Advertisements : How Do They Persuade Us ?

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Advertisements : How do they persuade us ? Advertisements are part and parcel of our lives. Perhaps, they are one of the most decisive and, at the same time, imperceptible factors moulding and channelling our “purchasing habits,” so to speak. On the face of it, advertisements promote products and services; they create demand by dint of inducing and increasing consumption. Yet, the ways in which they convey their messages have a profound effect on all aspects of our lives: our happiness, our culture, family and interpersonal relations, business, stereotypes, wealth and status, individuality, and so forth. According to Leiss et al. (1990: 1), advertising is ‘a “privileged form of discourse”’, in that it can attract our attention,…show more content…
Many people would, at this juncture, hasten to defend advertising on the grounds that the consumer is a rational decision maker who avails herself of technology; advertising cannot create new needs but can only help increase or speed up consumption (Schudson, 1984, cited in Leiss et al., 1990: 36); and without the help of advertising, consumers would have limited information about the products circulating around them. What they lose sight of, though, is the fact that ‘[w]e never relate to goods only for their plain utility; there is always a symbolic aspect to our interactions with them’ (Leiss et al., 1990: 45). Now that we have briefly outlined the “state of the art,” we move on to the actual study of advertisements and the ways in which they persuade us. There are many approaches to this end, but we will draw upon two: semiology, or the study of signs, and content analysis. Semiology, on the one hand, is concerned with the emergence and “movement” of meaning within the text and between the text and the world surrounding it. Content analysis, on the other, focuses on the surface meaning of an ad, detecting similarities and differences. Indisputably, the growing predominance of visuals in ads has resulted in a kind of ambiguity of meaning, which renders the interpretation of the message more
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