Trends in Advertising

September 4, 1981

Report Outline
Madison Avenue Under Siege
Advertising and Consumers
New Approaches to Selling
Special Focus

Madison Avenue Under Siege

Impact of Ads on Taste and Morality

How do you spell relief? Who deserves a break today? What tastes “good to the last drop?” The answers to these questions posed by popular ads are not likely to stump many people. In fact, most Americans probably know the answers as well as they know their own phone numbers and addresses. Commercial jingles and slogans swirl around us in an almost ceaseless appeal for money and attention. Some, of course, fall on deaf ears. But others imprint brand names on our memories and, in the process, establish psychological associations that may last a lifetime.

Through music, mini-dramas and catchy phrases, advertisements create conditioned responses to everything from headaches to hunger pangs. However, they do more than lure buyers to products. Ads influence standards of taste and, some say, morality that extend far beyond the marketplace. “In a society such as ours where ads are so pervasive, the motive behind them often goes unnoticed,” said Prof. Myer Cohen, an expert on propaganda who teaches at Boston University. “The function of ads is to sell things, which isn't bad in itself. The danger comes in when ads persuade people to feel good about something that is ultimately harmful. In this way they can be quite damaging.”

Advertising is a central feature of American society. Given the diversity of the population, it may be the only aspect of popular culture Americans share in common. Most people are comfortably attuned to the ubiquitous presence of ads in their daily lives. But a growing number of reform groups charge that many ads sell products — and ideas — that the public would be better off without. Television advertisers especially have come under fire for airing objectionable commercials and for sponsoring shows with a heavy emphasis on sex and violence.

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Nov. 23, 1984  Direct Marketing Boom
Sep. 04, 1981  Trends in Advertising
May 21, 1969  Advertising in a Consumer Society
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Nov. 21, 1956  Advertising Controls
Sep. 24, 1951  Controls Over Advertising
Mar. 08, 1938  Regulation of Advertising
Popular Culture
Radio and Television