Advertising is omnipresent in modern society. It can be found on television, radio, the Internet, newspapers, magazines, billboards and t-shirts. What began as a simple means of informing the public about goods and services for sale has become the primary means of creating wants within the public so that those wants can be fulfilled at a profit.
When simple advertising is used to alert people to the availability of food, clothing and other necessities, it serves a useful purpose and helps people to access these things. However, when advertising creates needs rather than helping to satisfy them, it contributes to high levels of dissatisfaction within a population that has been trained to desire ever more material products. This is the result of an economic system that is dependent on perpetual growth. A system such as this needs eternal dissatisfaction, because if it only supplied the necessities of life, it would very quickly begin to collapse.
Women are objectified in advertising, and usually portrayed in a sexual manner and frequently in conditions of malnutrition. The constant portrayal of abnormally thin women in advertising has the effect of making vulnerable people (almost always female) begin to question the acceptability of their bodies. This can lead to unhappiness with one's own physical appearance, and in extreme cases, bulimia or anorexia. Advertising also has an impact on many people's body image by portraying abnormally muscular men, high percentages of young, athletic and healthy people and extremely attractive people using the products that are presented for sale.
Ultimately, all products that are for sale originated in the natural world. However glamorous they may appear in an advertisement, they came from a mine, a forest, an ocean or a field somewhere on the planet. As consumer culture grows ever larger, spurred on by advertising, the environmental impact of this avalanche of material goods grows ever more severe. The hamburgers that are promoted in television advertisements are largely responsible for tropical deforestation, and clothing made in China was shipped across the ocean on enormous, oil guzzling cargo ships. The majority of the products promoted in advertising are not necessary for human survival or even for human comfort.
People who are particularly susceptible to advertising may find themselves compulsively spending their money on things they have seen in commercials. If this urge to spend is not controlled, it can lead to serious financial difficulties. The image of the "shopaholic" is humorous to many people, but is a very real problem for anyone who becomes one. Highly suggestible people may internalize the message that they will not be happy, acceptable or attractive to others until they have bought just one more consumer item.
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