How Advertising Has Contributed to Wasteful Consumption

How Advertising Has Contributed to Wasteful Consumption

Have you ever wondered about the impact of advertising in your daily life? Have you ever thought of its influence on your buying behavior?

Advertising is all about selling – of products, services and ideas. It is paid communication employing persuasive techniques to get the audience or the consumer to take a specific action, according to the objective of the advertiser.

While there is a conscious recognition of advertising per se, there are only a handful of people who are aware of its effects on the buying behavior of individuals.

Goldsmiths University Professor Aeron Davis argues that whether we are conscious of it or not, advertising has permeated our lives so much to the point that we are not even conscious of it. He stated: “This is not just about explicit selling and buying. The promotional arms race has seeped into all fields, powerfully re-shaping individuals, organizations and our wider society.”1

How advertising marketing has contributed to wasteful consumption

It is argued that advertising has in fact changed consumer behavior from buying based on needs to purchasing based on wants. There is also the notion that advertising has transformed the concept of wants to needs, thereby creating a mentality of wasteful consumption.

So how exactly has advertising led to wasteful consumerism?

1. Advertising has altered consumer behavior from needs to desires.

While it is said that advertising was already a practice in the ancient civilizations, it has blossomed during the industrial period when the steady rise of industry has resulted in mass produced goods. In order to sell these goods, companies resorted to advertising to lure buyers into seeing the necessity of the products that they produce, resulting to the success of capitalism in Western countries, especially the United States.2 More and more people started buying products that they do not actually need, fueled by advertising.

How advertising has contributed to wasteful consumption consumerism

2. Advertising is all about positively projecting products, services and ideas.

Advertising always puts whatever’s being sold in a positive light, creating misrepresentations and unrealistic expectations, all for the benefit of selling. Hence, instead of making our own coffee, we head to a coffee shop for a latte, we buy the latest smartphones and so on.

The power of advertising has a role in fostering addictive behaviour to increase demand for all products.. advertisers insinuate themselves by exploiting basic human desires like friendship, happiness and success. - Greenpeace, Fashion at the CrossroadsClick To Tweet

3. Advertising uses psychology to influence human behavior.

Are you aware that there is a psychological dimension to advertising in order to be more effective in influencing human behavior? Yes, that washing machine ad played on a mother’s need to do her laundry more efficiently in order to spend more time with her children. That shoe brand slogan of “just do it” appealed to a person’s need for empowerment.

How advertising has contributed to wasteful consumption

According to Folkerts and Lacy, advertising uses social images and appeals to people’s psychological and physical needs in order to sell or persuade people to make a desired action.3

4. There is no escape from advertising.

At this point in time, the culture of promotion is everywhere that there is simply no escape from it. According to Andrew Wernick: “It is as if we are in a hall of mirrors. Each promotional message refers us to a commodity which is itself the site of another promotion. And so on, in an endless dance whose only point is to circulate the circulation of something else.”4

We are oftentimes unconscious of how much we keep on buying things because of what we see on the television, hear from the radio, read on magazines or newspapers or what we are exposed to on the internet or billboards. Advertising seeps even into our unconscious and affects us in ways that we are not even aware of.

Related Post: How Conscious is Your Consumerism?

How marketing advertising has contributed to wasteful consumption

5. Advertising enables the unending cycle of consumerism.

Whether there’s economic boom or a period of recession, advertising is here to stay. And it is an enabler of consumerism, urging people to continue the purchase of products or services and the attainment of yet more material things. This has led to uncontrolled desires, more wastes and a big impact on the environment.

The important question to ask now is if it is at all possible to move away from this materialistic economy that advertising has produced? The quick answer is and should be a resounding YES. But how do we start?

Let us know what you think.

Show 4 footnotes

  1. Davis, A. 2013. Living in ‘promotional times.’ openDemocracyUK, 14 June 2013. Available at:
  2. Allor, K. The Rise of Advertising and American Consumer Culture. Maryland State Archives, 24 August 2006. Available at:
  3. Kenechukwu, S.A. et al. 2013. Behind Advertising: The Language of Persuasion. In: International Journal of Asian Social Science, 2003. Available at:
  4.  Wernick, A. 1991. Promotional Culture: Advertising, Ideology and Symbolic Expression. Great Britain: SAGE Publications Ltd.

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