It’s easy to ignore moral principles when it makes you money.
Advertising as we experience it today is nothing more than slavery. It’s designed to enslave the choices and wallets of “consumers.” The very choice of the term “consumer” reduces the mass of humanity to a collection of ATMs. Sure, you advertisers claim to give some value for the exchange, but you cannot possibly entertain the notion what you are selling is simply not need. The only reason you don’t put buyers in a cage is because it’s too much trouble and it might get you killed. Advertisers are scum.
Since the Garden of Eden, we have seen humanity is vulnerable to deception. Satan is the Father of Lies, and his first accomplishment was selling a falsehood to a couple of folks ill prepared to fight the lies. Their operating assumption was communication had only the purpose of sharing, not controlling. Ultimately, lying is an attempt to control the behavior of another by denying him full and accurate information. People are gullible about things they don’t have time to study. We have an instinct to trust one another, and it’s damaging to the human psyche to be taught to fear and distrust. The damage can be mitigated by how we go about teaching it, but most of the time it comes by the most painful experience of betrayal. This is what leaves so many scars.
Nor should we simply wallow in this foul reality. There are moral laws in this universe, and ignoring them guarantees other people get hurt. That your conscience might lack any ability to perceive guilt does not remove that guilt. At some point you will pay — so says the God of Creation.
No one in the advertising business has clean hands today. That’s because the whole idea of advertising is not about communications, regardless of what they call it. Advertising is about persuasion, manipulation, and whether it actually offers something people need is hardly a consideration. Real world testing has shown there are methods, some illegal, which bypass normal human resistance to deception. Advertisers have made a science of using them, and were it not for legal restraints, no method would be ignored.
Concrete example: We know the human mind operates visually in snap-shot fashion. We are hardly conscious of this, but there are host of things which prove it. Look up the terms “nystagmus” and “saccade” and you’ll begin to understand the human mind operates by gathering a collection of still shots and constructing a smooth image, but apparently cannot simply absorb the smooth image itself. Most of us retain bits of memory from focal points of any scene displayed before us. (This also explains how we miss visual details, but that’s another subject.) It is entirely possible to replicate a sense of smooth reality using a series of still images appearing before the eyes at a rate faster than the normal mental snapshot rate. Thus, we have movies. We also know it is entirely possible to insert messages into the movies which are captured only in the subconscious. Not simply by representative imagery and associations, but standard advertising logos cultural images can be flashed on a single a few frames, and it does not register consciously, but is processed nonetheless (see addenda below). It still prompts a desire for the advertised product, bypassing the normal conscious process of thinking about the product first. This is illegal in the US, and that fact is the only thing preventing advertisers using it. They lobbied hard to make it legal.
There is no reason to imagine any advertiser, down to the very individuals involved in the entire industry, would not gladly take advantage of such underhanded tactics. Surveying the entire range of efforts since the earliest efforts at commercial advertising indicates a relentless effort to sucker readers into wanting something they might not normally even consider. If people already wanted the item in question, there would be no need for advertising. Thus, we have this ubiquitous effort to overcome “buyer resistance.” It goes so far as to treat such resistance as evil, which stands the whole equation on its head. In moral parlance, turning something upside down is called “perversion” — advertising is inherently perverted.
Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Addenda: I realize Snopes and a few others have tried to debunk the original story on subliminal advertising. Yes, I realize I had forgotten something so blatant as a single frame devoted entirely to the advertising logo is not going to work. The real story is actually later efforts with far greater subtlety than the old urban legend depicts. It’s a Straw Man Fallacy. When a few frame are slightly altered, all within certain artistic limits and matched to the cultural bias of the audience, there appears to be some effect, though the results are not immediately measurable.
I moderate comments. Take a moment to scan the "Readers Note" tab on the menu bar at the top of the page.
As a minister of God, I do accept donations. Please click the "Donate" tab above.