Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Kate Trysh on Unsplash

Would Your Life Improve If Advertising Was Banned?

Does it sound arrogant when I say I want to change the world? Maybe. But I just don’t have a better idea for what to do with my life.

Advertising feeds the most destructive aspects of capitalism

The need for “changing the system” made up a great slogan for the environmental and social justice movements in the past few years. As much as the idealist part of me is dying to join the anti-capitalist rant, living in the real world and talking to real people makes me realize that this is not how we foster change.

The psychology of advertising in a nutshell

Successful advertising quite literally means taking control over customers’ will and motives. This is no petty thing.

“In passing to the psychological aspect of our subject, advertising might properly be defined as the art of determining the will of possible customers. . . . Our acts are the resultants of our motives, and it is your function in commercial life to create the motives that will effect the sale of the producer’s wares.”

And how does an advertiser shape the motives of potential customers to buy things? Simple. She architects them on people’s experience of lack.

“The most important thing to understand is that we ‘give in to feel good.’ That is, we want to feel good now and we will do whatever it takes for immediate mood repair, usually at the expense of long-term goals.”

Advertisers use this “feel good” inclination of ours by employing a technique called affective conditioning in the commercials. Affective conditioning is done by picturing otherwise neutral products (e.g. a toothbrush) next to other things that we already associate with pleasure (e.g. a smiling, successful woman in the company of a loving husband). Thanks to that, customers start associating the product itself with feelings of pleasure and reward.

How would the world look like without advertising?

In the times of big problems — but also exponentially increasing awareness of our human condition — we need to look for out-of-the-box solutions. The impact of advertising on society is infinitely more negative than positive. All it does is it driving profit for companies — which would make this profit anyway, provided that their products are really as good as their commercials claim.

Written by

What if you stopped treating your ego as the enemy and befriended it instead? To find out, read my new book, Ego-Friendly:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store