary "evil" so to speak? Also yes. As with everything, we need to exercise restraint and make sure we maintain a balance, so they do not do more harm than good.

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