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The Effects Of Advertising On Teens
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People see advertisements all around the globe that attempt to lure consumers to buy products. Advertisements are placed in newspapers, magazines, schools, and on billboards everywhere. According to marketing consultants Stan Rapp and Tom Collins, on a typical day, an average American sees over 5,000 advertisements a day (Gay, 1992). Many questions arise about these advertisements, such as “Is advertising deceptive? Does it create or perpetuate stereotypes? Does it create conformity? Does it create insecurity in order to sell goods? Does it cause people to buy things that they really don’t need?”(Alexander & Hanson, 1993, p. 240).
Advertisers use specific methods to target teen consumers, but these methods are not always successful or ethical.
Advertising is giving the general public information about new goods and trying to increase overall sales, which increases the efficiency of the nation’s economy. It is supposed to be a significant way of getting the point across about a product and create motivation for people to buy. Advertising alone, however, does not get customers. It simply catches consumers’ attention, gets them to walk up to a shelf, and make an impulsive purchase. However, getting the customer back requires a more creative marketing approach.
There are several ways to research consumers’ behaviors, likes, and dislikes. The most popular method is tests and surveys, both before and after a product is introduced. Telephone surveys are very common, but they take several thousand calls to get a substantial number of responses to work with. Along with those, written questionnaires and samples, either handed out in stores or sent by mail, are effective tests to see if consumers like a product or not. The reactions to the samples, results of questionnaires, and number of participants are all recorded as
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a part of the researching process to come up with effective ads. All of this data collected also has other purposes, such as information on warranties and which groups to target for certain products. Companies also check whether the ads are being productive by means of comparing the money made and number of sales during periods of advertising to those during a time of no advertising. Some companies even allow average consumers to preview a commercial to get a response. As a result, companies learn what consumers want before wasting money on useless ads.
A well-known advertising strategy is making consumers feel insecure and creating fears that can be overcome by buying. Advertising reveals the latest fashions and the new popular novelties on the market. It exhibits perfect individuals wearing the new styles and looking good. Consumers observe this perfection and envy it. Therefore, they go out and buy in hopes of reaching perfection. Furthermore, being an accepted member of society has become very important to most individuals. For instance, the presence of body odor on individuals makes them an outcast in society. Advertisers use this knowledge to their advantage by developing ads that show a person using deodorant and being recognized as popular. Fear also works into the whole advertising process. Due to the fear by consumers that they will not fit in, they pay close attention to the new ads for the new looks, which gives advertisers more drive to make their ads portray the ideal person.
Advertisers also insure that ads are simply informational, but many disagree and believe that they are definitely persuasive. According to Douglas Kellner, a professor of philosophy, as early as the 1920s, advertising critics argue that ads began to persuade Americans, due to the new invention of the assembly lines and the concept of corporations, that buying material
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goods was the thing to do. They tried convincing people that spending hard-earned dollars on items that could be hand-made was the new accepted behavior that would enhance their lives (Alexander & Hanson, 1993). Likewise, critics of the advertising industry argue that it connects products with preferred emotions, such as happiness and popularity. For example, beer commercials often show a man after a hard day’s work enjoying an ice-cold beer to relax him. They also argue that ads give people the impression that products can give them talent. Take athletics, for example. Nike ads are accused of implying that their shoes will give a consumer athletic ability. Michael Jordan is shown in a television commercial dunking a basketball, wearing a new style of Nike shoes. Consequently, kids are going to want the same pair to be “like Mike” (Wolf, 1998, n.p.). On the other hand, advertising agencies say that they just give the consumers up-to-date information. They show change in their ads because they know that is what consumers want and to fulfill the needs of the general public, change. Thus, persuasive strategies are considered techniques used by advertisers to get consumers to buy.
Teenagers have become top consumers in today’s society, so advertisers have focused on getting their business. According to Simmons Market Research Bureau of New York City, teens bought 25% of all movie tickets and 27% of all videos, totaling $6.6 billion. In 1998, teens spent $1.5 billion on jeans, almost twice as much as in 1990, and $3 billion on sneakers, almost four times more than the amount spent in 1997 (Tulley, 1994). Another reason teens are being targeted is the fact that there are many more teens in America today than the past Generation X. The current number is even expected to grow in the next decade, giving advertisers more reason to target them. Winning teens over as customers, today, means possible long-term customers,
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which equal big profits. The majority of teens also have part-time jobs or some type of income. With the possibility of the minimum wage raising once again, teens have come to possess a lot of buying power. According to the Teenage Research Unlimited, teenagers spent $140 billion in 1998, which is 14 percent more than in 1997 (Berkowitz & Evangelista, 1999). Teens are able to spend their money more freely because they do not have the responsibilities of adults. They even have a greater influence on household spending, as their role in the spending of their parents’ money continues to grow. For instance, it is not unusual for a parent to send their teenager to the grocery store for them, giving them complete control of brand choice. Thus, teenagers are becoming big targets for advertisers due to their growing consumerism.
Why are teenagers such big targets in the advertising industry? The answer is simple: They are different. Advertisers view them as a constant changing generation with optimistic outlooks. They want to show individuality by their clothes and possessions, yet fit in with their peers. Their optimism comes from the good rate of job placement after college, the good position of the nation’s economy, and the very low unemployment rates. Teenagers can basically strive for any career with a good chance of being successful. They like to feel good about themselves, so they buy new materials to produce that feeling. Teens are continuously purchasing new items to keeps up with the changing trends. Therefore, advertisers use their view of teens to create ads.
With this in mind, advertisers devise specific ads, using a variety of tactics, to appeal to these changing teens. Although marketers each have their own unique techniques, they all use original, flashy, and funny ads to reach the teenage audience. They make posters with college age students that create a fun and happy image. Television commercials include music with
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good beats and bizarre images because that is what gets the attention of teens. For example, the Gap’s swing dancing commercials were a big success among teens. They bought their clothes and accessories from the Gap because they could relate to it. That is one reason Gap is ranked as the number one casual clothes store among teens. Advertisers use celebrities to endorse products because teens admire and look up to them. Since teens are still trying to find themselves, advertisers try to create ads and brands that will survive past the finding years of teenagers, so they will have them as future customers. Due to the change in today’s teens, advertisers target them much more.
Another controversial subject with advertising is that fact that teenage smoking is on the rise. According to TIPS (Tobacco Information and Prevention Source), at least 6,000 people try a cigarette for the first time each day, all of which are under eighteen years old. There are at least 4.5 million smoking adolescents in the United States. From 1988 to 1996, the number of adolescents, ages twelve to seventeen, who are daily smokers, has increased by 73 percent (http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/initfact.htm). Teenage smoking has obviously increased in the United States.
As a result, tobacco advertisements are being blamed for the increase use of tobacco by teenagers. Many advertising critics argue that tobacco ads do indeed influence and contribute to the number of teenage smokers. Most teens, however, disagree and believe that their peers are the number one factor in their decision to smoke. Since image is very important to teens, they evaluate what image their smoking friends portray. If they want that image too, they may also take up the habit of smoking. A teen’s attitude towards cigarettes is a considering factor, ranking above advertising that leads to teen smoking. It is obvious that if one has a negative attitude
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towards cigarettes, he or she will be less smoke. However, if individuals openly accept cigarettes, they may end up as a smoker. Also, those around cigarettes on a daily basis are more likely to be persuaded to smoke than individuals who are not around cigarettes. In the opinions of teens, tobacco ads do not play a big role in their decision to smoke.
Advertisers use a variety of tactics to target particular groups, such as teens, to market their product. There are many views on advertising. Despite the many opinions that advertising is manipulative, a waste of money that could go towards other issues, and a bad influence on human beings, there is no true way of proving it has a bad effect on people. It is simply intended to reveal the benefits of products that consumers want. It is vital to many businesses, as some would be unable to survive without a way of making their products known. Although advertising is accused of influencing consumers to buy things they do not need, they have the choice to buy. It is up to the consumer to make wise choices and develop shopping skills that are intelligent.
Alexander, A., & Hanson, J. (1993). Taking sides: clashing views on controversial issues in mass media and society. Guilford, CT: Dushkin Publishing Group.
Berkowitz, H., & Evangelista, E. (1999). Cover story/competing for cool/marketers’ dilemma: what gets teens to buy? SIDEBAR: some teen catalogs are hits, others misses. Newsday. Retrieved February 24, 2000 from Electric Library database on the World Wide Web: http://www.elibrary.com
Folkerts, J. (1996). The ethics of questionable advertising campaigns. The World & l. Retrieved March 6, 2000 from Electric Library database on the World Wide Web: http://www.elibrary.com
Gay, K. (1992). Caution! this may be and advertisement: a teen guide to advertising. New York: Franklin Watts.
Incidence of initiation of cigarette smoking among U.S. teens fact sheet. Retrieved February 29, 2000 from the World Wide Web: http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/initfact.htm
Tully, S., & Shonfield, E. (1994). Selling: teens most global market of all. they have the moxie, money, and astonishing similarities in taste. if you’re selling to teens in Los Angeles, try Tokyo and Santiago too. Fortune. Retrieved February 24, 2000 from Electric Library database on the World Wide Web: http:///www.elibrary.com
Wolf, A. (1998). Advertising and children. In E. Goldstein (Ed.), Consumerism 1999 (Art. No 77). Boca Raton, FL: SIRS Mandarin (Reprinted from America, 1998, August 1, n.p.).
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