With the television came another more influential opportunity to advertise and eventually sell products otherwise forced to hang out on billboards and in print magazines. With the increase of the number of channels, opportunity allowed for markets to expand and so did the opportunity for those markets to become irresponsible in their displays to the American public. As new technologies allowed for colored television, advertisements themselves became colored. Though technology allowed for less static and a clearer picture, advertising agencies were still hiding behind the unclear static of glamorization and partial truths. The negative effects of advertising began to manifest in a shift from moral. Gluttony, vanity, materialism, and other unhealthy ways of thinking began to take form.
Though television advertising has been popular since its origination, its effectiveness has been waning, making one wonder why advertisers continue to produce advertisements that seem to not only produce negative effects on children, young women, men, and society in general, but also has a tendency to cause adverse effects from those originally intended by the advertisers themselves. Unfortunately such a decline has not deterred advertisers from producing advertisements for television that negatively affect its viewers. They have become no more responsible with their freedoms and now there are too many channels, leaving room for too many advertisements for assigned agencies to monitor.
The truth is that advertisements are less effective in producing the results they once did. Consumers are willing conspirators in this interaction between buying and selling, …if advertising is so powerful, then how come the failure rate [of new products] is so high? If these guys were really smart, we’d all be driving Edsels and listening to 8-track tapes. (Twitchell, 1999).
Though advertisers prefer ads that demand consumers’ scarce attention, consumers tend to form negative attitudes toward such tactics. (Li, Edwards & Lee, 2002, p. 38) They [consumers] are likely to have negative attitudes toward ads or avoid them altogether to the degree that they feel the ads are unwanted. (Li, Edwards & Lee, 2002, p. 38)
With the decline in the effectiveness of advertisements on television there still seems to be no different approaches in advertisers climb to the top of the market. The approaches of advertisers still leave Americans in the void of a brainwashing propaganda leaving them confused about their self-image as well as leaving them lost in a place of absolute uncertainty about once solid foundations of moral. Advertisers will argue they have the rights to freedom of speech, however with every freedom comes a responsibility, a fact advertisers seem to have ignored.
Model women suddenly went from plump and healthy to becoming an anorexic ideal. Average men became steroidal masses of unattainable strength. Meanwhile for those that were not on television, a devastating result of body dissatisfaction occurred in America. Hargreaves and Tiggemann (2003) have stated that brief exposure to thin-ideal media images has been shown to have a small but consistent negative impact on women and girls’ body dissatisfaction. Evidence of the research continued while young women became anorexic and bulimic trying to look like the ideal woman on the screen. Others took a different approach and began to over consume.
Overweight Americans roam our streets of fast food havens. Obesity in children has become the worst of the eating disorders caused by television advertising’s glamorization. Ronald McDonald was deliberately used to target young children as McDonald’s attempted to glamorize their products. They left out of course how unhealthy their happy meals actually were. An article in the Scholastic Parent & Child features Dr. David Ludwig who gave his professional opinion about the obesity in American children being directly related to television commercials during an interview.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than one in five children in the United States are overweight. And the problem is creeping downward on the age scale, threatening even preschool children. At the same time, type 2 diabetes-once called adult-onset diabetes-is affecting children as young as 4, while attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is also on the rise. Are the problems linked? David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Optimal Weight for Life program at Children’s Hospital Boston, thinks they may be. He lays the blame squarely on diets heavy in processed and fast foods-a situation made worse by the constant barrage of TV commercials that make bad foods look so good to kids. (When Children Eat, 2005, p. 76)
Television advertisements have been targeting American children for years. Controversy has arisen as parents try to ward off the persuasive effects of advertisements they may not truly understand. A simple baseball game may be innocent enough to watch with your children, but what about what is in between? Corridan (2001) states that a new study found that a total of 137 violent commercials aired during several division playoff and World Series games. Guns were involved in 63% of the ads. Are children really old enough to distinguish from the glamorized moral values shown to them on television and those that parents are trying to instill?
Aside from your children becoming targets, adults are targets as well. In addition to the dangers of violence, body dissatisfaction, eating disorders and obesity, television advertising has become a dangerous market for prescription drugs. Oxycotin is a common name that everyone recognizes but few could tell you exactly what the side effects of this medication are. Complete information is often not given in a fifteen second television commercial. To ensure that glamorization doesn’t happen with prescription drugs the Food and Drug Administration is responsible for monitoring the advertisements for prescription drugs.
Recent congressional investigations have indicated that that the agency is failing at this task, as FDA enforcement actions against false and misleading ads have declined precipitously in recent years. Other FDA efforts, such as its recently released guidelines on prescription drugs, do not appear to be helpful, potentially confusing consumers more then helping them. (Waxman, 2004)
If the Food and Drug Administration cannot keep up with such a task, than surely, as consumers, we are at risk for potential health hazards resulting from such misleading advertisements. Waxman (2004) argues that in one case, an ad for Oxycotin had “grossly overstated the safety” of the medication. He claimed that, when discovering the ad, the FDA never sent a warning letter until three and a half months after the advertisement first appeared. (Waxman, 2004). There is simply no incentive for drug manufacturers to tell the whole truth to consumers, and there is no real penalty for them if they do not. (Waxman, 2004).
The truth is that there is no real incentive for any advertiser to tell the entire truth. Television is far from black and white anymore, and the colors have only allowed advertisers to continue with their glamorization. Sure advertising on television may allow for free public television, but when will we have the choice to turn it off if we decide not to view it?
Our grocery stores are now being equipped with flat screen televisions for our viewing pleasure at the checkout lanes. In between a series of educational clips about what migraines are, over the counter medications are slipping into these clips to be recognized. Once again advertising is no longer forced to remain on a printed page. There was once a time where we flipped through magazines while we waited at the checkout. It was at least a cognitive choice. The more subtle approach is not in your face, but the short educational clips are enough to keep you glued to the monitor. It’s on whether we choose to view it or not, inevitably its flashy display will lure us in. I’m not so sure it’s a cognitive choice whether I look at the screen or not. The argument advertisers may have to tell us to simply turn our televisions off may not be as simple as they think it is. We are simply not in control anymore.
When ones freedoms begin to infringe on another’s, is it time to reevaluate the freedoms we have as a whole? If we are too place restrictions of advertising, then doesn’t that leave room for more restrictions on others? We simply can’t try to control advertisers. They must see the flaw in their techniques and reevaluate their own ways. Advertisers must consider their moral messages as well as the short- and long-term effects of their advertisements. If their products are worthy of sale, if they are truly revolutionary, then the truth alone will sell a product.
Corridan, K. (2001, April) Television Commercials: and now a violent word from our sponsors. Child Magazine.
Hargreaves, D., Tiggemann, M. (2003). Longer-Term Implications of Responsiveness to ‘Thin-Ideal’ Television: Support for a Cumulative Hypothesis of Body Image Disturbance. Adelaide, South Austrailia: Flinders University, School of Psychology.
Li, H., Edwards, S.M. & Lee, J. (2002, Summer). Measuring the Intrusiveness of Advertisements: Scale Development and Validation. Journal Of Advertising, V31, I2, P 38(11). Retrieved July 6th, 2005 from InfoTrac database.
Twitchell, J. (1999, May 18). A Material World: Defining Ourselves By Consumer Goods. University of Florida News. Retrieved July 8th, 2005, from EBSCOHOST database.
Waxman, H.A. (2004, April) Perspective: Ensuring that Consumers Receive Appropriate Information from Drug Ads: What’s The FDA’s Role?. Health Affairs. (p. W4-256-258)
(2005, April/May) When Children Eat What They See. Scholastic Parent & Child. (76, 77)