Life in the Age of Advertising

Marketing person / Ad

In addition to helping make us aware of specific goods that are available to us, marketers and advertisers exist to help us part with our hard-earned money. That's what they're paid to do, and they've become quite good at it over the years. Several well established advertising methods take advantage of the same compensation tendencies we discussed earlier, and by incorporating these principles into their advertisements, marketers are able to convince us to buy products we can't really afford or don't truly need, or both. As sophisticated adults, we can identify and appreciate the techniques that advertisers use, though we still often fall prey to them. Unfortunately, young children, who are the recipients of an astounding amount of marketing, cannot possibly understand the strategies of the campaigns directed at them.

Children watching TV or looking at toy

From a very early age, children are bombarded by marketing that tells them which toys are the most fun, which cereals are the most fun, and which snacks are - of course, the most fun. They very quickly begin to see money as a way to get these things, even before they know what money is or where it comes from. As they become teenagers, the advertising evolves with them. Rather than simply appealing to their desire to have fun, marketers very subtly encourage teens to buy things for social reasons. The "coolest" clothes and styles are advertised to them as social necessities. Watching these ads and then seeing the featured products begin to appear in school can trigger a teenager's fear of being excluded from the group they want to belong to - remember Maslow's third level? All too often, teenagers are convinced that if they don't spend money on the "right" things, the "right" crowd may not accept them. If their spending decisions were reduced to a mathematical equation, it might look like this: spending = emotional well-being + social status.