Advertising: Don’t Be a Tool!

My dad, though now a politician, is an expert in marketing. He trained people for sales and owned a marketing company. Needless to say, my whole life I have been immersed in marketing and advertising. Maybe it’s for this reason that I often look at advertisements and wonder how it could make anyone want to buy that product. But for whatever reason where I see lies and ineffective arguments, other people see a need for some random product. Don’t get me wrong, advertising is a necessity and in some cases a good thing, and I often buy products I really just want. But our society needs to start thinking more critically about what they’re being shown and told

The biggest problem in advertising is the fallacies. Arguments which are flawed or use faulty logic. These include things such as the appeals to authority, fear, masses, emotion and others. In the interest of not turning this post into a novel I’ll quickly go over a couple, but I strongly encourage everyone to look more into them.

“If all your friends jumped off a bridge would you do it too?” We all heard it as kids….probably multiple times. So why is it when we grow up, and some of us are even repeating that to our own kids now, we still fall for the appeal to the masses? In fact, it’s probably the most effective form of advertising. “Best selling truck for five years…” “Everyone’s trying it…” are not reasons to buy or do something. What if all those people buying something find that it’s the worst truck they’ve ever driven and resell it within a year? It can be a sign that it’s a good product and it might be worth looking more into, but sales alone does not prove that. Yet we all want to be accepted, we want to be the same and so the masses often rule the market. Just ask Apple…

Probably the most commonly seen fallacy is appeal to authority. This is when someone well known endorses a product, usually one they have nothing to do with. Athletes endorsing a watch for example. Why should I want to buy a watch just because Dion Phaneuf is wearing it? All that tells me is that it’s probably really expensive, and price does not always equal quality (another fallacy to look up!). Everywhere we look though we see celebrities in ads for seemingly random products….and they work! Now, to a lesser extent, this does also exist with celebrities endorsing products they do have some connection to. Athletes selling sports equipment does make more sense. But unfortunately they’re rarely in these commercials because they think this is the best piece of equipment they’ve ever used. More commonly they’ve just been paid a lot of money to smile at the camera and hold up a shoe.

We as a whole society need to be more aware of what we’re being told and see. And that doesn’t just go for products or services, these exact same fallacies exist in politics. The difference is that instead of wasting your own money, you could be wasting everyone’s money and changing lives for the worse if you buy into what they say. For proof of this you need look no further than the recent presidential election. While it happened on both sides, Trump specifically was awful for…well pretty much any fallacy you could think of. Yet so many people still voted for him because they took everything they were told for fact instead of thinking critically and double checking what he said.

But I did say advertising can sometimes be good right? It can be useful to get the word out about a new product, or maybe one I thought wasn’t being sold anymore. Simply floating it our to stores and hoping people will find it on a shelf is a terrible model for business, and some times those products are something I really want, or maybe even need. But why can we not have commercials filled with facts, instead of crap? Those are the products I’d pay attention to, the honest ones. Speaking of which, if a product makes nothing but very vague and open ended claims, or sometimes no actual claims at all, it probably does nothing and they know it. Claiming a benefit without any proof or evidence behind it is illegal. Now go find an ad, there’s probably one at the bottom of this page. Does it make sense or is it lies and fallacies? I hope everyone thinks more about this from now on.

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