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Techniques Used By Advertisers To Influence Consumer Behaviours Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 2507 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The development of modern advertising from the late 19th Century was driven and heavily influenced by psychological advertising and the technological changes of the time. Inspired by World War I propaganda and behavioural psychology, psychological advertising aimed to build upon consumer fears, needs and desires to promote and sell goods. It is fundamentally the grounds from which modern advertising was built upon. Technologically, The Depression had ended and with it saw the beginning of mechanised production. This led to the introduction of corporate manufacturers who turned to advertising to create a demand for their products and services. Other influences that advertisers used to promote consumerism were the use of the breakdown of social barriers, building on and creating ‘needs’ for consumers (whether this be material or social), creating images and ideals related to products and market targeting. It was a time of social change influenced by these new technologies and forms of advertising which saw traditionalistic standards and morals be replaced by a materialistic and consumer driven culture – particularly in women’s role in society.

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Of all the forms of advertising the insurgences of nationally branded goods have had the most impact in shaping a consumer driven culture. After the depression, which spanned between 1870 – the late 1890’s production became mechanised – which inturn allowed for the mass production of goods. “The changing nature and significance of consumption grew not from the autonomous changes in the life of the citizen or the family but from the intersection of such changes with the emergence of large – scale consumer goods industries.” [1] However, the industry began to overproduce and therefore advertising was required to encourage consumers to buy the products – the manufacturers began creating their own demand for their products. They were the first to have large scale national campaigns with a strong emphasis on branding and product identification and many of the enterprises still maintain strong market domination (in the United States) and continue large-scale advertising campaigns. These include: Proctor and Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, Campbell Soups and H.J Heinz. [2] With this influx of branding came a new style of advertising, there was less emphasis put on informing the consumer – it was now about “grabbing their attention” making them feel like they “need” your companies product over the competition. As Schudson states “‘eye catching’ appeal became a more vital attribute of a product, examples of which are; “Good morning! Have you used Pear’s Soap?” And National Biscuit’s, “Lest you forget, we say it yet, Uneeda Biscuit.” Slogans lead to the differentiation of almost identical products, creating a synonymous relationship in consumer’s minds.

The late nineteenth century saw the introduction of the department store, this was a turning point for consumer industry as people were now shopping in a setting driven by choice and competition -“one simply did not enter a shop and ask…for an item. In the department stores, things were displayed and the shopper had a range of things to observe.” [3] Due to this increase in consumer choice it fuelled an influx of advertising in newspapers as the department stores competed for the consumer’s attention. The need for product differentiation and therefore the advertising industry was evident.

From the late 1880’s techniques in advertising began to change. Editorial space in newspapers was dropped from seventy percent to fifty percent to allow more space for adverts and of this, twenty three was department store advertising [4] . Department store advertising was also responsible for pressuring newspapers to adopt new techniques in printing processes drawn from the poster. From 1867 large lithograph could be printed, allowing for larger type, illustrations and colour to be used in advertisements. Eventually they gave in and at the turn of the nineteenth century newspapers began dropping their column limitations allowing for the introduction of pictorial advertisements. This caused traditionalistic standards of advertising to disappear and give way to the ‘vigorous inventiveness’ of advertisers as they sought new ways to promote goods and services. [5] 

One of these new ways of promotion was that of radio advertising. Radio had a strong presence in Britain due to the popularity of the BBC. However advertising through this medium had a negative stigma attached to it due to radio being viewed as a fundamentally cultural and entertaining medium. Radio advertising in Britain had begun with subliminal or sponsorship advertising in its cultural and entertaining programs with products and services being introduced through its radio dramas and entertainment (much like ‘product placement’ in modern day television and films.) [6] Advertisers feared that there would be a negative reaction by the radio listeners for intruding in a medium that provided cultural, entertaining and educational resources. However once radio gained national coverage in the United States advertisers could not resist in the new medium to “grab consumer’s attention”. One of the main persuasions was radio’s ability to override consumer’s choice in viewing an advertisement, in comparison to print media – if the consumer were ‘tuned in’ to the radio they would hear the advertisement regardless of their interest in the product or service. The other persuasion was its ability to reach women during daytime programs. During this time, in the early 20th Century women were the decision makers when it came to consumer choices, they carried out the household shopping, and so there was an influx of advertisements appealing to the “typical housewife”. Radio as an advertising medium began to flourish during the 1920’s and many of the large companies assisted their print ads with radio advertisements. Once advertising in radio was established there was now no media that was free of advertising’s influence – driving the notion of the 1920’s as a consumer driven culture.

Advertising techniques also included the endorsements of products by industry professionals. These advertisements normally featured some kind of medical professional or minister’s testimony and they played on the idea of influencing the consumer’s emotions, creating an idea in their mind of the “need” for the product. At the turn of the 19th century patent medicine, like department stores were a fundamental part of the advertising. Essentially patent medicine advertising sought out to establish a comprehensible and memorable name for their product – one which the consumer could remember and “feel comfortable” with. Secondly was the “promise” that the medicine was intended for, for example they promised to cure women’s illnesses, colds and flues and various sexual ailments. [7] However, almost all of these products were unreliable and did not follow through with their promise and so advertising was needed in order for the products to be successful.

Transportation, particularly the introduction of intraurban rail lines “changed the spatial possibilities of daily life” [8] . It allowed for people to work and shop further away than walking distance. It was an inexpensive and reliable transportation method and it caused a breakdown of social barriers – the rich and the poor began travelling together. [9] These social barriers were also broken down through the portrayal of America as “an affluent, classless society” [10] in the advertisements of the early 1900’s. The ads strived to convey the message that equality could be achieved as the middle-class could purchase the same product or service as that of the very rich. This was emphasised through slogans such as “any woman can” and “every home can afford”. [11] Domestic products were portrayed in a luxurious fashion and they ‘borrowed’ characters and images from that of royalty in Europe.

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After the establishment of the mechanisation of production and new technologies were being supported, an influx of new inventions was released onto the market. Manufacturers identified that extensive advertising was required in order to create a demand for the products. These advertisements not only had to inform the consumer of the new technologies but they played upon new social standards – particularly that of the “modern day woman” as many of the new inventions were electronic domestic appliances, for example; sewing machines, vacuum cleaners, washing machines and electronic stoves and ovens. The manufacturers aimed to demonstrate that by using these appliances more time would be left for “the most fulfilling reward – leisure time.” [12] And so, advertisers placed less emphasis on the actual product and portrayed the “housewife” carrying out leisurely activities, as reinstated by Marchand – “The desirability of the depicted substitute activity was the very essence of the ad’s appeal.” [13] In most of these types of advertisements the actual product was absent or inferior to the activity that resulted due to the use of the product or service. Evidence of this can be seen in the advertising campaign during the 1920’s of the American Laundry Machinery Company. This campaign, which was printed throughout numerous mass-circulation magazines, accentuated the pleasures that would arise from sending the family washing to a commercial laundry service. These ads showed women enjoying sociable and entertaining activities as opposed to ‘slaving’ away with the washing. A quote from an advertisement published by the Association of the Laundry Owners National asks women the question – “Does the weekly washday take its heavy toll of hours that you could spend so joyously, so profitably in other ways?” [14] Apart from the association’s logo, the actual task of washing is not illustrated in the advertisement. The advertisements of this time, in comparison to those prior to the turn of the nineteenth century, emphasised less on factual information and more on the actual consumer.

This emphasis on the consumer led to, what academics refer to as a consumer culture. Traditionalistic values of the morals and ethics of hard work and self-denial were being replaced by an emphasis on materialism and individual pleasures as the way of leading a happy and fulfilling life and many conservative critics believe that advertising was responsible for this new consumer driven culture. [15] In 1890 Weber wrote “material goods have gained an increasing and finally an inexorable power over the lives of men as at no previous period in history.” [16] Evidence of this can be noted from the success of the Listerine advertisements of the early 1920’s – where consumers were persuaded to use Listerine mouthwash to combat the so-called disorder of “halitosis”. At the time of these ads going to press sales of Listerine dramatically increased. The advertisements drove the consumer to “discover a new need” [17] – something that without the advertisements the consumer would not have strived to fulfil. Therefore it can be concluded that the success of these types of advertisements, whether it be creating a new “disorder”, as in the Listerine ads, or telling women that wash day will steal “their youth and beauty” play upon influencing the emotions of the consumer and creating in their minds “a false need”. [18] 

There are many arguments regarding advertising’s influence on the society and culture during the first half of the twentieth century. Changes in the market due to new technologies and the increase in production created a need for advertising that prior to the time was not required by manufacturers. Techniques used to sell this influx of merchandise were effective and somewhat immoral in cases. There is no argument however to ignore that on a whole, particularly in the United States that the society of the time had become more material dominated and traditional standards of living were becoming less dominant. However there is not enough evidence to suggest that advertising caused a consumer culture but rather both the technological advancements and the influence of advertising and other mediums of the time drove the social change.


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