The Role of Advertising in Society

by Catherine Capozzi ; Updated September 26, 2017
Advertising has numerous roles in society.

Advertising is a pervasive method of marketing in society. Though the methods by which marketers advertise have changed over the decades, the role and purpose of advertising has shifted very little.

Whether presented in newspapers and magazines or on television or the Internet, advertising serves to promote a wide range of products.

Encourage Purchasing

Inciting people to purchase goods and services is the main role of advertising. Some industries rely on advertising more than others: A cereal company, for instance, must advertise more aggressively, due to the wide arrange of competing products, than a power company that faces little to no competition.

Advertisers often influence members of society to purchase products based on instilling a feeling of scarcity or lack. This void, the advertiser suggests, will be satiated by the offered product. Marieke Mooij, author of “Consumer Behavior and Culture” explains that advertisers use both rational and emotional tactics to persuade consumers to buy a product.

Reflect Cultural Trends

Advertising creates and mirrors culture. Commercials use music from popular songs or create jingles with beats and rhythms that reflect the top hits. Advertisements also use stylistic elements of blockbuster movies including camera angles, lighting and one-line jokes or slogans. The main attitude and beliefs of society are also reflected in ads. House cleaning products, for instance, were pitched primarily to white women in the 1950s, whereas minorities, men and children tout housecleaning products today.

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Spur Economic Growth

When asked what Americans could do to help the country after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, former president George W. Bush implored U.S. citizens to keep their faith in the economy high by shopping and traveling. Advertising fuels the desire to shop and, in turn, shopping stimulates the economy. In an indirect fashion, advertisers play a direct role in the health of the economy. Every month or quarter, economists track consumer spending in the area of home buying, durable goods and retail sales. High levels of spending indicate a robust economy.

Points of Contention

Consumers are not always passive in receiving the messages and goals of advertisers. In some cases, people spur a backlash against the aims of advertisers, specifically when the marketing is geared towards susceptible children. Purveyors of unhealthy food are particularly susceptible to societal outcry. Many concerned citizens state companies offering unhealthy food should be regulated with regard to their advertising tactics. Frank Trentmann, author of the book, “The Making of the Consumer,” explains that the National Family and Parenting Institute is one group that advocates banning fast food advertising to kids. They explain the reason is due to the susceptibility and malleability of a child’s mind.

About the Author

Since 2008 Catherine Capozzi has been writing business, finance and economics-related articles from her home in the sunny state of Arizona. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in economics from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, which has given her a love of spreadsheets and corporate life.

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