As-Sunnah Vol. 2 Issue No. 3


Advertising does your thinking for you

d. Advertising does your thinking for you
For practical purposes, the line that distinguishes between aggressive marketing and ideological propaganda is largely blurred. Both exploit the emotions of their subjects and both implant ideas in the people's minds without them being aware. In order to get the edge, marketers rarely base their ads solely on the benefits or advantages of their products. Rather, many ads relate the product to benefits that are absolutely not derived from them. Other ads try to convince a person that possessing such and such product will grant them status, class and respectability.

Many a times, ads are a direct appeal to man's lowly desires, as E.F. Schumacher puts it, 'What is the great bulk of advertising other than the stimulation of greed, envy and avarice….' [E.F. Schumacher, from a 1979 passage about the role of advertising in a sustainable society]

Television shows that portray the 'lifestyles of the rich and upper middle class,' as good living, inflate the viewer's perceptions as to what others have, and plunge people into the rat-race of acquiring possessions beyond their means. While the average person may not be able to acquire what he sees, he finds solace in buying what is advertised to him as, 'a piece of the good life'. For example, Branded pens are priced a hundred times higher than equally good unbranded pens. Those who buy such do not do so for their aesthetic value, durability or usefulness, but purely because possessing them is depicted as a status symbol.

'If you are smart, intelligent, trendy & successful then you deserve a pen that symbolizes all these and that is ****'

Likewise, not everyone can be a movie star, but you can buy 'a piece of the good life' by getting hold of the brand of soap or cosmetics allegedly used by them.

In order to emulate the lives of the rich and famous, consumers even aspire to possess brands that may not be as durable as the regular product and might require more to maintain, but then the marketers explain, 'you know it costs more to maintain but it show you are so well off that it hardly matters to you.'

Tactfully and seamlessly, the marketers motivate the consumers towards possessing that which the corporations deem as virtuous. ‘Buying things becomes a proof of self-esteem ('I' m worth it,' chants one shampoo advertisement). Much consumption is motivated by this desire for approval: wearing the right clothes, driving the right car, and living in the right quarters are all simply ways of saying, 'I'm OK. I'm in the group.' [Brooke Kroeger, 'Feeling Poor on $600,000 a Year,' New York Times, April 26, 1987]

Taken from As-Sunnah Newsletter -


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