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15 The Influence of Advertising

Learning objectives.

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Discuss how social media has altered the advertising landscape
  • Explain the influence of advertising on consumers
  • Analyze the potential for subliminal advertising

The advertising industry revolves around creating commercial messages urging the purchase of new or improved products or services in a variety of media: print, online, digital, television, radio, and outdoor. Because as consumers we need and want to be informed, this feature of advertising is to the good. Yet some advertising is intended to lead to the purchase of goods and services we do not need. Some ads may make claims containing only the thinnest slice of truth or exaggerate and distort what the goods and services can actually deliver. All these tactics raise serious ethical concerns that we will consider here.

The Rise of Social Media

Relevant to any discussion of the influence and ethics of advertising is the emergence and dominance of social media, which now serve as the format within which many people most often encounter ads. Kelly Jensen, a digital-marketing consultant, observed that we inhabit a “Digital Era” in which “the internet is arguably the single most influential factor of our culture—transforming the way we view communication, relationships, and even ourselves. Social media platforms have evolved to symbolize the status of both individuals and businesses alike. . . Today, using social media to create brand awareness, drive revenue, engage current customers, and attract new ones isn’t optional anymore. Now it is an absolute ‘must.’” 1

These are bold claims—as are the claims of some advertising—but Jensen argues convincingly that social media platforms reach many consumers, especially younger ones, who simply cannot be captured by conventional advertising schemes. For those who derive most of the significant information that shapes their lives solely through electronic sources, nothing other than social media–based appeals stands much chance of influencing their purchasing decisions.

This upending of conventional modes of advertising has begun to change the content of ads dramatically. It certainly presents a new stage on which people as young as their teens increasingly rely for help in choosing what to buy. Many marketers have come to appreciate that if they are not spreading the word about their products and services via an electronic source, many millennials will ignore it. 2

Undeniably, a digital environment for advertising, selling, and delivering products and services functions as a two-edged sword for business. It provides lightning-quick access to potential customers, but it also opens pathways for sensitive corporate and consumer data to be hacked on an alarming scale. It offers astute companies nearly unlimited capacity to brand themselves positively in the minds of purchasers, but it simultaneously offers a platform for disgruntled stakeholders to assail companies for both legitimate and self-serving reasons.

Paul A. Argenti, who has taught business communication for many years at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University, has studied this dilemma. As he put it, “mobile apps have created a new playground for cyber-thieves.” 3 And consumer advocates and purchasers alike “now use technology to rally together and fuel or escalate a crisis—posing additional challenges for the corporation” in the crosshairs of criticism. Finally, “the proliferation of online blogs and social networking sites has greatly increased the visibility and reach of all current events, not excluding large corporate” 4 bungling.

Regardless of the delivery platform, however, any threat that the advertising of unnecessary or harmful products may pose to our autonomy as consumers is complicated by the fact that sometimes we willingly choose to buy goods or services we may not necessarily require. Sometimes we even buy things that have been proven to be harmful to us, such as cigarettes and sugary drinks. Yet we may desire these products even if we do not need them. If we have the disposable income to make these discretionary purchases, why should we not do so, and why should advertisers not advise us of their availability?

Does Advertising Drive Us to Unnecessary Purchases?

By definition, advertising aims to persuade consumers to buy goods and services, many of which are nonessential. Although consumers have long been encouraged to heed the warning caveat emptor (let the buyer beware), it is a valid question whether advertisers have any ethical obligation to rein in the oft-exaggerated claims of their marketing pitches. Most consumers emphatically would agree that they do.

The award-winning Harvard University economist John Kenneth Galbraith directly addressed this issue in The Affluent Society, first published in 1958. In what he depicted as the “the dependence effect,” Galbraith bemoaned the power of corporations to harness wide-ranging advertising strategies, marketing efforts, and sales pitches to influence consumer purchasing decisions. 5 He asked whether it is possible for a sophisticated advertising campaign to create a demand for a product whose benefits are frivolous at best. If so, is there anything inherently wrong with that? Or are informed consumers themselves responsible for resisting tempting—though misleading—advertising claims and exercising their own best judgment about whether to buy a product that might be successful, not because it deserves to be but simply because of the marketing hype behind it? These questions remain fundamental to the manager’s task of creating ethical advertising campaigns in which truthful content is prioritized over inducing wasteful consumption.

Psychological appeals form the basis of the most successful ads. Going beyond the standard ad pitch about the product’s advantages, psychological appeals try to reach our self-esteem and persuade us that we will feel better about ourselves if we use certain products. If advertising frames the purchase of a popular toy as the act of a loving parent rather than an extravagance, for instance, consumers may buy it not because their child needs it but because it makes them feel good about what generous parents they are. This is how psychological appeals become successful, and when they do work, this often constitutes a victory for the power of psychological persuasion at the expense of ethical truthfulness.

Purchases are also affected by our notion of what constitutes a necessity versus a luxury, and that perception often differs across generations. Older consumers today can probably remember when a cell phone was considered a luxury, for instance, rather than a necessity for every schoolchild. On the other hand, many younger consumers consider the purchase of a landline unnecessary, whereas some older people still use a conventional phone as their main or even preferred means of communication. The cars and suburban homes that were once considered essential purchases for every young family are slowly becoming luxuries, replaced, for many millennials, by travel. Generational differences like these are carefully studied by advertisers who are anxious to make use of psychological appeals in their campaigns.

A consumer craze based on little more than novelty—or, at least, not on necessity or luxury in the conventional sense—is the Pet Rock, a recurring phenomenon that began in 1977. Pet Rocks have been purchased by the millions over the years, despite being nothing more than rocks. During the 2017 holiday shopping season, they retailed at $19.95. 6 Is this a harmless fad, or a rip-off of gullible consumers who are persuaded it can satisfy a real need? In the annals of marketing, the Pet Rock craze denotes one of the most successful campaigns—still unfolding today, though in subdued fashion—in support of so dubious a product.

As long as marketers refrain from breaking the law or engaging in outright lies, are they still acting ethically in undertaking influential advertising campaigns that may drive gullible consumers to purchase products with minimal usefulness? Is this simply the free market in operation? In other words, are manufacturers just supplying a product, promoting it, and then seeing whether customers respond positively to it? Or are savvy marketing campaigns exerting too much influence on consumers ill prepared to resist them? Many people have long asked exactly these questions, and we still have arrived at no clear consensus as to how to answer them. Yet it remains an obligation of each new generation of marketers to reflect on these points and, at the very least, establish their convictions about them.

A second ethical question is how we should expect reasonable people to respond to an avalanche of marketing schemes deliberately intended to separate them from their hard-earned cash. Are consumers obligated to sift through all the messages and ultimately make purchasing decisions in their own best interest? For example, does a perceived “deal” on an unhealthy food option justify the purchase ( Figure 15.1 )? These questions have no consensus answers, but they underlie any discussion of the point at which sophisticated advertising runs headlong into people’s obligation to take responsibility for the wisdom of their purchases.

A sign with each of McDonald's new double burgers, the spicy double chicken, McChicken, Mega Mac, and double file-o-fish

No one would argue that children are particularly susceptible to the ads commercial television rains over them regularly. Generally, young children have not developed sufficient judgment to know what advertised products are good for them and which ones have little or no benefit or perhaps can even harm. Research has even shown that very young children have difficulty separating what is real on television from what is not. This is especially so as it pertains to advertising for junk food. Savvy marketers take advantage of the fact that young children (those younger than age seven or eight years) view advertising in the same manner they do information from trustworthy adults—that is, as very credible—and so marketers hone pitches for junk food directly to these children. 7

What restrictions could we reasonably impose on those who gear their ads toward children? We could argue that they should take special care that ads targeting children make absolutely no exaggerated claims, because children are less capable of seeing through the usual puffery that most of us ignore. Children are more literal, and once they gain the ability to understand messages directed toward them, especially when voiced by adult authority figures, they typically accept these as truthful statements.

When adults make poor consumer choices, who is responsible? Is it ourselves? Is it our society and culture, which permit the barrage of marketing to influence us in ways we often come to regret? Is it the persuasive power of marketers, which we should rein in through law? Do adults have the right to some assistance from marketers as they attempt to carry out their responsibility to protect children from manipulative ads? We have no easy answers to these questions, though they have taken on special urgency as technology has expanded the range of advertising even to our smartphones.

Is Subliminal Advertising Real?

It may be possible for marketing to be unfairly persuasive in ways that overwhelm the better judgment of consumers. Whether it is the consumers’ responsibility to resist or marketers’ to tone down their appeals, or both, will continue to be debated. Yet the question of where responsibility lies when consumers are steered to make choices certainly has ethical ramifications.

Some psychologists and educational specialists claim that the very old and the very young are particularly ill prepared to exercise good judgment in the face of subliminal advertising, that is, embedded words or images that allegedly reach us only beneath the level of our consciousness. Other experts, however, disagree and insist that subliminal advertising is an urban myth that no current technology could create or sustain.

A U.S. journalist, Vance Packard, published The Hidden Persuaders in 1957, contending that subliminal messaging had already been introduced into some U.S. cinemas to sell more refreshments at the theaters’ snack bars. Alarms sounded at the prospect, but it turned out that any data on which Packard was relying came from James Vicary, a U.S. market researcher who insisted he had engineered the feat in a cinema in New Jersey. No other substantiation was provided, and Vicary’s claim was eventually dismissed as self-promotion, which he seemed to concede in an interview five years later. Although the immediate threat of subliminal advertising receded, some people remain concerned that such persuasion might indeed be possible, especially with the advent of better technologies, like virtual reality, to implement it. 8

A 2015 study at the University of South Carolina found that thirsty test subjects placed in the role of shoppers in a simulated grocery store could be subliminally influenced in their choice of beverages if they were primed by images of various beverage brands within fifteen minutes of acknowledging being thirsty. After that window of time passed, however, any impact of subliminal messaging receded. 9

So the scientific evidence establishing any real phenomenon of subliminal advertising is inconclusive. Put another way, the evidence to this point does not definitively demonstrate the existence of a current technology making subliminal marketing pitches possible. Given this, it cannot be clearly determined whether such a technology, if it did exist, would be effective. Another question is whether virtual reality and augmented reality might eventually make subliminal advertising viable. Real subliminal persuasion might render children, the elderly, and those with developmental disabilities more vulnerable to falling prey. Could even the most skeptical viewer resist a message so powerfully enhanced that the product can be sampled without leaving home? Would you be in favor of federal government regulation to prevent such ads? What sort of ethical imperatives would you be willing to request of or impose on sophisticated marketers?

LINK TO LEARNING

Is subliminal messaging real? Watch this video where BBC Earth Lab investigates a bit whimsically what truth might lie in the claim that subliminal advertising is real to learn more.

Advertising plays a useful role in informing consumers of new or modified products and services in the marketplace, and wise purchasers will pay attention to it but with a discerning eye. Even the exaggerated claims that often accompany ads can serve a purpose as long as we do not unquestioningly accept every pitch as true.

© Sep 20, 2018 OpenStax. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 license. Download for free at http://cnx.org/contents/20aa9863-bbb5-4bc8-b7c7-d2496f357f3b@3

Society and Business Anthology Copyright © 2019 by Various Authors is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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How Does Advertising Influence People?

by Lindsay Kramer

Published on 8 Aug 2019

The influence of advertising in everyday life is greater than many people realize. This is because the effects of advertising often work in subtle ways, to the point that many people do not even realize they are being marketed to when they alter their behavior after encountering advertisements.

Advertising is such a powerful psychological tool that an entire field of study dedicated to unlocking how advertising influences consumer behavior has been developed and continues to be explored today. A company that can influence people through advertising is a company that turns a profit.

Advertising influences people by altering what they think or feel about a product, and encouraging them to purchase it.

What Is Advertising?

Advertising is a component of marketing. Although the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. Marketing is the broad process of researching consumer needs, collecting and evaluating data related to those needs and developing multifaceted strategies for reaching consumers, of which advertising is a strategy that is used. Advertising, on the other hand, strictly refers to the process of reaching potential customers in an effort to make sales .

Advertising Persuades People to Take Action

A quick look at a group of advertisements will show that they use similar language. Many advertisements are direct response advertisements, which are ads designed to make the viewer take a specific action now. Words and phrases often used in direct response ads include:

  • Buy now 
  • Get started
  • Start your trial 
  • Schedule your call 

Specifically, the portion of an ad that pushes for an immediate action is called the call to action . The call to action is a critical component of any ad because it drives the viewer to take action. A call to action only works when the ad’s viewer feels that taking action is in her best interest, which a company can achieve by using persuasive language in the rest of the advertisement. This might be a testimonial from a previous buyer, an infographic showing the product’s benefits, an image of the product or service in use or a bulleted list of the product or service’s benefits.

It Teaches Them About Products

Another effect of advertising is educating consumers about specific products and services. This can be part of the persuasion written into an ad. A consumer cannot know that buying a product is in his best interest if he does not understand the product. In an advertisement, a company can influence prospective buyers by demonstrating how the product works and how it can solve the problems they face or at least provide some relief for those problems.

For example, a dog owner who previously thought there was no solution for his dog’s anxiety can learn through a weighted dog vest ad that there actually is a solution, and that solution is the gentle pressure provided by the weighted vest.

" id="advertising-influences-consumer-behavior " class="title"> Advertising Influences Consumer Behavior

At its core, the influence of advertising in everyday life is the power to alter what consumers think and feel . A successful ad cultivates desire within the viewer and makes her want to buy a product while minimizing any doubts she has about the product. Ultimately, the goal of minimizing doubts is eliminating the chance that she will feel buyer’s remorse and return the product, leave a negative review of the product or simply stop patronizing the company that produced it.

An advertisement might counter potential doubts in the customer’s mind by mentioning a money-back guarantee or by offering a free trial. By doing this, the advertisement acknowledges the prospective buyer’s hesitation surrounding making a purchase, particularly if it is a large purchase, and assures her that she will only spend money on the product if she is completely satisfied with it.

Ads Can Make Shopping Easier

Beyond how advertising influences consumer behavior, advertising can make shopping easier. This directly relates back to influencing consumers’ actions because when shopping is easier, consumers are more likely to come back to a retailer for future purchases. At the simplest level, advertising a specific product lets consumers know that a retailer carries that product and that they can go there to purchase it.

Advertisements can also state exactly what a product does and which needs it fulfills so consumers can determine whether they need the product. When shopping for hair care products, a buyer might be confused by the sheer number of products he encounters. An advertisement showing that a specific product was designed for his hair texture can make his decision easier because he trusts that the product will work for his hair.

Advertising Communicates Price and Value 

Another important aspect of advertising is that it communicates a product or service’s price as well as its relative value. An ad might push viewers to take advantage of a short-term promotion where they can get a $300 gutter cleaning for only $199 or might communicate that at a specific store, they can buy designer clothing for half the price they would pay for the same garments at other retailers.

Effective advertising does not just tell consumers what they will pay for a product, but it also communicates how the price they will pay relates to the product’s value , often showing them that they are saving money by making a purchase.

Some ads do not hinge on the prospect of saving money but advertise that the product is worth its high price tag. The effects of advertising a high price tag include signaling to higher-income buyers and promising a luxurious experience that only some buyers get to enjoy.

Whether it is more advantageous to a company to advertise a product’s high price tag or tell consumers they are getting a great deal depends on the company’s brand. Some brands connect with their clientele by promoting themselves as a low-cost option to fit any budget, whereas others position themselves as upscale, exclusive services and goods that command a high price. Brands in this latter category can actually become more successful by showcasing in their advertisements their high prices and the exclusivity that accompanies them.

Marketing Tells Consumers How to Interact With a Brand

As a key part of a company’s marketing strategy, one role of advertising is to communicate the company’s brand identity to its target audience. However, advertising cannot achieve this goal alone. Branding, a fundamental aspect of marketing, plays a role in advertising by determining the direction and overall feel of a company’s advertisements.

For some brands, advertisements that compel viewers to take immediate action are not as effective as advertisements that focus more on informing viewers about what the brand offers. An example of this might be a financial planner who might instead use an ad to illustrate the benefits of working with a financial adviser, gently suggesting that the consumer schedule a consultation when she is ready to learn more.

In contrast, a car dealership running a weekend-long promotion would use an advertisement that emphasizes the savings of which buyers can take advantage only if they buy a car before the weekend is over. From these advertisements, the consumer knows that his relationship with a financial planner is a slower-paced, longer-term one than his relationship with the car dealership, which is a quick, transactional interaction that he can only get if he acts immediately.

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  • PTE Sample Essay 14 – Influence of Advertising

Influence of advertising

Some people say that advertising encourages us to buy things that we really do not need. Others say that advertisements tell us about new products that may improve our lives. Which viewpoint do you agree with?

It has been argued that advertising has both advantages and disadvantages in modern society. While some people are of the opinion that advertisements can influence individuals to buy unnecessary things, others argue that it can help people to buy good products. Even though this essay will discuss both sides of the argument, I believe that advertising has way more benefits than drawbacks.

On the one hand, it is widely known that advertising can increase consumerism among people. The main reason for this is that individuals are often exposed to different products and, because of this, they usually end up in buying things that they do not really need. For example, Google has a service called AdWords that shows ads to people based on their searches on the Internet. This can lead people to buy products that they do not really need as they may be often tempted by attractive products.

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On the other hand, it has been said that advertisements can help people to make better choices. This is certainly true as one may have a broad variety of products to choose from. For instance, families who are low on budget will be able to buy the best reasonable product in the market. This may notably help these families to not only save money, but also buy something that would definitely suit their needs.

In my opinion, advertising can not only help people to spend their money more wisely, but also force companies to develop better products as the consumer will have access to all available products in the market.

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Advertising Makes Us Unhappy

  • Nicole Torres

essay on influence of advertisement

The more a country spends on ads, the less satisfied its citizens are.

The University of Warwick’s Andrew Oswald and his team compared survey data on the life satisfaction of more than 900,000 citizens of 27 European countries from 1980 to 2011 with data on annual advertising spending in those nations over the same period. The researchers found an inverse connection between the two. The higher a country’s ad spend was in one year, the less satisfied its citizens were a year or two later. Their conclusion: Advertising makes us unhappy.

  • Nicole Torres is a former senior editor at Harvard Business Review.

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Influence of marketing communications on children, children’s consumer development, marketing to children in new media environments, mitigating advertising effects, using marketing insights to help children, future research, recommendations, clinicians and providers, policy makers, the effect of advertising on children and adolescents.

POTENTIAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST: The authors have indicated they have no potential conflicts of interest to disclose.

FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE: The authors have indicated they have no financial relationships relevant to this article to disclose.

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Matthew A. Lapierre , Frances Fleming-Milici , Esther Rozendaal , Anna R. McAlister , Jessica Castonguay; The Effect of Advertising on Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics November 2017; 140 (Supplement_2): S152–S156. 10.1542/peds.2016-1758V

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In ∼100 years, marketing to children went from a severely frowned upon practice to an integral part of growing up as companies came to realize that investing in marketing to children and adolescents provides excellent immediate and future dividends. Each year, enormous sums of money are spent to reach this valuable audience because children and adolescents spend billions on their own purchases, influence family decisions about what to buy, and promise a potential lifetime of brand loyalty. The channels to reach youth have grown, and marketers are increasingly using them, often blurring the distinction between entertainment and advertising. Because advertising to children and adolescents has become ubiquitous, researchers who study its influence raise significant concerns about the practice, especially as it relates to dietary behavior, family conflict, marketer tactics, and children’s potential vulnerability as an audience. In this review by the Workgroup on Marketing and Advertising, we highlight the state of the research in this area and suggest that more research needs to be conducted on understanding the following: the effects of advertising exposure, how psychological development affects children’s responses to marketing, the problems associated with advertising in newer media, and how researchers, parents, and practitioners might be able to mitigate the most deleterious advertising effects. We then present avenues of future research along with recommendations for key stakeholders.

The average young person growing up in the United States sees anywhere from 13 000 to 30 000 advertisements on television each year. 1 However, these figures do not include the marketing content online, in print, at the movies, in video games, or at school. It is important to note that advertising and marketing can serve a useful purpose for children. Marketing may help socialize children as consumers, inform them about products, and help them carve out unique identities as they reach adulthood. 2 Yet, as scholars who study advertising and children have found, there are legitimate reasons to be concerned with how marketers approach young audiences.

Some of the most pressing concerns are as follows: whether young people represent a vulnerable audience in need of protection; how marketers are reaching children in online and social networking environments; what parents, practitioners, and policy makers can do to help children contend with these messages; and what the marketing industry can teach various stakeholders about encouraging protective behaviors in young people. Moreover, there are issues related to marketing and young people that can have serious implications, and they deserve careful research attention because there are both short- and long-term negative consequences connected with exposure to marketing messages for products that are not healthy for children 3 , – 5 and the idealized images and messages within the advertising that youth see. 6 , 7 In the following pages, we discuss the current state of research in this area, offer suggestions for future research, and provide recommendations to key stakeholders regarding children, adolescents, and marketing.

The marketing of unhealthy products, including unhealthy food as well as alcohol and tobacco, is linked to various negative outcomes for youth. Research shows that food marketing increases children’s immediate and future consumption, food brand preferences are influenced by product placements and advergames, and childhood obesity is related to viewing commercial television (not viewing DVDs or public television programming). 4  

Youth exposure to alcohol advertising also delivers unhealthy consequences. Alcohol advertising increases the likelihood that adolescents will start to use alcohol and increases consumption among adolescents who already drink alcohol. 3 This is particularly concerning because early alcohol use increases the risk of future alcohol dependence. 8  

Although tobacco marketing has been banned from television for more than 40 years, youth exposure to television advertising for electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) doubled from 2011 to 2013. 5 Contrary to the suggested positive aspects discussed by the manufacturers, research shows that e-cigarette use does not prevent and may increase conventional cigarette use among adolescents. 9  

Harm may also be caused by the overwhelming exposure to all types of marketing, and the images within this marketing, that children and adolescents experience. For example, a review of research found a consistent relationship between advertising exposure, materialism, and parent-child conflict. 6 Furthermore, a meta-analysis found that advertising and other media portrayals depicting the thin-ideal for women are related to a negative body image among women and girls. 7 Therefore, there is concern not only for the negative effects associated with the marketing of unhealthy products (ie, food, alcohol, and tobacco) but also for the negative effects associated with the way marketing exposure in general may influence how youth view material possessions and themselves.

For decades, researchers have recognized children as a vulnerable consumer group because of their budding developmental abilities. Relying on Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, researchers in many studies have reported that until children are >7 years old, they do not have the ability to detect persuasive intent in advertising. 2  

Researchers in modern studies have moved beyond the age-stage theory of cognitive development and have found other variables that play a role in enhancing consumer competencies among young children. For example, research has shown that theory of mind (ie, the ability to think about the thoughts and feeling of others) predicts elementary school-aged children’s ability to understand selling intent and the social symbolism of brands. 10 , 11 Similarly, preschool-aged children with developed theory of mind are better equipped to detect persuasive intent. 12 Furthermore, executive functioning (ie, the form of cognitive development that explains impulse control, planned behavior, and categorization skills) has been linked to children’s ability to process brand messages. 11  

What remains unknown is how children move from basic consumer competencies to being critical thinkers capable of defending against persuasion. Children’s readiness to learn from their social world renders them vulnerable until they develop skepticism. 13 The protracted development of executive functions (which continues into adolescence) may explain why this skepticism is slow to emerge. 14 By late adolescence, children’s ability to cope with advertising should surface. 13 However, even as adults, we may be capable of skepticism but still fail to use our critical-thinking skills at all times. 13 Hence, further research is needed to understand what (if any) individual differences characterize mindful child and adolescent consumers.

As marketing to children has moved to new media platforms, researchers have struggled to keep up with these changes. In the past, researchers could record a few hours of television to get a sense of how marketers were selling to children. However, monitoring new media is fraught with logistical issues because Web sites can be altered in a matter of hours and social networks can privately reach out to young people with commercial appeals.

What we do know about marketing appeals in newer media is that they are often qualitatively different from traditional advertisements. Instead of receiving messages passively, online advertisements engage children actively through advergaming platforms (ie, games featuring branded content) and/or through solicitation as brand ambassadors (eg, encouraging children to reach out to friends about a product). 15 , 16 These practices are particularly problematic because evidence shows that children have more difficulty understanding that they are being marketed to in these online settings. 17  

Research also shows that marketers reaching children in online settings are acting with little oversight and are often more aggressive with their marketing strategies. For example, although companies are legally forbidden from collecting data on children <13 years old in the United States, evidence suggests that marketers do engage in this practice. 16 Moreover, content analyses of food product Web sites show that many companies feature food products that are substantially less beneficial to children. 18  

Because of the concerns regarding the appropriateness and possibly harmful consequences of advertising targeting youth, various initiatives have been taken to protect and empower them. On a policy level, advertising regulations have been implemented to restrict certain types of advertising targeted at children. However, many of these policies (such as those related to alcohol and food marketing) are self-regulated, and convincing evidence for the efficacy of these policies is still lacking. 19 , 20 Moreover, as noted above, the boundless and simultaneously subtle nature of the online media landscape makes it increasingly difficult to implement and control advertising policies.

In response to the difficulties related to advertising policies, there have been calls to invest in the development of educational interventions to empower children by increasing their advertising knowledge. However, research indicates that possessing advertising knowledge does not necessarily enable children to cope with advertising in a conscious and critical manner. 14 Because of the types of appeals used and children’s growing cognitive abilities, young people may not be motivated or able to evaluate advertising and make well-informed consumer decisions. 14 Therefore, further investigation is needed to understand how best to use education interventions.

However, there is research that shows parents can play a key role in increasing their children’s comprehension of advertising and counteract potentially undesirable advertising effects by actively talking with their children about advertising. 21 Yet, in the contemporary media landscape, it has become increasingly difficult for parents to guide their children, particularly in online environments. 22 This makes it far more difficult for parents to recognize current advertising practices, which thereby restricts their ability to talk to their children about them. 23  

Despite frequent criticism, child-targeted marketing has the potential to encourage positive behaviors. The effectiveness of social marketing confirms that identical techniques used to sell commercial products can sell positive attitudes, ideas, and behaviors. 24 Still, whereas there is a vast research base looking at adults and persuasion, little is known regarding the theoretical foundations of persuasion as applied to youth or the potential to effectively market healthful commercial products to young audiences.

One reason is that few theoretical frameworks were developed with children in mind. For example, the Theory of Planned Behavior presents a concise way to assess and then target precursors to behavior. Although it has been used in research with youth ≥9 years old, these studies often suggest the need to adjust the model to explain children’s behaviors. 25 In addition, it is unclear how this and other theoretical models apply to younger children.

Similarly, there is scant evidence regarding effective message design for young audiences. One example of this gulf in the research surrounds message framing. Some research suggests that adults typically respond best to gain-framed messages (ie, messages that highlight the advantages of performing a behavior), yet young children respond equally favorably to both gain- and loss-framed content (ie, messages that emphasize the negative repercussions of not taking action). 26 Furthermore, adolescents may respond differently to message framing because of developmental characteristics. For example, it is argued that adolescents are more influenced by loss-framed messages because these messages enhance cognitive dissonance in youth, yet adults are likely to experience this dissonance regardless of the message frame. 27  

Lastly, whereas social marketing has frequently been investigated from a public health perspective, little has been done to assess how commercial media messages can have a positive impact on children. Certain marketing tactics, such as the use of licensed characters, have been recognized as being particularly influential. 28 A recent review of research regarding the use of characters in child-targeted food marketing acknowledged that although particularly effective at promoting unhealthy foods, children’s characters can encourage fruit and vegetable consumption as well. 29 In addition, children have been shown to find a vegetable dish more desirable when it is named attractively, although this has not been investigated in mediated contexts. 30 Nevertheless, to help children and families, researchers need a better understanding of how persuasive theories and message design apply to children to create effective messages for these audiences.

Based on the current gaps in the research literature, we recommend the following:

An interdisciplinary-focused content analysis dedicated to quantifying and tracking youth exposure to marketing messages across mobile and new media platforms. By considering the challenges associated with tracking advertising on new media devices, such a study would include insights from ethnographers, computer scientists, behavioral scientists, and public health specialists;

Longitudinal research exploring how youth process marketing messages across media platforms and across ages, with a particular focus on the following:

Understanding the link between persuasive-intent understanding and message perception and reception by using both direct and indirect measures that can reveal the processes through which children are persuaded by different forms of marketing messages;

Identifying developmental (eg, executive function and theory of mind abilities) and ecological factors (eg, socioeconomic status) that may moderate these effects; and

Based on the results of the first 2 proposals, determining the most effective ways to enhance receptivity to healthy messages and increase protection against unhealthy marketing messages.

Educate parents about the subtle pervasiveness of marketing (particularly in new media settings) along with the negative effects of increased commercial exposure in children. Medical professionals should also strongly encourage parents to monitor their children’s exposure to marketing communication.

By considering the challenges that children face in negotiating an ever-changing and often confusing persuasion environment, increased pressure should be applied to marketers to ensure that their practices are developmentally appropriate and transparent (eg, alcohol advertising).

Those working directly with children and/or developing curricula for children should focus on interventions that increase children’s advertising knowledge and help them engage critically with commercial messages in ways that are developmentally appropriate. Educators should also engage directly with young people to learn about the multitude of ways marketers target this audience.

All authors conceptualized and organized the review, drafted the original manuscript, and approved the final manuscript as submitted.

The analysis, conclusions, and recommendations contained in each article are solely a product of the individual workgroup and are not the policy or opinions of, nor do they represent an endorsement by Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development or the American Academy of Pediatrics.

FUNDING: This special supplement, “Children, Adolescents, and Screens: What We Know and What We Need to Learn,” was made possible through the financial support of Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development.

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  • 9.2 The Influence of Advertising
  • Introduction
  • 1.1 Being a Professional of Integrity
  • 1.2 Ethics and Profitability
  • 1.3 Multiple versus Single Ethical Standards
  • Assessment Questions
  • 2.1 The Concept of Ethical Business in Ancient Athens
  • 2.2 Ethical Advice for Nobles and Civil Servants in Ancient China
  • 2.3 Comparing the Virtue Ethics of East and West
  • 2.4 Utilitarianism: The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number
  • 2.5 Deontology: Ethics as Duty
  • 2.6 A Theory of Justice
  • 3.1 Adopting a Stakeholder Orientation
  • 3.2 Weighing Stakeholder Claims
  • 3.3 Ethical Decision-Making and Prioritizing Stakeholders
  • 3.4 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • 4.1 Corporate Law and Corporate Responsibility
  • 4.2 Sustainability: Business and the Environment
  • 4.3 Government and the Private Sector
  • 5.1 The Relationship between Business Ethics and Culture
  • 5.2 Business Ethics over Time
  • 5.3 The Influence of Geography and Religion
  • 5.4 Are the Values Central to Business Ethics Universal?
  • 6.1 The Workplace Environment and Working Conditions
  • 6.2 What Constitutes a Fair Wage?
  • 6.3 An Organized Workforce
  • 6.4 Privacy in the Workplace
  • 7.1 Loyalty to the Company
  • 7.2 Loyalty to the Brand and to Customers
  • 7.3 Contributing to a Positive Work Atmosphere
  • 7.4 Financial Integrity
  • 7.5 Criticism of the Company and Whistleblowing
  • 8.1 Diversity and Inclusion in the Workforce
  • 8.2 Accommodating Different Abilities and Faiths
  • 8.3 Sexual Identification and Orientation
  • 8.4 Income Inequalities
  • 8.5 Animal Rights and the Implications for Business
  • 9.1 Entrepreneurship and Start-Up Culture
  • 9.3 The Insurance Industry
  • 9.4 Ethical Issues in the Provision of Health Care
  • 10.1 More Telecommuting or Less?
  • 10.2 Workplace Campuses
  • 10.3 Alternatives to Traditional Patterns of Work
  • 10.4 Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and the Workplace of the Future
  • 11.1 Business Ethics in an Evolving Environment
  • 11.2 Committing to an Ethical View
  • 11.3 Becoming an Ethical Professional
  • 11.4 Making a Difference in the Business World
  • A | The Lives of Ethical Philosophers
  • B | Profiles in Business Ethics: Contemporary Thought Leaders
  • C | A Succinct Theory of Business Ethics

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Discuss how social media has altered the advertising landscape
  • Explain the influence of advertising on consumers
  • Analyze the potential for subliminal advertising

The advertising industry revolves around creating commercial messages urging the purchase of new or improved products or services in a variety of media: print, online, digital, television, radio, and outdoor. Because as consumers we need and want to be informed, this feature of advertising is to the good. Yet some advertising is intended to lead to the purchase of goods and services we do not need. Some ads may make claims containing only the thinnest slice of truth or exaggerate and distort what the goods and services can actually deliver. All these tactics raise serious ethical concerns that we will consider here.

The Rise of Social Media

Relevant to any discussion of the influence and ethics of advertising is the emergence and dominance of social media , which now serve as the format within which many people most often encounter ads. Kelly Jensen, a digital-marketing consultant, observed that we inhabit a “Digital Era” in which “the internet is arguably the single most influential factor of our culture—transforming the way we view communication, relationships, and even ourselves. Social media platforms have evolved to symbolize the status of both individuals and businesses alike. . . Today, using social media to create brand awareness, drive revenue, engage current customers, and attract new ones isn’t optional anymore. Now it is an absolute ‘must.’” 11

These are bold claims—as are the claims of some advertising—but Jensen argues convincingly that social media platforms reach many consumers, especially younger ones, who simply cannot be captured by conventional advertising schemes. For those who derive most of the significant information that shapes their lives solely through electronic sources, nothing other than social media–based appeals stands much chance of influencing their purchasing decisions.

This upending of conventional modes of advertising has begun to change the content of ads dramatically. It certainly presents a new stage on which people as young as their teens increasingly rely for help in choosing what to buy. Many marketers have come to appreciate that if they are not spreading the word about their products and services via an electronic source, many millennials will ignore it. 12

Undeniably, a digital environment for advertising, selling, and delivering products and services functions as a two-edged sword for business. It provides lightning-quick access to potential customers, but it also opens pathways for sensitive corporate and consumer data to be hacked on an alarming scale. It offers astute companies nearly unlimited capacity to brand themselves positively in the minds of purchasers, but it simultaneously offers a platform for disgruntled stakeholders to assail companies for both legitimate and self-serving reasons.

Paul A. Argenti, who has taught business communication for many years at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University, has studied this dilemma. As he put it, “mobile apps have created a new playground for cyber-thieves.” 13 And consumer advocates and purchasers alike “now use technology to rally together and fuel or escalate a crisis—posing additional challenges for the corporation” in the crosshairs of criticism. Finally, “the proliferation of online blogs and social networking sites has greatly increased the visibility and reach of all current events, not excluding large corporate” 14 bungling.

Regardless of the delivery platform, however, any threat that the advertising of unnecessary or harmful products may pose to our autonomy as consumers is complicated by the fact that sometimes we willingly choose to buy goods or services we may not necessarily require. Sometimes we even buy things that have been proven to be harmful to us, such as cigarettes and sugary drinks. Yet we may desire these products even if we do not need them. If we have the disposable income to make these discretionary purchases, why should we not do so, and why should advertisers not advise us of their availability?

Does Advertising Drive Us to Unnecessary Purchases?

By definition, advertising aims to persuade consumers to buy goods and services, many of which are nonessential. Although consumers have long been encouraged to heed the warning caveat emptor (let the buyer beware), it is a valid question whether advertisers have any ethical obligation to rein in the oft-exaggerated claims of their marketing pitches. Most consumers emphatically would agree that they do.

The award-winning Harvard University economist John Kenneth Galbraith directly addressed this issue in The Affluent Society , first published in 1958. In what he depicted as the “the dependence effect,” Galbraith bemoaned the power of corporations to harness wide-ranging advertising strategies, marketing efforts, and sales pitches to influence consumer purchasing decisions. 15 He asked whether it is possible for a sophisticated advertising campaign to create a demand for a product whose benefits are frivolous at best. If so, is there anything inherently wrong with that? Or are informed consumers themselves responsible for resisting tempting—though misleading—advertising claims and exercising their own best judgment about whether to buy a product that might be successful, not because it deserves to be but simply because of the marketing hype behind it? These questions remain fundamental to the manager’s task of creating ethical advertising campaigns in which truthful content is prioritized over inducing wasteful consumption.

Psychological appeals form the basis of the most successful ads. Going beyond the standard ad pitch about the product’s advantages, psychological appeal s try to reach our self-esteem and persuade us that we will feel better about ourselves if we use certain products. If advertising frames the purchase of a popular toy as the act of a loving parent rather than an extravagance, for instance, consumers may buy it not because their child needs it but because it makes them feel good about what generous parents they are. This is how psychological appeals become successful, and when they do work, this often constitutes a victory for the power of psychological persuasion at the expense of ethical truthfulness.

Purchases are also affected by our notion of what constitutes a necessity versus a luxury, and that perception often differs across generations. Older consumers today can probably remember when a cell phone was considered a luxury, for instance, rather than a necessity for every schoolchild. On the other hand, many younger consumers consider the purchase of a landline unnecessary, whereas some older people still use a conventional phone as their main or even preferred means of communication. The cars and suburban homes that were once considered essential purchases for every young family are slowly becoming luxuries, replaced, for many millennials, by travel. Generational differences like these are carefully studied by advertisers who are anxious to make use of psychological appeals in their campaigns.

A consumer craze based on little more than novelty—or, at least, not on necessity or luxury in the conventional sense—is the Pet Rock, a recurring phenomenon that began in 1977. Pet Rocks have been purchased by the millions over the years, despite being nothing more than rocks. During the 2017 holiday shopping season, they retailed at $19.95. 16 Is this a harmless fad, or a rip-off of gullible consumers who are persuaded it can satisfy a real need? In the annals of marketing, the Pet Rock craze denotes one of the most successful campaigns—still unfolding today, though in subdued fashion—in support of so dubious a product.

As long as marketers refrain from breaking the law or engaging in outright lies, are they still acting ethically in undertaking influential advertising campaigns that may drive gullible consumers to purchase products with minimal usefulness? Is this simply the free market in operation? In other words, are manufacturers just supplying a product, promoting it, and then seeing whether customers respond positively to it? Or are savvy marketing campaigns exerting too much influence on consumers ill prepared to resist them? Many people have long asked exactly these questions, and we still have arrived at no clear consensus as to how to answer them. Yet it remains an obligation of each new generation of marketers to reflect on these points and, at the very least, establish their convictions about them.

A second ethical question is how we should expect reasonable people to respond to an avalanche of marketing schemes deliberately intended to separate them from their hard-earned cash. Are consumers obligated to sift through all the messages and ultimately make purchasing decisions in their own best interest? For example, does a perceived “deal” on an unhealthy food option justify the purchase ( Figure 9.3 )? These questions have no consensus answers, but they underlie any discussion of the point at which sophisticated advertising runs headlong into people’s obligation to take responsibility for the wisdom of their purchases.

No one would argue that children are particularly susceptible to the ads commercial television rains over them regularly. Generally, young children have not developed sufficient judgment to know what advertised products are good for them and which ones have little or no benefit or perhaps can even harm. Research has even shown that very young children have difficulty separating what is real on television from what is not. This is especially so as it pertains to advertising for junk food. Savvy marketers take advantage of the fact that young children (those younger than age seven or eight years) view advertising in the same manner they do information from trustworthy adults—that is, as very credible—and so marketers hone pitches for junk food directly to these children. 17

What restrictions could we reasonably impose on those who gear their ads toward children? We could argue that they should take special care that ads targeting children make absolutely no exaggerated claims, because children are less capable of seeing through the usual puffery that most of us ignore. Children are more literal, and once they gain the ability to understand messages directed toward them, especially when voiced by adult authority figures, they typically accept these as truthful statements.

When adults make poor consumer choices, who is responsible? Is it ourselves? Is it our society and culture, which permit the barrage of marketing to influence us in ways we often come to regret? Is it the persuasive power of marketers, which we should rein in through law? Do adults have the right to some assistance from marketers as they attempt to carry out their responsibility to protect children from manipulative ads? We have no easy answers to these questions, though they have taken on special urgency as technology has expanded the range of advertising even to our smartphones.

Is Subliminal Advertising Real?

It may be possible for marketing to be unfairly persuasive in ways that overwhelm the better judgment of consumers. Whether it is the consumers’ responsibility to resist or marketers’ to tone down their appeals, or both, will continue to be debated. Yet the question of where responsibility lies when consumers are steered to make choices certainly has ethical ramifications.

Some psychologists and educational specialists claim that the very old and the very young are particularly ill prepared to exercise good judgment in the face of subliminal advertising , that is, embedded words or images that allegedly reach us only beneath the level of our consciousness. Other experts, however, disagree and insist that subliminal advertising is an urban myth that no current technology could create or sustain.

A U.S. journalist, Vance Packard, published The Hidden Persuaders in 1957, contending that subliminal messaging had already been introduced into some U.S. cinemas to sell more refreshments at the theaters’ snack bars. Alarms sounded at the prospect, but it turned out that any data on which Packard was relying came from James Vicary, a U.S. market researcher who insisted he had engineered the feat in a cinema in New Jersey. No other substantiation was provided, and Vicary’s claim was eventually dismissed as self-promotion, which he seemed to concede in an interview five years later. Although the immediate threat of subliminal advertising receded, some people remain concerned that such persuasion might indeed be possible, especially with the advent of better technologies, like virtual reality, to implement it. 18

A 2015 study at the University of South Carolina found that thirsty test subjects placed in the role of shoppers in a simulated grocery store could be subliminally influenced in their choice of beverages if they were primed by images of various beverage brands within fifteen minutes of acknowledging being thirsty. After that window of time passed, however, any impact of subliminal messaging receded. 19

So the scientific evidence establishing any real phenomenon of subliminal advertising is inconclusive. Put another way, the evidence to this point does not definitively demonstrate the existence of a current technology making subliminal marketing pitches possible. Given this, it cannot be clearly determined whether such a technology, if it did exist, would be effective. Another question is whether virtual reality and augmented reality might eventually make subliminal advertising viable. Real subliminal persuasion might render children, the elderly, and those with developmental disabilities more vulnerable to falling prey. Could even the most skeptical viewer resist a message so powerfully enhanced that the product can be sampled without leaving home? Would you be in favor of federal government regulation to prevent such ads? What sort of ethical imperatives would you be willing to request of or impose on sophisticated marketers?

Link to Learning

Is subliminal messaging real? Watch this video where BBC Earth Lab investigates a bit whimsically what truth might lie in the claim that subliminal advertising is real to learn more.

Advertising plays a useful role in informing consumers of new or modified products and services in the marketplace, and wise purchasers will pay attention to it but with a discerning eye. Even the exaggerated claims that often accompany ads can serve a purpose as long as we do not unquestioningly accept every pitch as true.

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  • Authors: Stephen M. Byars, Kurt Stanberry
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  • Book URL: https://openstax.org/books/business-ethics/pages/1-introduction
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The Influence of Media Advertising on Teenagers – Essay

How does advertising influence teenagers? The answer to this question can be found in the essay below.

Introduction

Negative influences of advertising on teenagers, anxiety regarding body image, unhealthy eating habits and disorders, violence and stereotypes, tobacco and alcohol consumption, enhancement of teenager’s propensity to risk.

Advertising affects teenagers in various ways, many of which are negative. Teenagers become attracted to various forms of advertisements. As they grow older, they encounter more advertisements, thereby affecting their personalities. Children are surrounded by advertisements during every stage of development. Extensive research conducted has revealed that teenagers play a key role in various markets owing to their purchase and consumption patterns (Berger 2011).

The major motivation behind teenage purchases is the influence that originates from advertisements posted on magazines, newspapers, and the internet (Kirsh 2010). According to research, teenagers are the top consumers in America, contributing about $150 billion every year through purchase of goods and services (Schudson 2013).

A study conducted by Music Television (MTV) revealed that many teenagers are attracted to advertisements and programs that include provocative features related to sex, antisocial behavior, and violence (Schudson 2013). In addition, the study found out that many adolescents proceed to model different actions and behaviors depicted on such commercials and TV shows. Similar studies have provided results that various companies and organizations use in developing marketing strategies for their products and services.

The main purpose of this paper is to explore the negative effects of advertisements on teenagers and the various ways in which parents and teachers can mitigate the influences. Negative influences of advertising on teenagers include embracement of unhealthy eating habits, lack of self-esteem and confidence, perpetuation of violence and stereotypes, propagation of drinking and smoking, enhancement of teenagers’ propensity to risk, and development of anxiety regarding their body images (Berger 2011).

It is important for parents and teachers to educate teenagers regarding the effects of advertising on their well-being. Parents should limit the amount of time that their children are exposed to advertising that affects them negatively.

Teenagers are constantly exposed to advertisements that have negative influences on their eating habits, personalities, attitudes, and behaviors (Gunter & McAleer 2005). Different forms of advertisements are embedded in movies, films, plays, and internet programs that teenagers watch. The main aim of these advertisements is to influence teenagers into buying certain products so that companies can increase sales and loyalty to their brands.

Through the influence of advertisements, teenagers buy into the culture of letting other people decide the attitudes they develop, the clothes they wear, the foods they eat, how they behave, and how they treat other people (Kirsh 2010). Advertising influences teenagers easily because adolescence is a critical stage in the development of identity as well as personal ideals and values. Teenagers behave in ways that increase chances of acceptance and validation among their peers.

Product and service companies spend billions of dollars in marketing and advertising every year. Their main target is teenagers because young people are easily influenced and as such can be convinced to subscribe to herd mentality (Kirsh 2010). Young people buy anything that is described as trendy and fun. It is easy for companies to alter their beliefs and attitudes by constantly presenting their products to them on TV, the internet, and other media platforms.

Several companies use celebrities to endorse their products because they are sure that by so doing, teenagers would be influenced into using them because of their admiration for celebrities and their glamorous lifestyles (Kirsh 2010). Advertising affects several aspects of teenagers’ lives including their psychology, physical well being, behaviors, attitudes, and personalities.

Governments, parents, and teachers are doing their best to ensure that teenagers are not affected negatively by advertising. However, the billions of dollars set apart by companies for marketing and advertising undermine their efforts. The government should impose strict regulations in order to compel companies and media platforms to avoid advertisements that affect teenagers negatively.

Advertisements create a sense of anxiety in teenagers about their body images that makes them feel inadequate (Kirsh 2010). A common method of marketing used by companies is making teenagers feel inadequate and awful about their bodies. To accomplish this goal, companies use thin female models and well toned male models in advertisements making teenagers feel fat, too thin, too big, or unattractive (Levine 2010).

Many teenagers feel inadequate, and as a result use diet regimens, drugs, and exercise to live up to the standards set by the models shown in advertisements. For many teenagers, the main goal is to attain the bodies of the models and celebrities on advertisements (Berger 2011). This striving for perfection leads to low self-esteem and diminished self-worth. Teenagers compromise their identity and academic achievements.

Advertisements show ideal body images of males and females in ways that create negative social cues in the minds of teenagers. Young people embrace the belief that if they do not possess the looks and bodies of their favorite celebrities, then they fail to measure up to societal standards. Men are presented as alert, domineering, physically active, and energetic. They possess strong hands, six-pack abs, acne-free faces, tall heights, and huge biceps (Gunter & McAleer 2005).

Young people who do not meet these standards develop anxiety and learn to dislike their bodies. Others find ways to attain these features by exercising excessively, dieting, and using steroids without minding the negative consequences on their health (Gunter & McAleer 2005).

Advertisements present unrealistic images of celebrities and models that young boys and girls try to attain in order to feel good about their bodies. Females are presented as weak, vulnerable, emotional, compassionate, and docile. Therefore, advertisements depict them as thin, buxom, and curvy. Advertisements convince female teenagers that women with these traits are perfect, loved, and happy. This makes them feel inadequate because of the absence of traits that define beauty and perfection.

Advertisements glamorize skinny models and depict them as perfect and beautiful. Surveys show that the average teenager in the United States sees approximately 3000 advertisements from different media outlets every day (Preiss 2007). This implies that the influence of advertisements on teenagers is immense.

Products that target girls approach the concept of beauty from unrealistic perspectives. Many celebrities undergo surgery as a way of attaining the ideal body size, shape, and complexion. This influences teenagers into opting for similar strategies. According to psychologists, body image is a psychological aspect that determines the self-esteem and self-worth of individuals (Gunter et al . 2004). It is determined by an individual’s perception of their body and the perception of other people.

Advertisements are edited and altered in order to meet the requirements of the advertiser. One of the major aims of advertisements is to create an illusion of perfection and wholeness that is associated with using certain products (Gunter & McAleer 2005). For instance, food supplements are accompanied by images of models with well-defined abs and well- toned biceps to show their effect on individual who consume them.

Representation of ideal body images in the aforementioned manner provides an unrealistic representation of celebrities, models, and other people of influence (Preiss 2007). Teenagers accept the representations as reality and therefore work towards attaining similar body shapes. Young people fail to realize that such images are altered using technology in order to create definite effects that pass certain messages (Gunter et al . 2004).

Teenagers fail to differentiate reality from fiction. Teenagers buy certain products hoping to attain the body images presented in advertisements. Another reason why teenagers are negatively influenced by advertisements is the fear of not being accepted by peers. The media presents various body shape ideals that alter the attitudes and thinking patterns of young people. For instance, teenagers worship celebrities because they are depicted as perfect (Gunter et al . 2004).

They are shown to have perfect bodies, exceptional fashion sense, and good mannerisms. In their efforts to ape celebrities, teenagers develop anxiety regarding their bodies because in many cases, they fail to attain similar shapes, sizes, and complexions (Preiss 2007). Advertisements associate certain body types with popularity and influence. For instance, well toned men are depicted as popular, influential, and amiable.

In order to protect teenagers from the negative effects of advertisements, parents and teachers should help teenagers understand that the images they see on commercials are unrealistic and fictional. Parents need to limit the amount of time their children spend online and watching TV (Preiss 2007). In addition, they should communicate regularly with their children in order to discuss various issues that affect their confidence and self-esteem.

Advertising influences teenagers into embracing unhealthy eating habits that result in eating disorders (Levine 2010). Numerous media channels and forms of advertising influence the food-purchase behaviors of teenagers. These channels include kids clubs, in-school marketing, TV, internet, product placements, branded toys and products (Gunter et al . 2004). Research has revealed a connection between eating habits of teenagers and prevalence of fast food commercials on television, internet, and magazines.

Teenagers who spend a lot of time watching TV and reading magazines and newspapers are more prone to unhealthy eating habits than teenagers who spend little time watching TV. Advertisements depict sugary foods, junk food, and sweet snacks as fun and indicative of youthful vigor. According to the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, teenagers are exposed to approximately three hours of fast food commercials on a daily basis (Gunter et al . 2004).

On the other hand, more than 50 percent of the advertisements that teenagers view in a year comprise fast food and unhealthy food products (Nicolas &Good 2004). Fast food organizations target teenagers because they have the ability to alter their families’ spending plans and purchase fast foods as compared to adults. In addition, teenagers are more attracted to fast foods and sugary food products.

Advertisements encourage teenagers to consume unhealthy foods that cause disorders such as obesity. Young people who often eat in fast food restaurants are less likely to develop healthy eating habits. In restaurants that serve fast foods, menus contain few healthy options. Research has revealed that in such restaurants, only 17 percent of foods served are nutritional (Nicolas &Good 2004). In the United States, the obesity rate among teenagers is approximately 17.6 percent (Nicolas &Good 2004).

This percentage is largely due to high consumption of foods with low nutritional values. Unhealthy food habits coupled with lack of physical exercise results in disorders that have negative health outcomes. Teenagers spend a lot of time online, watching TV, and reading entertainment literature.

This contributes to exposure to fast food commercials. Advertisers aim to impress children with commercials in order to build brand loyalty (Nicolas &Good 2004). Therefore, their commercials exclude the consequences of consuming fast foods on proper growth and development (Gunter et al . 2004). Advertisers show the fun that is associated with consuming such foods. These commercials create certain impressions on the minds of teenagers and as such encourage them to consume more.

Advertisements lead to insufficient intake of nutritionally rich foods that are vital for optimal mental and physical growth. Nutrition during adolescence is an important aspect because it fosters proper growth and development. The eating habits during adolescence are carried on to adulthood. Therefore, it is necessary for teenagers to embrace healthy eating habits. Numerous studies have revealed that many teenagers in the United States have unhealthy eating habits that fail to meet standard dietary requirements.

About 15 percent of teenagers in the U.S. are obese due to poor eating habits (Nicolas &Good 2004). Obese teenagers are exposed to high risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. These health risks have negative consequences on the health and productivity of teenagers. In addition, they increase health costs associated with treatment. Lack of nutritionally rich foods has a negative effect on the growth and development of teenagers into adulthood.

Optimal mental and physical health is fostered by healthy eating habits which involve foods that contain recommended nutritional components. During puberty, the bodies of teenagers undergo increased growth, which is characterized by different changes in body form. During this stage, the bodies of adolescents require high intake of energy and nutrients for proper development (Nicolas &Good 2004). Energy and nutrient intake is largely affected by teenagers’ food choices.

The main causes of unhealthy eating habits among teenagers include peer influence, the need for autonomy, preoccupation with self image, and poor nutritional choices. Research has shown that proper nutrition plays a key role in preventing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, and cancer (Nicolas &Good 2004). Health experts urge parents to ensure that their children embrace healthy eating habits in order to lower the risk of developing disorders and complications associated with poor nutrition.

Surveys conducted to study the nutrient intake of teenagers have revealed that teenagers’ eating habits do not fulfill the requirements of nutrient intake for optimal growth and development (Nicolas &Good 2004). Many teenagers consume fatty and sugary foods and thus limit their intake of folic acid, fiber, certain vitamins, and minerals such as Calcium and Zinc (Gunter et al . 2004). Insufficient intake of minerals has adverse effects on teenagers.

For instance, low intake of calcium and iron among teenage girls affects their cognitive functions. In addition, it alters physical performance. Low intake of calcium exposes teenagers to high risk of developing osteoporosis in adulthood (Nicolas &Good 2004). Parents and teachers can prevent the negative effects of advertisements on teenagers by encouraging healthy eating habits and teaching young people about the consequences of unhealthy diets. In addition, parents should limit their children’s calorie intake.

Research has revealed that advertisements perpetuate violence and stereotyping among teenagers (Rifon et al . 2014). Gender stereotyping is the main form of stereotyping perpetuated by advertisements. In commercials, women are presented as sexual objects that are meant to satisfy men’s sexual needs. In addition, the roles of women are presented as belonging to the bedroom and kitchen only. Women are required to get married, bear children, and take care of their families.

In addition, they are expected to be compassionate, loving, obedient, and submissive to their partners. Amidst these expectations, women are required to look young, healthy, and beautiful. These advertisements influence the way female teenagers are treated at home, in school, and in society (Nicolas &Good 2004).

For instance, in school, girls play certain sports and perform certain roles that limit their potential for achievement. Gender stereotypes have a negative influence on teenagers because they limit their self-expression and achievement (Nicolas &Good 2004). In addition, they suppress their creativity because teenagers act and behave based on certain societal standards and expectations.

In advertisements, males are depicted as strong, domineering, aggressive, courageous, competitive, and assertive. In contrast, females are depicted as weak, emotional, acquiescent, kind, obedient, and polite (Rifon et al . 2014). Exposure to advertisements that contain such content influences the perspectives and attitudes of teenagers in a negative way. Girls are expected to be submissive and emotional. This way of thinking affects how boys treat girls.

Gender stereotypes affect girls especially with regard to career and professional development. In certain industries, employers shy away from employing women because of the stereotypes associated with the female gender. Research has revealed that stereotypes emanate from upbringing and external influence (Gunter et al . 2004).

Gender stereotypes restrict women to certain roles, careers, and pursuits. Society punishes those who defy its rules by perpetuating criticism, violence, and ridicule. One of the main consequences of stereotyping is gender violence (Rifon et al . 2014). Men perpetuate violent acts and reactions towards women because of the common stereotype that men are supposed to be tough and aggressive (Rifon et al . 2014).

Society regards violence against women as normal. In numerous advertisements, acts of violence are considered customary and an expression of masculinity. Therefore, many communities tolerate violence and do little to squash it. Requiring women to be inferior to men undermines them and limits their potential. The media perpetuates these ills by promoting prejudices and attitudes that encourage stereotyping.

Depicting women as sexual objects encourages violence and stereotyping (Nicolas &Good 2004). Men treat women without respect because the media has conditioned them to view women as objects to satiate their sexual desires (Rifon et al . 2014). In addition, gender violence is rampant because men are conditioned to believe that they are superior to women. Therefore, any act of disrespect or opposition from a woman is unacceptable.

Men use any measure available to maintain dominion over women. The perception that women are inferior is evident in advertisements that present women as naked, weak, and submissive (Frith & Mueller 2010). Rarely do men appear in advertisements naked or submissive. Women appear naked because society treats them as sexual objects. Such advertisements affect the attitudes of young people towards women. They learn to dominate and use women for the satiation of their sexual desires.

Advertisements create long lasting negative effects on the personalities of young boys and girls. This results from long-term exposure of violent attitudes and personalities presented in advertisements. Teenagers embrace violence due to the negative influence of violent content in different advertisements.

Prolonged exposure to violence and stereotypes leads to negative impacts on the personalities of teenagers. It is imperative for parents and teachers to teach teenagers about the dangers of violence and stereotyping. In addition, they should ensure that teenagers have limited exposure to commercials and advertisements that have negative effects on their behavior, attitudes, and personalities.

Prolonged exposure to advertising is largely responsible for the high rate of smoking and alcohol consumption among teenagers. Highly influential platforms for advertising include magazines, television, movies, and internet. Different kinds of advertisements have diverse influences on teenagers. Advertisements in magazines and concession stands have great influence on teenagers who have never encountered alcohol in their lives.

On the other hand, advertisement displays in stores, shopping malls, and television have great influence on teenagers who have encountered alcohol use either by their parents or peers (Bryant, Zillmann & Oliver 2002). Advertisements in shopping destinations initiate teenagers to drinking and smoking due to exposure over sustained periods of time. Advertisements displayed in places that teenagers frequent link alcohol with their everyday activities.

A research study conducted in 2006 revealed that approximately 30 percent of teenagers who smoke do it because of influence from tobacco advertising (Arterburn & Burns 2007). On the other hand, a high percentage of teenagers who drink do so due to influence from alcohol advertising. One of the challenges that teenagers face is the need for peer acceptance and self-assurance (Frith & Mueller 2010). In order to satisfy these needs, they copy the behaviors of their peers and as a result, many teenagers indulge in antisocial behaviors.

As mentioned earlier, product placement in movies and TV has great influence on teenagers. For instance, in movies, alcohol is depicted as a product that helps people to relax and drown their sorrows (Shimp & Andrews 2013). This depiction makes it appealing to teenagers who develop the urge to experiment with alcohol.

The influence of alcohol commercials is augmented by the behaviors of parents who drink in the presence of their children (Arterburn & Burns 2007). It is important for parents to avoid drinking beer and smoking cigarettes in the presence of their teenage children.

Public health advocates have in numerous instances presented complaints regarding the effects of the widespread alcohol advertising in the media. Alcohol advertisements, product placements in movies and films, as well as the inclusion of alcohol lyrics in music presents an avenue through which young people learn about alcohol.

Proponents of controlled alcohol advertising argue that the rising rates of alcohol consumption among young people are largely due to constant exposure to content that encourages drinking (Strasburger 2010). Advertisers mainly use television because it is the main medium of communication that is used by teenagers. According to research, young people between the ages of 11 and 13 years watch an average of 27 hours of television every week (Ohannessian 2014).

This period is higher among young people between the ages of 14 and 19. Long periods of watching television introduces teenagers to alcohol and ingrains in their minds images of the fun associated with consuming alcohol. In many TV shows, parents consume alcohol in the presence of their children. This phenomenon is treated as a normal occurrence in families. Advertisements appeal to teenagers because they portray alcohol consumption as a sign of adulthood and maturity (Strasburger 2010).

As such, they portray drinking as a positive experience that is enjoyable and pleasurable. Prolonged exposure to advertising shapes the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of teenagers toward drinking. Gradually, young people embrace the belief that drinking is fun and an important recreational activity. In addition, they learn to associate drinking with personality traits such as elegance and sociability (Ohannessian 2014).

This increases underage drinking that manifests in negative consequences such as accidents, risky behaviors, and poor academic performance. The government, parents, and schools are doing their best to ensure that teenagers stay away from drugs and alcohol. However, they are finding it difficult because of the role played by advertisements. Despite their efforts, more than $25 billion worth of advertisements is diluting their efforts (Strasburger 2010).

The human brain undergoes a process of development that peaks during adolescence. Adolescence is a human development stage characterized by rebelliousness, dangerous experimentation, and extensive risk taking (Ohannessian 2014). Teenagers are attracted to products that are likely to satisfy their need for instant pleasure and rebellion (Shimp & Andrews 2013). Alcohol and cigarettes are major products that parents caution their children from using.

These products develop an urge in teenagers that prompts them to drink and smoke as a way of experimenting and rebelling against their parents. Many teenagers drink and smoke because alcohol and cigarettes are associated with risky behavior, instant gratification, and independence (Frith & Mueller 2010). Advertisements link alcohol and cigarettes with outcomes such as enjoyment and acceptance by peers.

The need for acceptance and pleasure encourages teenagers to drink and smoke. Extended exposure to tobacco and alcohol advertising has adverse effects on the attitudes of teenagers (Ohannessian 2014). It shapes their perceptions and attitudes with regard to alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking. These attitudes and perceptions consequently create positive links between drinking or smoking and having fun or gaining acceptance from peers (Ohannessian 2014).

Advertisements contain content that encourages teenagers to engage in behaviors such as drinking, smoking, and drug abuse (Shimp, & Andrews 2013). Research has established a relationship between several risky behaviors. For instance, teenagers who engage in risky sexual behaviors are more likely to drink alcohol and use drugs than teenagers who do not. Advertisements are very effective in altering the attitudes and beliefs of teenagers regarding different products.

This explains why companies sue billions of dollars in advertisements and marketing projects. According to a report released by the World Health Organization (WHO), advertising accounts for approximately 30% of all cases of drinking and smoking among teenagers (Strasburger 2010). One of the negative effects of cigarette advertising is that it increases the risk of teenagers smoking cigarettes and soft drugs such as marijuana.

Many young people use cigarettes as a gateway substance to other drugs (Shimp, & Andrews 2013). Advertising depicts smoking as fun and glamorous. In addition, it presents smokers are autonomous, adventurous, fun-loving, and trendy (Strasburger 2010). In contrast, the numerous negative effects of smoking are not highlighted. Despite government’s efforts to compel cigarette companies to take more responsibilities with regard to promoting good health, the efforts have not borne fruits.

Advertising in trendy teenage magazines dilutes the efforts of parents in instilling good values in their children. According to numerous studies, cases of smoking are rampant among teenagers who own items with labels of certain cigarette brands and teenagers who enjoy reading about cigarette ads in magazines (Shimp, & Andrews 2013). A meta-analysis involving 51 distinct studies on the effects of advertising on teenagers revealed that tobacco advertising increases the risk of teenagers smoking by more than 50% (Strasburger 2010).

Advertising also encourages teenagers to use prescription drugs because it presents them as the cure for all their problems (Strasburger 2010). For instance, there are pills for weight loss, weight gain, birth control, sexual intercourse, and improved performance in school. According to government statistics, prescription drugs companies spend approximately $4 billion on advertising every year (Strasburger 2010).

Prescription drugs advertisements encourage teenagers to use certain products in order to solve their problems. Drugs such as birth control pills and condoms encourage teenagers to engage in risky sexual activities because of the misguided notion that they protect them. For instance, many teenage pregnancies can be attributed to the reckless use of birth control solutions available in the market.

Research has shown that wrong use of emergency contraception has adverse effects on women who use them for prolonged periods. Many teenage girls use emergency contraception in efforts to avoid pregnancies without considering the consequences of their prolonged use.

Negative influences of advertising on teenagers include embracement of unhealthy eating habits, lack of self-esteem and confidence, perpetuation of violence and stereotypes, proliferation of drinking and smoking, enhancement of teenagers’ propensity to risk, and development of anxiety regarding one’s body image. After a thorough discussion of the negative effects of advertisements on teenagers, it has emerged that it is imperative for parents and teachers to address the issue.

Teenagers need to be educated about the differences between reality and fiction, the negative effects of violence and stereotypes, and the importance of healthy eating habits on their growth and development. Advertisements create anxiety among teenagers regarding their bodies, encourage unhealthy eating habits, enhance teenagers’ propensity to risk, link drinking and smoking with positive outcomes, and perpetuate stereotypes and violence.

This issue needs to be addressed because the habits developed during adolescent are carried forward to adulthood. The proliferation of technology has introduced numerous challenges that teenagers encounter in their daily activities. It is important for parents and teachers to limit the time that teenagers spend online and watching TV. In additional, it is very important for the government to enact legislation that protects children and young people against the negative influence of advertisements.

Adolescence is a development stage that is characterized by rebelliousness, risk taking, and dangerous experimentation. Numerous research studies have shown that advertising has far reaching effects on the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of teenagers. Products such as alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription drugs are depicted as fun, trendy, and necessary for a good life.

On the other hand, junk food, unrealistic body images, and violence are glamorized. The glamour encourages teenagers to embrace them and incorporate them as important aspects to guide their lives. It is important for parents and teachers to guide teenagers in order to help avoid risky behaviors that are perilous to their wellbeing.

Arterburn, S & Burns, J 2007, How to Talk to Your Kids about Drugs , Harvest House Publishers, New York.

Berger, A 2011, Ads, Fads, and Consumer Culture: Advertising’s Impact on American Character and Society , Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, New York.

Bryant, J, Zillmann, D & Oliver, M 2002, Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research , Routledge, New York.

Frith, K & Mueller, B 2010, Advertising and Societies: Global Issues , Peter Lang, London.

Gunter, B & McAleer, J 2005, Children and Television , Routledge, New York.

Gunter, B, Oates, C & Blades, M 2004, Advertising to Children on TV: Content, Impact and Regulation , Routledge, New York.

Kirsh, S 2010, Media and Youth: A Development perspective , John Wiley & Sons, New York.

Levine, R 2010, The Power of Persuasion: How we are Bought and Sold , John Wiley & Sons, New York.

Nicolas, S & Good, T 2004, America’s Teenagers Myths and Realities: Media Images, Schooling, and the Social Costs of Careless Indifference , Routledge New York.

Ohannessian, C 2014, Risks and Problem Behaviors during Adolescence , Routledge, New York.

Preiss, R 2007, Mass media Effects Research: Advances through Meta-Analysis , Psychology Press, New York.

Rifon, N, Royne, M & Carlson, L 2014, Advertising and Violence: Concepts and Perspectives , M. E. Sharpe, New York.

Schudson, M 2013, Advertising, the Uneasy Persuasion (RLE Advertising): Its Dubious Impact on American Society , Routledge, New York.

Shimp, T & Andrews, C 2013, Advertising Promotion and Other Aspects of Integrated Marketing Communications , Cengage Learning, New York.

Strasburger, V 2010, Children, Adolescents, Substance Abuse, and the Media. PEDIATRICS , vol. 126, no. 40, pp. 791-799.

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IvyPanda. (2022, June 19). The Influence of Media Advertising on Teenagers – Essay. https://ivypanda.com/essays/how-advertisements-affect-teenagers/

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Essay On Advertisement

500 words essay on advertisement.

We all are living in the age of advertisements. When you step out, just take a quick look around and you will lay eyes upon at least one advertisement in whichever form. In today’s modern world of trade and business, advertisement plays an essential role. All traders, big and small, make use of it to advertise their goods and services. Through essay on advertisement, we will go through the advantages and ways of advertisements.

essay on advertisement

The Various Ways Of Advertisement

Advertisements help people become aware of any product or service through the use of commercial methods. This kind of publicity helps to endorse a specific interest of a person for product sale.

As the world is becoming more competitive now, everyone wants to be ahead in the competition. Thus, the advertisement also comes under the same category. Advertising is done in a lot of ways.

There is an employment column which lists down job vacancies that is beneficial for unemployed candidates. Similarly, matrimonial advertisement help people find a bride or groom for marriageable prospects.

Further, advertising also happens to find lost people, shops, plots, good and more. Through this, people get to know about a nearby shop is on sale or the availability of a new tutor or coaching centre.

Nowadays, advertisements have evolved from newspapers to the internet. Earlier there were advertisements in movie theatres, magazines, building walls. But now, we have the television and internet which advertises goods and services.

As a large section of society spends a lot of time on the internet, people are targeting their ads towards it. A single ad posting on the internet reaches to millions of people within a matter of few seconds. Thus, advertising in any form is effective.

Benefits of Advertisements

As advertisements are everywhere, for some magazines and newspapers, it is their main source of income generation. It not only benefit the producer but also the consumer. It is because producers get sales and consumer gets the right product.

Moreover, the models who act in the advertisements also earn a handsome amount of money . When we look at technology, we learn that advertising is critical for establishing contact between seller and buyer.

This medium helps the customers to learn about the existence and use of such goods which are ready to avail in the market. Moreover, advertisement manages to reach the nooks and corners of the world to target their potential customers.

Therefore, it benefits a lot of people. Through advertising, people also become aware of the price difference and quality in the market. This allows them to make good choices and not fall to scams.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

Conclusion of Essay On Advertisement

All in all, advertisements are very useful but they can also be damaging. Thus, it is upon us to use them with sense and ensure they are entertaining and educative. None of us can escape advertisements as we are already at this age. But, what we can do is use our intelligence for weeding out the bad ones and benefitting from the right ones.

FAQ on Essay On Advertisement

Question 1: What is the importance of advertisement in our life?

Answer 1: Advertising is the best way to communicate with customers. It helps informs the customers about the brands available in the market and the variety of products which can be useful to them.

Question 2: What are the advantages of advertising?

Answer 2: The advantages of advertising are that firstly, it introduces a new product in the market. Thus, it helps in expanding the market. As a result, sales also increase. Consumers become aware of and receive better quality products.

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Home — Essay Samples — Business — Advertisement — The Impact Of Advertisement On Youth

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The Impact of Advertisement on Youth

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Advertising Essays

by Manj (India)

essay on influence of advertisement

Ways of Advertising Essay

by ana maria dumitrescu (bucharest, romania)

Some of the methods used in advertising are unethical and unacceptable in today’s society. To what extent do you agree with this view? Advertising is all around us. We see billboards on every tall building in the city, the movies and shows we watch on TV are constantly interrupted by commercials, every magazine and newspaper that we buy reserves a considerable number of pages for advertising. Personally, I strongly feel that advertising intrudes on our lives and manipulates our minds in a highly unethical way. First of all, like it or not, we cannot escape it. And perhaps this is one of its methods to reach its purpose. Regardless of how unacceptable we may find it, we cannot elude it, we cannot get away from it. And this, in itself, is a violation. Second of all, my opinion is that advertisements rely on half truths and deceit to attract consumers (a revealing example is that of certain commercials for dietary products that unrealistically promise spectacular results in short periods of time with no side effects). Advertising practically feeds on the lack of education and the gullibility of some and, even more terrifying, on people's fears and frustrations. Not rarely do publicity experts first create the impression of a need, a false problem, to later come with a solution to it. Lastly, I find that too many advertisements use overly sexualized imagery. Objectifying women and exposing children to semi nude pictures raises serious questions about the morality of publicity and also about the morality of a society that allows this to happen. To conclude, i feel that advertising should be regulated by stricter laws and we, as a society, should not stand idly by while it intrudes our lives in morally dubious ways. *** You can comment below on this essay about Advertising Methods .

Essay on the Power of Advertising

by chikky (ananthapuram)

Hi all, Can anyone help me checking and evaluating my answer so it'll be so helpful for me to take my ielts exam where i am supposed to take writing band 7 ... Here's the question, Today, the high sales of popular consumer goods reflects the power of advertising and not the real needs of the society in which they are sold. To what extent do you agree or disagree? In our day to day life, we are exposed to many adverts whenever we switch on our T.V, radio, internets and also across the streets wherever we pass by. Moreover, the advertising products are advertised by the famous cine stars and sports professionals inorder to attract the consumers. A deep thought arises as, the influence of advertisement is good or bad to our society. On its positive side, people who are in search of products gain by this as it gives about the insight of the product about the instruction of usage, availability in stores and the range of products thereby people can purchase it easily without spending more time exploring other options. But on the other hand, advertisements are used as an influential tool by companies to gain profit. They advert products quite often and this act has caused consumers to buy products blindly without knowing its importance at times. For instance, an overweight lady can be easily swayed on seeing slimming products used by zero size models. Similarly, cigarettes became popular by the cine stars using it in a stylish way as shown in adverts. Not only adults are targeted, in order to drag attention of children, toy companies advert their products in a selfish manner. As small children have less discriminatory power, they force their parents to buy for the products. Having discussed both sides, I personally feel that the influence of advertisement is so much upon the society which has created financial crisis globally. Therefore, it is better to restrict adverts and also regular checks should be made by tv regulators. Also, adverts targeting upon childrens must be completely restricted. *** You can comment on this Essay on the Power of Advertising below.

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Essay on the Influence of Advertisements

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essay on influence of advertisement

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Sample Essay On The Influence Of Advertising On Culture

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: People , Advertising , Business , Culture , Products , Customers , Audience , Hair

Words: 1400

Published: 10/27/2021

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The Influence of Advertising on Culture In the world we live in today, advertising plays an important role in the communications world especially in this duration of instantaneous communication. Advertising plays a significant part in influencing the culture and it is done by moulding and creating a new perspective for the consumers and the viewers too. As advertising continues to become more intrusive into most aspects of our day to day lives and events, it only leads to the increase of the advertising industry on the existing consumers. The purpose of this paper is to show how advertisements have influenced the culture of various people in today’s world. Advertising is one of the most important tools in marketing and a paid form of important communication that is designed to follow the consumer. The three basic functions of an advert are informing the consumers of the product’s most important features and benefits, location of the sale and information. Unfortunately, the messages in the advertisements today are becoming more controversial which has led to critics to speak out with ferocity out against the adverts. Nowadays, advertisements have gone to the extent of invading, telephones, emails, highways and even up to somebody’s doorstep. In areas where an advertisement is present, it has become more invasive. Television viewers nowadays see up to an hour dedicated to adverts only during a single night during primetime broadcasts. Advertisements critics are now operating in a scenario where some of them are labelling the ‘Fragmentation of America’. It is a period where social, economic and technological advancements are influencing Americans to highlight their diversity rather than to accept and care for their similarities. In a lot of cases, the importance on the differences is considered the most important change in cultures and moral values that the modern day advertisements has at least spawned over the years. The advertising industry is targeting the differences that exist among people and having pride in such differences rather than the similarities human beings share. Adverts have reduced people’s culture to worldly dreams and hopes instead in morals that will make someone grow and have been valued since the beginning of time. The manners in which adverts intrude people’s private lives have created strong footholds, and this is affecting the cultural principles. The main goal of having advertisements is to persuade consumers that their lives will become better if they start using the advertised merchandise. Advertisers will always keep reminding people that they have flaws but in a soft way and that we are supposed to be better. The message at the end of the day makes people feel that that they need to increase the levels of beauty or intelligence or body size through employing of the advertised products. For example, in the ‘Boost your hair!’ advert, it is definitely targeting the lady who has less hair on her head to get the product to be able to have her head full of hair again. The advertisement targets the lady’s self-esteem and ends up making the lady feel her hair is not good enough. The advertiser’s major expectation is that when the consumer goes to do their shopping, they will bear in mind the lady with long beautiful hair and this will prompt the consumer to buy their product. The advertisers are certain the targeted audience will have some feelings towards the advertisements, and the consumers will result to buying the product. In this case, the advertisement has been used to convince the buyers into conclusions without engaging their rational part of their minds. The technique has successfully worked to completely eradicate one important human characteristic, which is the human capability to reason and use our intelligence (Berger, 2001). Over the years, advertising began invading our lives through the radio, internet, newspapers, television clothes and many places. In other cases, one cannot even make use of a toilet without failing to see one or two print adverts in front of one’s face. One useful technique that has been common been employed is gaining of trust. A lot of companies engage in social work and donate several items to help the needy in the community to demonstrate they have sympathy and are trustworthy. For example, Development Bank in Southern Africa printed adverts that they have made available technical support in their soccer tournaments. The bank provided transport for the public, security and accommodation in the training facilities. The various donations and support from the bank during this soccer event was used as a show of display to potential customers present that the bank is principled and is worth the public’s trust. On a daily basis, corporations are trying to mould our actions and thoughts into success and better results. Even without realising it, there is a huge competition within the advertising industry to get the consumers attention. Most advertisements have turned out to be so unbearable; a lot of groups have started taking action against them as they have ended up interfering with their everyday lives. This has brought about the realization that the effects the advertising industry is creating and having on the customs. Advertisers are just not fighting to gain people’s attention and make people being mediocre, but also trying so hard to bring out the differences rather than encouraging the fact that being unlike is a good thing. A lot of adverts out there clearly display the mere fact that if a person uses a specific product, that person is different and essentially better because that person possess something others do not have. Microsoft introduced their new Zune player in the players market. Their adverts focused on the aspects that for one to step out of the multitude and be unique, the person has to go for something unique which meant having their new Zune player. The strategy here being used was intended to bypass the audience rational thinking and focus on the product’s beauty. Other players such as the iPod are similar in functionality, but Microsoft decided to tell the audience that to be unique and add more value to themselves and others was to use the Zune player. Many people get scared when they have to realize how much advertising has made them leave their culture and tried to adopt the western culture that is being displayed in a lot of the adverts we see nowadays. A lot of people are now tired and sick of such advertisements and also the countless number of products being shown to them every time on television and in an annoying fashion. Many people are scared to oppose such adverts, but so long as people continue existing in a materialistic customer market that is directed by the advertisements people see. Advertising shall always be out of control while reveal people's cultural values while shaping the values to benefit the corporations and industries with the products being advertised (Bogart, 1995). The Fragmenting of the Unites States of America clearly shows the effects experienced and seen from advertising. In a lot of these cases, the advertisers have compelled people to acknowledge the ideology that people should value material things more than the moral objects of friendship and trust. As we look into the future, there seems to be a tough war among people who cherish their culture and morals and corporate companies that want to instil the ideas that their products are the most aspect of life. In conclusion, it can be said that adverts are focused more on getting more products sold at the end of the day without considering the morals and values of the consumers. They end up archiving this by exploring the cultural differences and thus can be concluded that the values of individuality and uniqueness are more prominent in the adverts.

Berger, W. (2001). Advertising today. London: Phaidon. Bogart, L. (1995). Commercial culture: The media system and the public interest. New York: Oxford University Press.

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  • Systematic Review
  • Open access
  • Published: 21 February 2024

Rapid systematic review on risks and outcomes of sepsis: the influence of risk factors associated with health inequalities

  • Siân Bladon   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-9087-6505 1 ,
  • Diane Ashiru-Oredope 2 , 5 ,
  • Neil Cunningham 2 ,
  • Alexander Pate 1 ,
  • Glen P Martin 1 ,
  • Xiaomin Zhong 1 ,
  • Ellie L Gilham 2 ,
  • Colin S Brown 2 , 3 ,
  • Mariyam Mirfenderesky 2 ,
  • Victoria Palin 1 , 4 &
  • Tjeerd P van Staa 1  

International Journal for Equity in Health volume  23 , Article number:  34 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

Metrics details

Background and aims

Sepsis is a serious and life-threatening condition caused by a dysregulated immune response to an infection. Recent guidance issued in the UK gave recommendations around recognition and antibiotic treatment of sepsis, but did not consider factors relating to health inequalities. The aim of this study was to summarise the literature investigating associations between health inequalities and sepsis.

Searches were conducted in Embase for peer-reviewed articles published since 2010 that included sepsis in combination with one of the following five areas: socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, community factors, medical needs and pregnancy/maternity.

Five searches identified 1,402 studies, with 50 unique studies included in the review after screening (13 sociodemographic, 14 race/ethnicity, 3 community, 3 care/medical needs and 20 pregnancy/maternity; 3 papers examined multiple health inequalities). Most of the studies were conducted in the USA (31/50), with only four studies using UK data (all pregnancy related). Socioeconomic factors associated with increased sepsis incidence included lower socioeconomic status, unemployment and lower education level, although findings were not consistent across studies. For ethnicity, mixed results were reported. Living in a medically underserved area or being resident in a nursing home increased risk of sepsis. Mortality rates after sepsis were found to be higher in people living in rural areas or in those discharged to skilled nursing facilities while associations with ethnicity were mixed. Complications during delivery, caesarean-section delivery, increased deprivation and black and other ethnic minority race were associated with post-partum sepsis.

There are clear correlations between sepsis morbidity and mortality and the presence of factors associated with health inequalities. To inform local guidance and drive public health measures, there is a need for studies conducted across more diverse setting and countries.

Introduction

Sepsis is “life-threatening organ dysfunction caused by a dysregulated host immune response to an infection” [ 1 ]. A 2015 study estimated the in-hospital mortality rate for sepsis in UK hospitals to be around 30% [ 2 ]. As well as high mortality rates, sepsis survivors often experience longer-term mental and physical health problems and are at high risk of post-discharge hospital readmission or death [ 3 , 4 , 5 ]. Risk factors for developing sepsis include frailty, immunocompromised status, recent surgical procedures, and comorbidities such as cancer, kidney disease, lung disease and diabetes [ 6 , 7 , 8 ]. The risk of contracting sepsis increases with age, with many sepsis cases occurring in people over the age of 65 [ 9 ]. Additionally, there is a higher risk of sepsis in neonates and women who are pregnant or have recently given birth.

Bacterial infections are the most common cause of sepsis and therefore antibiotics are widely used for treatment. A 2022 report published by the United Kingdom (UK) Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AMRC) outlined recommendations for the recognition and early management of sepsis [ 10 ]. An aspect the report did not address, however, was the impact of health inequalities on sepsis recognition, management and outcomes. Inequalities can impact life expectancy, access to healthcare and general health status. Factors that are associated with these disparities include level of deprivation, ethnicity and belonging to more vulnerable groups within society, for example people experiencing homelessness [ 11 ]. In 2021, the National Healthcare Inequalities Programme was set up and developed the Core20PLUS5 approach, with the aim of supporting the National Health Service and local authorities in reducing health inequalities [ 11 ]. Core20 refers to populations living in the most deprived 20% of areas according to the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD). PLUS refers to population groups identified at local level that could include ethnic minority groups, coastal communities, populations defined as having a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 or belonging to an inclusion health group, amongst others. ‘5’ refers to five clinical areas of importance, which are maternity, severe mental illness, chronic respiratory disease, early cancer diagnosis, and hypertension case-finding.

Variations in rates of antimicrobial resistant infections and microorganisms (associated with higher mortality rates in sepsis [ 12 ]) have been reported in the UK amongst different ethnic groups and levels of deprivation [ 13 ]. A recent study reported increased odds of non-COVID 19 related sepsis and increased mortality in more socioeconomically deprived people during the pandemic [ 14 ]. In the face of increasing resistance to antimicrobials globally, knowing who is at greatest risk of developing sepsis may not only improve patient outcomes but help target the use of antimicrobials more effectively.

A 2019 systematic review assessed the link between race and socioeconomic status and sepsis outcomes. However, they only included studies conducted in the USA [ 15 ]. The purpose of this review, therefore, was to identify studies from all high- income countries that have assessed additional factors associated with health inequality. The aims of this rapid review were (i) to summarise the literature that investigated health inequalities and sepsis incidence and mortality outcome and (ii) to provide an evidence base for public health advice to reduce the impact of health inequalities with sepsis.

Eligibility criteria

Peer-reviewed journal articles published between 01/01/2010 and 31/01/2023, written in English, were eligible for inclusion. Included studies had to be observational in design where the main outcome was either incidence or risk of sepsis (in the general population or hospital admissions) or sepsis-associated mortality. We included studies where the aim was assessing the impact of one of the following health inequality factors: socioeconomic, race/ethnicity, community, medical vulnerability, or pregnancy. Studies were excluded if they were conducted in a low- or middle-income country (LMIC) (according to the World Bank, to minimise differences in healthcare systems), were not observational in design (intervention studies or qualitative studies), full text was not available, or abstract was published in conference proceedings.

Study selection

The database Embase (accessed through Ovid, last searched 25/03/3023) was used to search for relevant articles. Separate searches were carried out using the following terms in the titles of articles: sepsis OR septic in combination with one of the following groups of terms:

Socioeconomic factors – depriv* or socioeconomic or socio-economic or socio or social or SES or IMD or income or occupation or education.

Race/ethnicity factors – race or racial or ethnic* or minorit*.

Community factors – urban* or rural or coast*.

Medical vulnerability factors – residen* or care home or nursing home or care facility or living or social care or drug* or alcohol or disabil* or vulnerab*.

Pregnancy – pregnan* or matern* or “post-partum” or “postpartum”.

Duplicated articles were removed. All articles identified in the search went through a title and abstract screening to exclude ineligible articles. A full article review was then performed on the remaining papers, with any ineligible articles identified during the full paper review being excluded. In accordance with the PRISMA guidelines, the reasons for exclusion at this stage were recorded (see Fig.  1 ). Any further duplicates (studies that appeared in multiple searches) were also removed. The searches were performed in Ovid and the results were downloaded to Mendeley Reference Manager to apply the inclusion/exclusion criteria. Data extracted from the eligible articles were stored in Microsoft Excel. The following information was extracted from each included paper: title, authors, year published, study design, country where study was conducted, data source, sepsis identification method, number of patients in sepsis cohort, factors associated with inequality used in study and how they are measured, outcome(s) assessed in the study and key findings of associations between the factors and outcomes. For reporting we referred to the PRISMA guidelines [ 16 ] for systematic reviews, however, as this is a rapid review not all items are relevant. Further details of the search strategy can be found in the supplementary information.

Selection of sources of evidence

The five searches returned a total of 1,402 results (185 socioeconomic, 92 race/ethnicity, 126 community, 494 medical/care needs, 505 pregnancy). After deleting duplicates, 1,338 papers were screened on title and abstract, with 1,254 excluded. 108 papers underwent full article screening, after which 53 were eligible. Of these, there were 13 articles assessing socioeconomic factors, 14 race or ethnicity, 3 assessing community, 3 care/medical needs, and 20 assessing pregnancy and post-partum factors. As the searches and selection were conducted separately there were 3 papers duplicated between the searches, resulting in 50 unique papers to include. Flowcharts showing the selection process for each search are shown in Fig.  1 .

figure 1

Flowchart showing search results and screening of studies. Five separate searches were conducted. After screening 53 papers were included

Characteristics of sources of evidence

Table  1 displays the characteristics of studies included in the review. The majority of the included studies (31 out of 50) used data collected in the United States of America (USA) [ 17 , 18 , 19 , 20 , 21 , 22 , 23 , 24 , 25 , 26 , 27 , 28 , 29 , 30 , 31 , 32 , 33 , 34 , 35 , 36 , 37 , 38 , 39 , 40 , 41 , 42 , 43 , 44 , 45 , 46 , 47 ], with four in the UK [ 48 , 49 , 50 , 51 ], three in Israel [ 41 , 52 , 53 ], two in Canada [ 54 , 55 ], one in Australia [ 56 ] and the others in Europe [ 57 , 58 , 59 , 60 , 61 , 62 , 63 ] or not specified [ 64 , 65 ].Most of the studies used hospital or ICU discharge databases [ 17 , 21 , 23 , 24 , 25 , 28 , 29 , 30 , 31 , 36 , 37 , 38 , 39 , 41 , 42 , 43 , 44 , 45 , 47 , 50 , 60 ], other sources included national birth or obstetric registries [ 48 , 49 , 51 , 62 , 63 ], death registry datasets [ 27 , 35 ], secondary analysis on data collected for other cohort studies [ 18 , 26 , 61 ], and a US cities public health dataset [ 22 ]. Six identified sepsis in neonatal patients or infants [ 21 , 47 , 53 , 55 , 56 , 63 ] and another only included children aged between 0 and 20 years [ 28 ]. The rest either specified adults only or did not specify any age restrictions for the cohorts.

The most common method of identifying sepsis in the studies was based on ICD codes. ICD-10 codes were used in twelve studies [ 17 , 20 , 27 , 28 , 32 , 40 , 46 , 54 , 60 , 61 , 62 , 63 ], ICD-9 codes were used in twenty-one studies [ 20 , 21 , 24 , 25 , 29 , 31 , 32 , 33 , 36 , 37 , 38 , 39 , 41 , 42 , 43 , 44 , 45 , 46 , 52 , 61 , 65 ] and one study did not specify which ICD version [ 34 ]. Of these studies, some used specific codes for sepsis, severe sepsis or septic shock whilst others used more comprehensive sets of codes including the Angus criteria [ 66 ] or Martin criteria [ 67 ]. Both the Angus and Martin methods include the sepsis specific codes and non-specific ICD codes for infection in combination with a code for organ dysfunction. Five studies [ 18 , 19 , 22 , 23 , 30 ] used the 2016 International Consensus definition for sepsis, otherwise known as the Sepsis-3 criteria [ 1 ]. Other studies used Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome with [ 50 ] and without criteria for organ dysfunction [ 26 , 64 ], medical chart review [ 48 , 49 , 51 , 53 , 55 , 56 , 59 ] or did not specify [ 22 , 35 , 47 , 57 , 58 ]. The size of the sepsis patient cohorts varied from 14 [ 56 ] to 16,779,820 [[ 33 ] with a median cohort size of 2,913.

Regarding outcomes, 15 studies assessed the incidence or risk of sepsis [ 18 , 26 , 29 , 31 , 37 , 41 , 42 , 48 , 49 , 50 , 54 , 57 , 59 , 60 , 61 , 62 ], 23 studies looked at in-hospital (or short-term) mortality [ 17 , 19 , 20 , 21 , 24 , 25 , 28 , 31 , 33 , 34 , 36 , 37 , 39 , 43 , 44 , 45 , 50 , 51 , 52 , 54 , 58 , 59 , 65 ], four studies assessed mortality after hospital discharge [ 30 , 32 , 38 , 58 ], five studies assessed hospital readmission rates after discharge [ 23 , 30 , 32 , 40 , 58 ] and four studies calculated population-level sepsis mortality rates [ 22 , 27 , 35 , 61 ]. Seven of the studies relating to pregnancy assessed adverse perinatal outcomes and incidence of sepsis in neonates [ 46 , 47 , 53 , 55 , 56 , 63 , 64 ].

Results of individual sources of evidence

Socioeconomic factors.

The most common socioeconomic factors were income, level of education, employment status, unemployment rate and poverty rate. Others included were insurance status, occupation, cohabitation status and access to healthcare. There was variation in whether these were recorded at an individual level or matched to local data based on small area geographic identifiers (ZIP/postcode), and whether they were summarised into an overall score or included as individual covariates.

Five studies assessed the impact of socioeconomic factors on sepsis incidence or risk of developing sepsis. Factors found to be associated with increased risk of sepsis included low income [ 54 , 60 ], low education level [ 57 , 60 , 61 ], lower socioeconomic status [ 18 ], marital/living status [ 54 , 57 ] not being in work [ 54 , 57 ], lower class of occupation and those who receive social benefits [ 61 ]. Three studies assessed 30-day or in-hospital mortality, which all found lower income was associated with increased risk of mortality when compared to the highest income groups. Another study reported decreased odds for highest household income quartile compared to the lowest quartile [ 20 ]. Hidalgo et al. [ 19 ] reported that unemployment and a neighbourhood poverty rate > 10% were all predictive of greater 30-day mortality. One study calculated population sepsis mortality rates per 10,000 persons and compared between income and poverty levels. Low-income neighbourhoods had a death rate of 3.65 (inter-quartile range (IQR) 2.78–4.40) versus high income neighbourhoods 2.80 (IQR 2.05–3.55) and high poverty neighbourhoods 4.20 (IQR 2.90–5.30) versus low poverty neighbourhoods 2.90 (IQR 2.00-3.60) [ 22 ]. For longer-term outcomes, two studies assessed the impact of socioeconomic factors on 30-day readmission after discharge. Lower income, lack of health insurance [ 23 ] and being more socioeconomically disadvantaged [ 23 ] were found to be associated with increased risk.

Race & ethnicity

Of the 14 studies assessing the impact of race or ethnicity on sepsis, 13 were based in the USA. Five of these studies only included race categorised as white or black/African-American [ 25 , 26 , 29 , 31 , 32 ], whilst other studies included categories for Hispanic [ 21 , 24 , 27 , 28 , 33 , 34 ], Asian-American [ 24 , 30 ], Asian/Pacific Islander (API) or Native American [ 21 , 28 , 33 ] and other/unknown. The study by Rush et al. [ 34 ] used a different approach by classifying hospitals as non-minority or minority, if the patient population of the hospital was more than twice the geographical census division mean.

The studies by Chaudhary et al. [ 31 ], Mayr et al. [ 29 ] and Moore et al. [ 26 ] compared rates of sepsis amongst either black or white populations only. Chaudhary et al. reported a higher sepsis rate for white patients compared to black patients with 109.4 cases (95% CI 109.2-109.6) per 1,000 hospitalisations versus 106.7 cases (95% CI 106.3-107.1). Moore et al. also reported a higher incidence of sepsis in white patients (9.10 per 1,000 person years) compared to black patients (6.93 per 1,000 person years). Contrary to these, Mayr et al. found a 67% higher severe sepsis hospitalisation rate in black patients (9.4 per 1,000 population) than white (5.6 per 1,000 population). All three studies covered hospital admissions in multiple US states, but they did differ in the age of patients included and severity of sepsis.

Eight studies considered the impact of race on in-hospital mortality in sepsis patients, with mixed results. Three studies reported higher mortality rates or increased risk of mortality in black or African-American patients than white patients [ 25 , 28 , 33 ] whilst Sandoval et al. [ 24 ] reported higher case fatality rates in white patients (15.1%) compared to black (14.0%), Hispanic (13.8%) or Asian patients (16.2%). One study [ 33 ] reported increased mortality rates in Hispanic patients compared to white patients, but two other studies did not find significant differences [ 21 , 28 ]. Rush et al. reported unadjusted mortality rates at non-minority hospitals of 11.1%, compared with 12.3% ( p  < 0.001) at minority black hospitals and 12.7% ( p  < 0.001) at minority Hispanic hospitals. The only non-USA based study was based in Israel. Karp et al. [ 52 ] found that differences in risk of in-hospital mortality between Bedouin Arabs and the Jewish population could be explained by differences in age and Charlson comorbidity score.

For longer-term outcomes, one study [ 30 ] reported small differences in 90-day mortality rates between African American (18%), Asian-American (19%) and white (22%) patients. Lizza et al. [ 32 ] reported black patients had significantly higher rates of all-cause readmission (71.1% vs. 60.8%, p  < 0.001) and sepsis readmission (19.8% vs. 14.0%, p  < 0.001) than white patients. However, rates of post-discharge death were similar (white patients 36.5% vs. black patients 36.7%, p  = 0.876). Ogundipe et al. [ 27 ] calculated age-adjusted sepsis death rates in non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic white and Hispanic populations and reported lower death rates in Hispanic populations than non-Hispanic populations.

Community factors

The three papers included in the review that looked at community factors were conducted in the USA and used different ways of measuring urbanicity or rurality. Oud et al. [ 35 ] compared age-adjusted sepsis mortality rates between rural and urban communities from 2010 to 2019. The study reported in 2019 the overall rural rate was 57.9 deaths per 100,000, but in urban areas it was 48.3 deaths per 100,000 population. This was not a consistent pattern when adjusting for race. For example, in non-Hispanic blacks the urban mortality rates were higher than the rural rates. Ogundipe et al. [ 27 ] found the highest age-adjusted sepsis death rates were in non-metropolitan areas for both non-Hispanic black (micropolitan area 120.4 per 100,000 population, non-core area 109.4 per 100,000) and non-Hispanic white populations (micropolitan area 67.6 per 100,000, non-core area 66.4 per 100,000). Mohr et al. [ 36 ] assessed whether there were differences in patients in rural areas who attended their local emergency department or who bypassed their local hospital and travelled further to present to a hospital of top-decile inpatient sepsis volume. Sepsis patients who bypassed their local hospital had increased odds of mortality, with an OR of 1.26 (95% CI 1.03–1.53).

Medical needs

The three studies that considered factors relating to additional medical needs each used different measures. Goodwin et al. [ 37 ] identified patients living in medically underserved areas (MUA’s) based on the ratio of primary care physicians per 1,000 population, infant mortality rate, the proportion of the population with income below the poverty level and the proportion of the population over 65 years of age. The study reported higher incidence of sepsis (8.6 vs. 6.8 admissions per 1,000 people, p  < 0.01) and mortality rates (15.5 versus 11.9 deaths per 10,000, p  < 0.01) in MUA residents compared to non-MUA. Ginde et al. [ 39 ] included residence in a nursing home prior to an emergency department visit for sepsis, and reported increased risk of mortality for nursing home residents (OR 3.1, 95% CI 1.2–7.8). The study by Ehlenbach et al. [ 38 ] found that sepsis patients not discharged to a skilled nursing facility (SNF) had a mortality rate of 35.6%, while those discharged to a SNF but whom had not been resident in an SNF prior to sepsis had a mortality rate of 43.2% and patients who had been in a SNF before and after sepsis had a mortality rate of 52.8%.

Pregnancy/maternity

Studies assessing incidence of maternal sepsis reported rates of severe sepsis of 1.00 per 100,000 [ 48 ] maternities, 4.7 per 10,000 [ 49 ] maternities and 4.9 per 10,000 live births [ 42 ]. Estimates of non-severe sepsis included 198.69 per 100,000 [ 59 ] maternities, 2.4 per 10,000 women [ 62 ] and 10 per 10,000 live births [ 42 ]. Acosta et al. [ 50 ] estimated the absolute risk of maternal critical care unit admission with severe sepsis was 4.1 per 10,000 maternities (95% CI 2.9–5.6). Factors including increased BMI [ 41 , 50 , 62 ], older age [ 42 , 50 , 62 ], black and other ethnic minority race [ 49 ], increased levels of deprivation [ 50 ], African American race [ 41 ], pre-existing medical conditions [ 41 , 49 ], complications of delivery and delivery via caesarean Sects [ 41 , 49 , 50 , 59 , 62 ] were found to be associated with an increased risk of developing maternal sepsis.

Two studies [ 43 , 44 ] assessing mortality in maternity patients reported lower case-fatality rates in pregnancy associated severe sepsis (PASS) compared to non-pregnancy associated severe sepsis (NPSS). Maternal mortality rates in other studies varied, with reported rates of 10% [ 65 ], 10.7% [ 51 ], 1.8/100,000 maternities [ 50 ] and no deaths in one study [ 59 ]. Increased BMI [ 50 ], being in the most deprived two IMD quintiles [ 50 ], pre-existing medical conditions [ 51 ] and being multi-parous [ 51 ] was found to be associated with increased maternal mortality. Antepartum sepsis was found to be associated with increased risk of placental dysfunction and maternal ICU admission during delivery hospitalization [ 46 ]. Five studies considered outcomes relating to early onset neonatal sepsis (EONS), with reported rates of 1.03 cases per 1,000 live births [ 53 ] and 1.48 per 1,000 live births [ 63 ]. Risk factors associated with EONS were maternal exposure to antibiotics [ 47 , 53 , 55 ], maternal BMI [ 63 ], caesarean section delivery [ 63 ] and gestational age [ 47 ].

Supplementary Tables 1 and 2 show the findings from all included studies and can be found in additional file 1.

Summary of evidence

Socioeconomic factors associated with increased incidence of sepsis included lower socioeconomic status, unemployment, and lower education level, although findings were not consistent across studies. Studies assessing the association between ethnicity and sepsis rates reported mixed results, with two studies finding increased sepsis rates in white populations compared to black populations and another showing higher rates in black populations than white. Living in a medically underserved area or being resident in a nursing home was also shown to increase risk of sepsis. In terms of mortality, lower income, unemployment, and poverty levels were all associated with increased in-hospital mortality. In studies considering effects of ethnicity on in-hospital and longer-term mortality the results were mixed, with some studies finding no significant associations, some reporting increased odds of mortality in non-white populations and others reporting increased mortality in white populations. Sepsis mortality rates were also found to be higher in people living in rural areas and those who were resident in a skilled nursing facility.

It is notable that the literature is dominated by research conducted in the USA and none of the studies identified under the non-pregnancy related searches used UK data. This is an important consideration for healthcare and public health professionals outside of the USA as differences in structural inequalities between the USA and other high-income countries may make the results less generalisable. The majority of studies focused on in-hospital mortality as the primary outcome, so there also needs to be more focus on the risks of developing sepsis and longer-term outcomes such as healthcare utilisation.

The sources of data varied between the studies, as did the methods of identifying sepsis. Differences in sepsis definitions leads to different reported prevalence/cohort sizes [ 68 ]. Some of the studies were based in single centres and only included a few hundred patients, whilst others represented national populations and included millions of patients. Many of the studies used data from secondary care only and none used primary care data, even though the majority of cases of sepsis develop in the community rather than the hospital. Additionally, there was a lot of variation in measures used in the analyses, particularly in the studies assessing socioeconomic factors, where there was no standardised definition of socioeconomic status and therefore results varied. There were some studies who assessed a combination of socioeconomic, community and race factors, however, some only focused on one area related to health inequality. This is important as there is overlap between the different areas. The paper by Vazquez Guillamet et al. [ 20 ] concluded that race did not have a significant effect on sepsis mortality when accounting for socioeconomic variables. A commentary piece published in 2018 by Shankar-Hari and Rubenfeld [ 69 ] titled “Race, ethnicity and sepsis: beyond adjusted odds ratios” suggested that there needs to be more research into the underlying causes of race/ethnicity disparities not just in sepsis but in wider health areas. Future studies should take into account not just socioeconomic status and population demographics, which will likely vary between ethnic groups, but also consider the intersectionality between these and other factors such as comorbidity levels and health behaviours e.g. smoking, alcohol use or exercise.

Limitations

Due to the rapid nature of the review the scope was limited and the search strategy not as comprehensive as for systematic reviews. We searched for the key terms in the titles only, searched a single database (Embase) and only included studies published from 2010 onwards. We also acknowledge that pathogen specific publications which do not specifically include the word sepsis may have been screened out. Examples include those that report on invasive group A and B streptococcal disease [ 67 ]. Studies conducted in LMICs were excluded as the results will be less generalisable to the UK population. Whilst the burden of sepsis is highest in LMICs there is a lack of good quality data from these countries [ 70 ]. The challenges in recognising and managing sepsis within LMICs, such as lack of access to healthcare, malnutrition and infrastructure [ 71 ], are not as applicable in higher- income countries. Some aspects of the Core20PLUS5 approach to addressing health inequalities were not included in this rapid review. These mainly related to inclusion health groups, including people with multi-morbidities, vulnerable migrants, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, sex workers, people in contact with the justice system and victims of modern slavery. Additionally, the 4 comorbidities/conditions within the ‘5’ component other than maternity were not areas of focus (severe mental illness, COPD, cancer & hypertension). The five included areas were chosen as they are the factors that cover the largest groups in the population and were identified as the most important. Although we did not include the other areas in our review it is still vital that future studies consider these aspects in order to address all potential influences on sepsis risks and outcomes. The bias of the included studies was not assessed, nor did we critically appraise them.

Future work

From the studies identified, there are clear correlations between sepsis morbidity and mortality and the presence of factors associated with health inequalities. There is a need for UK based studies, using nationally representative data, to better understand how factors associated with health inequalities affect sepsis incidence and mortality in the UK population. With the availability of electronic health record data for research there are increasing opportunities to disaggregate the data and stratify risk by patient demographic. For example, in the UK the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) and Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) data provide nationally representative primary and secondary care records with linkage available to deprivation and socioeconomic scores. Once this is better understood, healthcare and public health professionals can be empowered to close the health gap and reduce inequalities through targeted recommendations for the recognition and early management of sepsis. Recent guidance in the UK highlighted the importance of early intervention in sepsis whilst balancing that with the need to use antibiotics more appropriately. Understanding which patients are at greater risk of sepsis mortality and morbidity, in terms of the factors associated with inequalities discussed in this review and other known risk factors, may help clinicians target antibiotic use more effectively. Given the lack of evidence from outside the USA, there is not sufficient information available to inform policy, at either a global level or an individual country level (except the USA). Although some of the findings from USA studies may be generalisable to other settings there needs to be further exploration of the similarities and differences in inequality factors in different populations. Critical to the above is improved coding in electronic health records alongside appropriate data linkage.

Factors relating to health inequalities such as deprivation and ethnicity have been shown to be associated with poorer outcomes in COVID-19 and increased rates of antimicrobial resistance. In order to inform local guidance and drive public health measures, there is a need for studies conducted across more diverse setting and countries.

Data availability

All data generated or analysed during this study are included in this published article and supplementary materials.

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D.A.O., N.C., M.M., C.B, and E.G. devised the study. D.A.O., N.C., E.G., T.vS, S.B., X.Z, V.P., A.P., G.M. and S.B. devised search terms and inclusion/exclusion criteria. S.B. conducted the searches, extracted the data and wrote the manuscript. All authors reviewed and edited the manuscript.

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Additional file 1: Table 1

. Findings of studies assessing the impact of factors of health inequality on sepsis incidence or risk. Table 2 . Findings of studies assessing the impact of factors of health inequality on sepsis mortality and other outcomes.

Additional file 2

. Search strategy including PICO criteria and exact search terms.

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Bladon, S., Ashiru-Oredope, D., Cunningham, N. et al. Rapid systematic review on risks and outcomes of sepsis: the influence of risk factors associated with health inequalities. Int J Equity Health 23 , 34 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12939-024-02114-6

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