12.1: The role of advertising in society
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Advertising is the paid promotion that uses strategy and messaging about the benefits of a product or service to influence a target audience’s attitudes and/or behaviors. Between online, television, radio, and print platforms, the average American sees hundreds, even thousands of advertisements daily.
Although many consumers find them annoying, advertisements play a prominent role in shaping opinions about everything from products to politics. A Forbes article (2012) stated: “Advertising plays the same role in your media diet that vegetables play in your regular diet; most of us would prefer to skip that course and go straight to dessert. But, just like veggies, advertising plays an important role in sustaining a body; in this case, a diverse body of content” (para. 1). Advertising heavily supports many institutions, including news media outlets, the television industry, search engine companies, and social media websites. For example, advertising contributes up to 80 percent of revenue for newspapers and therefore is critical to maintaining the circulation of the press (Newspaper Association of America, 2014).
The advertising industry is also lucrative. According to eMarketer (2016), the United States spent approximately $190 billion on advertising in 2015. About a third of that figure went to television advertisements, and another third went to digital advertising. With its economic and cultural function in society, the advertising industry has an expansive reach.