The causal effect of American advertising

What do advertisements tell young people they should value? Commercial advertisements market merchandises from economic fields such as the fashion, the tobacco, and alcohol beverage industries all use calculated persuasive ways to try convince people to purchase their products. From the television, to the radio, to the internet, to the billboards; a company's attempts to advertise its products cover a great scope. It would not be an over-statement to state that American advertising, whether positively or negatively, has a great effect on the American youth today. There are some marketing schemes introduced to the American youth by business institutions that affect the American youth negatively. Examples of negative advertisements are tobacco advertisements and alcohol advertisements. In light of that, several institutional bodies make counter campaign advertisements and programs to try and reverse the somewhat negative inputs inserted into the American youths' minds.

The youth, today, want to be hip and cool by dressing up in a certain way, owning certain things, and acting in way that makes them stand out. Advertisement agencies play a great role at influencing youngsters, especially children since they have less cognitive skills and abilities ("Report of the APA Task Force on Advertising and Children", 1), to develop behavioral patterns and value things that may or may not always be appropriate for them. This is done for tactical business purposes in order to attract customers. The obvious way in which products and "cool modes of lifestyles" are marketed to a business' potential customers is through commercial advertisements on radio and television during in between main program breaks, and in magazines and the internet. The other way is through "product placement" in popular movies and television shows ("Effects of Subliminal Advertising on Consumer Attitudes and Buying Intentions"). Product placement is a form of advertisement, whether intended or not, whereby authority figures (celebrities) wear or use certain branded items such as custom-made suits or expensive gadgets in the movies that they act in. This in turn makes the fans, the viewers, to like and want to own what they have just seen or heard on television.

The images above show a depiction of how tactical and picture-friendly some marketing schemes can be in order to convince a potential customer that the products above are actually invigorating and fun to consume. The first picture on the left shows a man and woman playing together, and an outward projection of two open packs of Newport cigarettes. The catch phrase of this advertisement is "After all, if smoking isn't a pleasure, why bother?" The message in this image indirectly states that smoking isn't bad for one's health. The second picture on the right shows a glass containing what seems to be a clear beverage, and its catch phrase is "We spent thousands finding out what we already know. White rum is smoother than gin or vodka." Those images show case examples of how advertising agencies and its customers market their merchandises.

The article, Relationship between Tobacco Advertising and Youth Smoking authored by Patrick D. Bridge, presents studies that claim there is a relationship between "Tobacco Advertising and Youth Smoking. In the article, it quotes findings from Aitken and Eadie: "Aitken and Eadie (1990) surveyed youths aged eleven to fourteen and reported their awareness of cigarette advertising 'reinforces underage smoking'..." Underage alcohol consumption also has a relationship with the causal effect of "alcohol advertising", be it in commercials or 'product placement'.

An article by The Center of Alcohol Use and Youth illustrates the causal relationship between American advertising and the American youth. This article pertains to "African-American youth and alcohol advertising." "Alcohol is the drug most widely used by African-American youth." Even though black American youth consume less alcohol than their peers, "there is evidence from public health research that, as they age, African Americans suffer more from alcohol related diseases than other groups in the population." The article presents studies of the exposure of young African-Americans to alcohol advertising in 2004. This study basically says despite the decline of exposure from 2001 and 2004, statistics show that they are still over exposed to alcohol advertising. An area where they are mostly exposed to 'alcohol advertising' is in lyrics of rap music (African American Youth and Alcohol Advertising).

There is serious concern by some institutions about the exposure of certain commercial ads directed on children. The APA's Council of Representatives has taken strict measures to regulate marketing ads speared at adolescents. Melissa Dittmann explains that

The advertising industry spends $12 billion per year on ads targeted to children, bombarding young audiences with persuasive messages through media such as television and the internet. The average child is exposed to more than 40,000 TV commercials a year, according to studies. And ads are reaching children through new media technologies and even in schoolswith corporate-sponsored educational materials and product placements in student's textbooks (Protecting children from advertising).

Findings from research have revealed that "child-directed ads for healthy foods can lose their effectiveness" when children are exposed to commercials for "snack foods" in a similar scenario. Other findings by some researchers put forward that commercials directed to kids, which mainly comprise of commercials for "sugary cereals, candy and fast-food restaurants", could be a contributing factor of the "increase in childhood obesity" due to the promotion of unhealthy foods.

Particularly alarming to the task force is that commercials also often use psychological research to make their messages more powerful. For example, they draw from developmental psychology principles to build campaigns that persuade children they need a product and to nag their parents to buy it. In addition, advertisers often use characters and celebritiessuch as from shows like "SpongeBob SquarePants" or "Blue Clues"or premium gimmicks to reel in children. (Melissa Dittmann. "Consumerism: Protecting children from advertising").

In conclusion, some commercial advertisements directed to the American youth by businesses impact the American youth in a negative way. However, there are organizations such as the Task Force on Advertising that are taking measures in order to ensure that strict regulations are enforced in order to protect the American youth from such ads. The question is: will the advertisement industry choose the safety and the psychology well-being of the American youth even if it means having a possible decrease in sales or purchasing demand for its customers?

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