A STUDY ON THE SOCIAL EVALUATONS OF ADVERTISING
-Focusing on Traditional Theory of Criticisms-
Chugn O-Jeeru(Departmentof Mass Communication The Graduate School of Sogang
University(Advisor:Prof. Kim, Ph.D.))
This study presented a non-traditional defense of advertising against its so called
social criticisms. It is non-traditional because the defense does not rest on the
premise that advertising contributes to the welfare of society, but rather on the
premise that it is morally right and good to pursue one's selfish intersts. That is,
it is right and good for egoistic producers to use persuasive advertising to appeal
to the self interest of consumers for their own (the producers') selfish gain. The
moral justification of advertising in that it represents the implementation of an
ethics of egoism-the communication of one national being to another national being
for the egoistic benefit of both.
This study agrued that the motivation for the vehement hostility toward advertising
is a deep-seated hostility toward capitalism and egoism. Because advertising in seems
to be viewed by its critics as the Biblical serpent that tempts man with the
forbidden fruit and, consequently, encourages original sin. It is as if advertising
itself were the original sin of capitalism because, to its critics, advertising can
do no right ; it was born condemned.
The so-called social criticisms of advertising seem to arise as rationalizations to
cover up the deeper hostility toward capitalism and egoism. Far from being the cause
of manipulative deception, persuasive coercion, and tastelessly offensive advertising,
capitalism and egoism are the source 문 cause of the unprecedented progress we have
experienced under the system of capitalism. To the contrary, the cause of the
"social" criticisms of advertising is philosophy. The cause is doctrines of elitism,
intrinsicism and determinism. It is to these doctrines that researchers should turn
their attention when seeking to examine the criticisms of advertising. It is these
philosophic doctrines, that should be questioned and, ultimately, rejected.
In order to fully understand advertising in contemporary society it is absolutely
necessary to understand the institution of the market system in which it is most
likely to take root. And in order to understand the market, it is first necessary to
understand the classical liberal "world view" that sees it as being right and proper
as a means of resource allocation. They are the so-called egoism, intellectualism
quietism, and atomism. To understand egoism in connection with advertising we must
understand the concept of Objectivist ethic.
The Objectivist ethics advocated and upholds rational selfishness-which means the
values required for man's survival qua man-which means the values required for human
Ayn Rand advocates a new morality, an ethics of rational self-interest, that stands
in complete opposition to the political, social, and religious attitudes of our day.
Her unique philosophy, Objectivism is a philosophical movement: since politices is a
branch of philosophy, Objectivism advocates certain political principles-specifically,
those of laissez-faire capitalism-as the consequence and ultimate practical
application of its fundamental philosophical principles. Objectivists are not
'conservatives'. They are radical for capitalism, they are fighting for that
philosophical base which capitalism did not have and without which it was doomed to
perish. They would stress that their primary interest is not politics or economics as
such, but "man's nature and man's relationship to existence" and that they advocate
capitalism because it is the only system geared to the life of a rational being.
This study showed that many critics maintain that advertising exists primarily to
create demand among consumers. People have certain types of wants and needs, and they
are perfectly capable of discovering for themselves what they are. All that required
for the efficient functioning of a market economy is that when consumers visit retail
establishments or examine product labels or descriptive brochures, they are made
aware that certain items will satisfy those wants. Everything else-and especially,
all of national consumer product advertising-is superfluous puffery.
Advertising creates demand that would not exist in its absence by manipulating
people's normal motivational impulses. Advertisers, it is held, manipulate people by
subtly false reality and fantasy, by creating a "magic show" that makes it hard to
tell what one's "real needs" are or where to draw the line between sensible behavior
and careless overindulgence.
Finally, some say that advertising is a powerful mechanism that distorts our whole
society's values and priorities, resulting in an overemphasis on the private pursuit
of material satisfaction and a serious neglect of public spaces and common concerns
such as creating safe and pleasing urban environments.
Serious criticisms of advertising have been around almost as long as their target has
and doubtless will remain with us, giving voice both to a mild, general unease and to
sharper, more specific feelings of rejection. This testifies to the strength the
common perception that advertising has a possible influence on serious issues in
modern social life.
I assumed allegedly that objections directed at advertisements, the industry, and its
alleged social impats are often indirect attacks on the so-called "materialistic
ethos" of industrial society or on capitalism in general as a social system ; these
are critiques of society masquerading as critiques of advertising. We have not
presumed to evaluate their merits, but we do think that when advertising is used as a
surrogate for these larger concerns, the criticisms are being aimed at the wrong
On the other hand, the defenses for advertising are in essence remarkably simple.
Advertising is part and parcel of a highly industrialized, marker-oriented society.
Information and persuasion from uncounted sources swirl around all individuals who
live, work and shop in this setting. Both informative and persuasive communications
are vital and indeed necessary ingredients of decision-making processes in politice,
in social relations, and in the marketplace. Advertisements include both
communication formats but constitute only one ingredient in the mix-and not a
particularly outstanding one at that. In short, there is nothing special about
Thus both the usual criticisms and the usual defenses end up at the same point,
although they arrive there by quite different routes. In the defenses, as in the
criticisms, we are hard-pressed to identify either advertising's uniqueness as a form
of modern mass communication or its unique place and function among the many
overlapping social forces in modern life.
The general public always tend to have a peculiarly exaggerated view of the ability
of advertising to sell anything, and to sway people. Yet there are constant
demonstrations that advertising has no such power.
Government and the public largely refuse to recognize that advertising in and of
itself, is neither good nor bad, effective nor ineffective. It's like an axs, which
can be used to chop wood or chop heads ; of an automobile, which can take you
somewhere or take your life. It's a tool of mass communication and persuasion,
nothing more, nothing less. But it is important to remember that by definition
advertising is a special pleader, not a stolid presenter of facts. Its role is
exactly the same as that of a lawyer-to make the best possible case for its client
before the jury of the people.
Advertising won't go away because society needs it, industry needs it, the country
and the world need it. Whether we are selling things or services of ideas-whether we
present our messages on paper or over the set, or subliminally or some other way, I
am confident that we shall need advertising and selling and practitioners of the art
of persuasion, more and more as times goes on.