Business Ethics May 4, 1999
According to Tom L. Beauchamp, manipulative advertising "limits free and informed action" (472). It is sort of like convincing customers to purchase something, but it is based on incorrect or inconclusive information. "Advertisers use attractive rates, enticing images, and a variety of forms of suggestion to hinder or block reasoned choice" (479). One example is "phony discounting where retailers present fake percentage markdown from suggested retail prices that are imaginary or artificially inflated" (472). The customers are mislead into thinking they are actually receiving a bargain. Use advertisements to manipulate people is sinister because "normal" people’s freedom to choose freely is taken away. The important thing to remember is that it is not what was said and or done by the advertiser, but how a person (people) respond to what is trying to influence them. It is somewhat like lying, but it is the truth stretched out so far that it never seems to reach a lie. Some advertisers do lie and are held accountable in the sense that their business suffers because of it, but for the most part manipulative advertising is very common and well practiced especially in the United States. A very sad point concerning manipulative advertising is that advertisers, advertise to everyone including those very vulnerable people. Children as well as those with a weak state of mind, such as the mentally ill and many others in addition to "normal" people fall into the cunning face of manipulative advertising every day. It is understood that the more profitable a business is the longer they will be in business. It is a shame that most business use advertisements to falsely lure customers to their products or to their businesses in order for them to purchase their product and, or service. Although some companies give their customers a warranty, others do not and the companies do not have to replace the product every time something goes wrong with it if it is stated in the agreement. Manipulative advertising can have very detrimental affects. Such ways that this type of advertising can be detrimental is by labeling and or misusing words such as cholesterol free, fat free, fresh and low sugar. The health risks that people can put themselves in by using falsely advertised labels can be fatal. Today, in the food industry there are hundreds of thousands of competitors. To remain competitive, companies realize that their are increasing number of illnesses and deaths due to poor eating habits. The food companies try to target these people that are "watching their diet" (usually a large percentage of the population) and tries to attract them with words such as fat free and sugar free. With stricter regulations being passed by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), companies have to be more careful in what they put in their foods (chemicals, additives, ingredients) and how they label them. A company can put "fat free" on a cookie and be completely honest about it, but customers don’t realize that it is probably high in something unless, like sugar -unless it is a rice cake. Foods that have subtracted the one unhealthy point (fat), usually add something else that may not be better than what was originally in it (sugar). If sugar is replacing the fat, it doesn’t make much of a difference because sugar will simply turn into fat if it is not used immediately. So, in the end, fat free doesn’t necessarily mean that a person will get no fat from this food, it just means that it won’t go in their mouth as fat, but it will be converted to fat later on if they don’t expend the energy. Another negative impact that manipulative advertising can have is bringing people into debt. Some people buy things without asking all the right questions. For example, I had a credit card offer with a 4% APR rate on purchases, transfers, etc... but it was only for the first 3 months, after 3 months it was going up to 21%. If I had not asked the right questions or read the fine, extremely small print on my booklet I would have never known. Some people don’t speak English, some people can’t read and some don’t even know what questions to ask. They then fall into the trap of being manipulated by advertisements like these, showing low rates but raising them in a short period. The advertising industry could and should change its techniques for manipulative advertising. If a company is trying to sell a product no one wants, they should not make the product and, or make the service look attractive when it is just a not true. This is seduction and falsifying information. I believe in advertising to let consumers know what products are out there, but to give them a true sense of what the product is all about and what the product may be able to do for them. To convince people to buy a product or service which they don’t need, can’t afford, or the full product information was withheld should be illegal. All of the benefits and the drawbacks of a product or service should be readily available (which sometimes is), but should also be made aware to the person with the purchasing power.
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