Is Advertising Immoral?Lecture 1 PHIL106 – 2011 Dan Weijers
Is Advertising Immoral?Topic Summary • Does advertising manipulate us? • Lecture 1: Reekie’s defense of advertising • Lecture 2: Crisp’s limited critique of advertising • Does advertising make us unhappy? • Lecture 3: Belch & Belch vs. Hamilton • Lecture 4: Hamilton again • Persuasive Vs. Informative Advertising? • Lecture 5: Santilli vs. Emamalizadeh vs. Lee
Assessment for this Topic • There will be one essay question and one exam question on my lectures (the morality of advertising) • Essay question: ~is advertising immoral? • Based on lectures 1-4 • Lectures 3-4 especially important • Exam question: ~informative/persuasive ads • Based on lecture 5 • Information from lectures 1-2 also useful
Does Advertising Manipulate Us?Reekie’s Defense of Advertising PHIL106 – 2011 Dan Weijers Chad ChaddingworthJnr III
Today • Start addressing the question: • Is advertising immoral? • An explanation of advertising • A defense of advertising • Setting up some of the moral issues
Advertising is… • Communication from a specific source that intends to inform and influence the audience so that they believe something and/or behave in a certain way • It is usually: • Persuading people to purchase a brand/product • Paid for • Using mass media • But some marketers are much sneakier…
Advertising might also be… • Rosser Reeves • Manager of a successful advertising company • While holding up two coins: • “[Making] you think that this quarter is more valuable than that one”
Previous ‘Fans’ were Tested • Volunteers were either Speights or Tui fans • Blind taste test of four cups • Results: • Everyone got most wrong • Everyone preferred Speights slightly, but • No one could even tell which ones were the same
Thanks to Duncan Reekie • Most of these arguments are his • See his reading in the course book • But, the cutting-edge research tailored to the NZ commercial, cultural and moral environment has been carried out by me
The Role of Advertising • Advertising supports marketing and business function. • A modern business model: • Perform consumer research • Develop new product based on research • Advertise product • Sell product • Importantly, both the business and the consumers benefit from this • The business makes money for its investors • The customers get what they have been wanting
The Benefits of Advertising • Advertising helps consumers decide what to buy • Informs about the existence of new products (e.g.) • Informs about new uses for existing products (e.g.) • Informs about differences between products – laundry powder & razors (e.g.) • Advertising provides incentives to: • Make differentiated products, & • Innovative products • Who doesn’t like PS3s, wi-fi, iphones?
The Benefits of Advertising 2 • Advertising is entertainment • Many ads are: • Funny • Interesting • Artistic • Appealing in other ways
The Benefits of Advertising 3 • Advertising is good for the economy • It is a huge industry • It employs a lot of people • It stimulates economic growth by connecting more of consumers needs and wants with solutions • Economic growth is good • Means you can get more things you want
The Benefits of Advertising 4 • Winston Churchill: • “Advertising nourishes the consuming power of men. It creates wants for a better standard of living… It spurs individual exertion and greater production.” • Advertising improves our well-being
So, What’s Wrong with Advertising? • Apparently, advertising deceives people into buying things that they don’t really need • Apparently, advertising lies, deceives and misleads • Apparently, advertising makes people think they need things that they shouldn’t even want • Some people even think it makes us unhappy!
Advertising Doesn’t Lie • Reasons why advertisers don’t lie • Misleading ads are reported and removed from circulation • 280 ads removed in 2007 by ASA • ASA: “Truthful Presentation- Advertisements should not contain any statement … which … is likely to deceive or mislead the consumer … or exploits his/her lack of experience or knowledge.” • ASA: “(Obvious hyperbole, identifiable as such, is not considered to be misleading).”
Advertising Doesn’t Lie • Reasons why advertisers don’t lie • Misleading ads are reported and removed from circulation • Lies about product quality are soon discovered, making the lying company go out of business • Really important product categories have extra regulations to prevent lying • Advertisers don’t want to tarnish the reputation of advertising generally
Advertising Doesn’t Make Us Buy Things We Don’t Need • Advertising never forces anyone to do anything • Advertising does influence our purchase decisions (at least it intends to) • But what is wrong with that? • Advertising can’t encourage you to want something you really don’t need • Advertising can only help you fulfill wants and needs you already have
Should Advertising be Allowed to Help Us Fulfill Our Wants? • Should we stop people from helping others to fulfill their wants? • Depends on the wants… • Some things we want are bad for others • Slaves, over-sized cars, blow-off valves • Some things we want are bad for ourselves • Cigarettes, highly processed foods, blow-off valves
Should Advertising Help Us Fulfill Our Wants? • Advertising obviously shouldn’t encourage or help people to harm others but… • Who should decide what we should and shouldn’t want (for our own good)? • What is better, freedom or having the government protect us from our own wants? • Why shouldn’t I be able to do whatever I want with my money (without hurting others)? • Consumer Sovereignty: Surely I have that right! • Where do we draw the line?
Summary • Advertising is good because: • It helps consumers decide what to buy • It provides incentives for innovation • At least some of it is entertaining • Its good for the economy • It allows us to improve our lives (as we see fit) by helping us to satisfy our wants and needs • Busting the myths about advertising: • Advertising does not lie or deceive • Advertising cannot make people buy things they don’t want
Next Time • Dan is back • Read: • Roger Crisp’s ‘Persuasive Advertising, Autonomy, and the Creation of Desire • Get ready to discuss: • Why advertising actually is immoral – it creates desires in us that we cannot even attempt to reject
Does Advertising Manipulate Us?Crisp’s Limited Critique of Advertising PHIL106 – 2011 Dan Weijers
Last Time (with Chad) • Advertising is good because: • It helps consumers decide what to buy • It provides incentives for innovation • At least some of it is entertaining • Its good for the economy • It allows us to improve our lives (as we see fit) by helping us to satisfy our wants and needs • Busting the myths about advertising: • Advertising does not lie or deceive • Advertising cannot make people buy things they don’t want
Today • Looking at an argument that a certain type of advertising is immoral • Roger Crisp: • “In this paper, I shall argue that all forms of a certain common type of advertising [persuasive advertising] are morally wrong, on the ground that they override the autonomy of consumers.”
Informative Adverts • Crisp: informative advertising is usually OK because it facilitates (not overrides) the desire-making process • E.g. Jacket on sale • He already wanted that kind of jacket, now he knows where to get it (for cheap)
Persuasive Adverts • Crisp: ‘persuasive advertising’ is immoral because it overrides our autonomy (our ability to make purchase decisions for ourselves) • Forms of persuasive advertising (by which the desire for products can be created): • Repetition – drumming a brand into your head • ‘Puffery’ – linking the product to unconscious survival and reproduction-related desires • Subliminal ads – New Jersey cinema experiment
How Subliminal Ads ‘Work’ • Unconscious emotional manipulation by • Suggestion – often just the product logo • Association – the logo and something good • If you are aware of seeing/hearing it, then it’s not subliminal advertising • (or it’s a failed attempt at subliminal advertising)
Subliminal Ad. Attempts? • This is an attempted joke at the very least! • WARNING! Look away now if you don’t want to see a sexually explicit cartoon
The Truth about Subliminal Ads • Subliminal ads alone can’t make you buy something that you didn’t want • Purchasing a product is too complex a behaviour for subliminal ads to control • Unconscious priming works sometimes • Some priming is rejected
Arrington: Autonomous Desire • Desires are autonomous if we accept them • E.g. Arrington sees an ad for hair dye • He desires hair dye because he desires to look younger • And, he is perfectly happy to have both of those desires • Therefore, (according to him) his desire for hair dye is autonomous
Crisp: Autonomous Desire • Is Arrington’s desire autonomous? • What if the ad showed a man (with 100% not-grey hair) in a position of authority and surrounded by beautiful women? • Perhaps Arrington's real desires were for power and sex • Show your experience and vitality
Crisp: How Adverts Persuade • They appeal to our unconscious desires • Crisp: they might appeal to our “unconscious desires for power and sex”
Unconscious Desires? • The unconscious desire for sex • Makes us laugh at jokes that aren’t funny • The unconscious desire for power • $$ is the best indicator of power these days • Makes us angry/disappointed if we don’t get that promotion/job we were after • Also makes us laugh at jokes that aren’t funny
Evolution by Natural Selection • Over many generations, types of organisms tend to develop traits that increase individual members chances of surviving and reproducing • Unconscious desires for power and sex are traits that can help with this • Therefore, we should expect to see a lot of traits that are conducive to noticing and getting power and sex
Unconscious Desires • Advertisers don’t always target sex and power though • Most ads for FMCGs are targeted at women or women and children • Remember that Persil makes your clothes whiter? • Well, that’s not all it does: • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuTspd9lFFE&feature=related
Crisp: Rational Desire • Persuasive advertising creates irrational desires • If our main desire for a product is subconscious, then rationality doesn’t even come into it - we cannot possibly accept it or even consider it! • Remember that an autonomous desire is one that we accept
Crisp: Free Choice/Autonomy • Being able to provide any old reason for why you bought something (like Arrington’s e.g.) isn’t necessarily helpful • “But, I like Meow Mix”, “But, I like Grecian Formula 16” • We need to weigh up the relevant reasons in order to make a free choice • Persuasive advertising uses reasons that we are not aware of and so cannot evaluate
Crisp: Control or Manipulation • You control someone if you make them do something for reasons that they would not consider… reasonable. • Making Crisp do a jig (by tying ropes to his limbs) just because I feel like it would be controlling him • Making me buy hair dye because I unconsciously desire power and sex • Adverts can do this
Crisp’s General Argument • Persuasive advertising unconsciously creates the desire for a product by drumming it into your brain or by associating it with sex, power or some other thing that is commonly and unconsciously craved • Therefore, the real reason for our desire to buy a product is hidden from us, we cannot evaluate it • Therefore, the desire is not autonomous • Therefore, persuasive advertising overrides our autonomy/freedom of choice (which is immoral)
Summary • Crisp: Persuasive advertising uses subconscious associations to try to make us desire products in a way that bypasses our autonomy • Remember that this is a specific definition of ‘persuasive advertising’ • Some adverts clearly try to be persuasive in the manner Crisp suggests • Are such adverts immoral for trying to do this?
Next Time • Read: • Belch & Belch ‘Economic Effects of Advertising’ • Get ready to discuss: • Does advertising make us happy… or unhappy?
Does Advertising Makes Us Unhappy?Belch vs. Hamilton PHIL106 – 2011 Dan Weijers
Recap of Crisp • Persuasive advertising uses repetition and subconscious associations to try to make us desire products • Crisp thinks it works and that it is immoral because it overrides our autonomy • It most likely works to some extent, because persuasive advertising is so widespread • Does it actually override our autonomy, though? • Is it manipulative enough to be immoral, though?
Today • The advertisers argument for how advertising makes us happier • Hamilton’s criticism of that argument
Problem: Margin of Discontent • Margin of Discontent = Gap between what we have and what we want • Happiness = satisfaction with how your life is going (no discontent) • Examples of discontent : • You have a Corolla, but you want a Porsche • You work at McDonalds, but you want a job at Logan Brown • You have a 14” tube TV, but you want a 41” flat screen
Hamilton’s Solutions to the Margin of Discontent • Hamilton mentions two possible solutions, • but he thinks that the first solution doesn’t seem to work: • Economic growth solution: • “People satisfy their wants by increasing their possessions, thus becoming happier” • ‘Sages’ solution: • “Give up wanting”
‘Neo-Liberal’ (Advertisers) Argument(Roughly According to Hamilton) • Reducing the Margin of Discontent makes people happier • Economic growth helps consumers to reduce their Margin of Discontent • Advertising encourages economic growth • Advertising helps consumers to make better decisions about how to reduce the Margin of Discontent c) Therefore, advertising helps make people happier (by helping to reduce the Margin of Discontent in two ways)
Hamilton’s Refutation of the ‘Neo-Liberal’ (Advertisers) Argument • More $$ (economic growth) does not make us happier • Therefore, P2 is false • And, advertising does nothelp consumers to make better decisions about how to reduce the Margin of Discontent • Therefore, P4 is false
Does $$ Make Us Happy? • Reducing the margin of discontent makes people happier • Economic growth helps consumers to reduce their margin of discontent • If 1. and 2. are both true, then why have we gotten richer… but not happier? • Evidence?