This article containts product placement. A lot.
It might be hard to go out without being faced with a billboard on the street, to flip through a magazine without ads on every other page, or to open Facebook without it trying to sell us something. And saying it’s hard is probably an understatement, ‘impossible’ is closer to truth.
The “prostitution of psychology”
According to official definitions, advertising is a part of marketing which allows direct communication with potential customers. Its purpose is to introduce the product, to increase and maintain demands, to persuade, or rather to influence.
It’s also called the prostitution of psychology, because the most effective commercials are made to exploit the human mind and behaviour. For example, in restaurants they use warm lighting to make the food look more attractive, and they often use the color red, which increases appetite.
How did it all begin?
The history of advertisements goes back to the Roman era – inscriptions detailing a product’s features were found on pots, amphoras, walls; they also used trade-signs. The development of advertising began with the spread of printing. The first leaflets were printed in the 15th century, billboards appeared in the 1900s, and over time the industry took advantage of all the innovations in technology – the newspaper, radio, televison, and the Internet served as channels.
Socialism and marketing
The two are somewhat contradictory, since advertising supports consumption, which is the basis of capitalism. Moreover, in communism there was no need for brands to try and distinguish themselves, as in many cases they were in a monopoly position.
These advertisements only had an informative purpose, and the slogens were mostly meaningless. A good example for this is “Cipőt a Cipőboltból” (Shoes from the Shoe shop), a phrase used to parodize commercials of this age. Short poems as slogens were also popular, like Márka’s “Itt a márka, itta már ma?” or Fabulon’s “Fabulon a bőre őre, ezt használja nyakra, főre”. Because of the effective marketing and the good quality, Fabulon has become very popular in Hungary. The model choice was as fortunate as the slogan; Pataki Ági, the face of the brand, succesfully captured attention without being oversexualized, this way women could symphatize and identify with her.
The era of advertising
The simplest advertisements included those used in communism. Their main purpose was to inform about the existence of the product and the store, to provide basic information such as the location or the price of the service. This may have been enough until 1989, but with the rise of competition between brands, commercials also had to compete with each other: which one is the most memorable, the most effective, which one is able to motivate the most people? Simply stating that a shampoo makes your hair clean and smell nice wasn’t enough anymore, ads had to promise something more, products were shown as a key to success and happiness. This shampoo will make you happy, this deodorant will make women fall head over heels in love.
Nowadays, even this isn’t enough, it is necessary to make the most of today’s communication channels. The most effective way to reach young people – they are a big part of the market – is internet advertising.
Some companies are so good at adapting to current trends that they are creating ads that are not considered annoying, – like unskippable YouTube ads or flashing lights in the sidebar of a website – what’s more, people are intentionally searching for them. These commercials are entertaining and funny, like short stories or a whole series – and when they finally reach meme status, they will be considered a great success.
Events that evoke emotions are much more memorable, this is why touching commercials featuring families or christmas are popular. Such was the case with one Nivea ad, in which the music in itself was enough to bring tears to somebody’s eyes. They also had a moving ad about a little boy growing up and reaching out to his mom at different times – sadly this can no longer be found on the Internet.
Advertisement and politics?
Not only the quality of advertising, but also its intellectual message and content changed over the years. Nowadays, it would be unthinkable to promote tobacco products with medical recommendation. It’s also rather bizarre that children were encouraged to buy cigarettes as gifts for their parents.
In the fifties, ads showing women as stereotypical housewives were generally accepted. These ads exploited women’s desire to be the best wife and mother they can be – if your family loves our product, they will love you too for buying it, right? Today, in the days of individualism and female emancipation, this would be outrageous. Current commercials are better represented by L’Oreal’s and Garnier’s slogan: Because you’re worth it and Take care.
Politics has always influenced advertising, and ads taking advantage of this turned out to be extremely effective. Coca-Cola gained much of its popularity during World War II, since their commercials involved life as a soldier. Members of the army also got special discounts on their drinks. Fanta appeared in Nazi Germany, as the opposite of cola – if you are interested in the story, you can read more about it here.
The main message of modern ads is acceptance. Acceptance towards ourselves, and acceptance towards each other – this plays an important role in the beauty and fashion industry, where perfection is the standard. Dove is at the forefront of this, and has featured women of various nationalities, body shapes, skin colour, and age in their commercials.
Several brands claim to be environmentally friendly, even though manufacturing their product is inevitably creating waste.
Whether they are annoying or entertaining, advertisements keep bombarding with information all day, every day. No matter how politically correct they are, their ultimate goal will never be more than to sell something, let’s not forget this, and try being a conscious shopper and consumer.
This article contained product placement.