Manipulation and Scare Tactics in Modern Advertisements

Topics: Manipulation

The methods of persuasion used by modern advertisements today are tantamount to the scare tactics utilized by government propagandists during times of national conflict. Propaganda subliminally establishes the standard of nationalism that would be considered acceptable for the public, and advertising has a similar impact on the fortification of social norms. Propaganda and advertising share similar scare tactic methodologies, as well as the common goal of social compliance. The consistency and frequency of advertisements in the daily routine of the consumer acts as a constant influence as if to groom the development of social norms, which in turn generate socially based fears of being labeled as deviant.

The advertisement industry establishes the standard for what is socially ideal in order to unethically exploit certain fears and vulnerabilities of the public strictly for the purpose of profit. Simply stated, advertisers have successfully created a society that is dependent on material possession to achieve social acceptance.

Advertisers gain control of how vital a product is for cultural acceptance through years of social grooming, which establishes the generalized image for what is considered ideal.

The contorted perception of perfection manifests as a societal corporeal entity after years of frequent systematic exposure to the fictitious belief system forged by the advertising industry. In an article featured in the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Lois J. Smith writes, “Filmed models have proved to be as effective as real-life models in eliciting and transmitting social behaviors…Considering the number of hours of television that children watch, their exposure to televised models may even be greater than their exposure to their own parents’ behaviors”.

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It seems as if the belief system enforced by television advertising is inevitable due to its compelling prominence throughout each consumer’s cognitive development. This imposed belief system is acclimated accordingly to its appropriate audience, but in the Essentials of Sociology Giddens et al. defines the ideal type as, “A ‘pure type,’ constructed by emphasizing certain traits of a social item that do not necessarily exist in reality”. This definition alludes to the potential negative psychological impact that ensues when the veracity of an empty promise once indubitable is exposed. Advertising corporations prey on the inevitable human need to epitomize this constructed fantasy of an ideal life, so the consumer continues to purchase the product with the intent of attaining a glorified farce that ultimately results in the solidification of the product’s necessity.

Advertisers manipulate the vitality of a product through the use of scare tactics. If the product is in low supply, there is a perceived urgency associated with the decision to purchase it. Alexandra Aguirre-Rodriguez affirms this claim’s validity when she comments on the effect of scarcity appeals used by advertisements in an article featured in the Journal of Advertising, “. product availability is a common advertising tactic intended to motivate consumer purchasing behavior by arousing product scarcity perceptions, which threaten consumers’ perceived freedom to obtain the allegedly scarce product”. The advertising industry holds far more authority over the consumer than what is generally acknowledged. Considering that freedom in America is believed to be an inalienable right, it is alarming that advertisements are capable of threatening the most basic human equity. Government propaganda utilizes the same approach by scaring the audience into conformity, and a well-known example is “loose lips might sink ships”. The goal of the government was to keep the public from conversing on the controversial topic of warfare, and implies that the audience, if not cautious of each word uttered, will be responsible for the deaths of American soldiers. By threatening the consumers’ freedom to purchase the product, advertisements are also threatening the consumers’ ability to effectively achieve the seemingly innate need to conform to the societal ideal type.

Many consumers are easily persuaded to purchase a product based on its popularity or exclusivity due to the fear of not being socially assimilated, and therefor exacerbating the already immanent fear of potential isolation. This concept is exemplified when Aguirre-Rodriguez of the Journal of Advertising writes, “Consumer competitiveness and/or desire for social approval drives consumers toward products scarce due to popular demand”. This remark highlights the level to which advertisements are able to manipulate the human psyche, and exemplifies the authority behind the fear of being labeled as deviant from society. In the text, Essentials of Sociology, Giddens [et al.] states, “Deviance may be defined as nonconformity to a given set of norms that are accepted by a significant number of people in a community or society”. The emphasis on the “significant number” of the population whom partakes in social norms independently implies the intensity of isolation that results from social deviance. This leaves the question as to why advertisers are able to sell products by evoking negative emotions within the consumer. By provoking a negative emotion from the audience, advertisers are assuming that the consumers’ need to resolve the unwanted experience.

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Manipulation and Scare Tactics in Modern Advertisements. (2023, Jan 15). Retrieved from

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