Advertisement: A Dynamic Tool For Behavior Change

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An individual sees approximately 3000 ads per day and the number is not likely to reduce anytime soon. Hence we explore the various effects of advertising strategies employed on the individual. It addresses the various forms of advertisements that an individual is exposed to in their day-to-day lives as well as the effects of the various persuasive psychological techniques on the psyche of the individual. These include the use of color, heuristics, emotional conditioning, and personalization in advertisements. It also illustrates the positive as well as negative effects these strategies can have on the thoughts and behavior of an individual. The positive benefits of the advertisement include societal, social, economic, cross-cultural, and National benefits. They can challenge social norms, raise awareness on thought-provoking issues and create positive role models as well as give the opportunity to human creativity in the fields of comedy, drama, and music. However, it can also induce FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and lead to the promotion of stereotypes, development of negative body image and unhealthy habits, as well as create unrealistic expectations. All these negative effects can lead to severe environmental, behavioral, mental, and economic problems. To counter these negative effects the paper proposes several techniques like increasing the representation of racial minorities and the LGBTQ community in advertisements, promoting body-positive campaigns, showcasing anti-stereotypical scenes and stories in advertisements, and using conditioning to propagate healthier lifestyle choices among the population.


Whether we are watching television, listening to the radio, browsing the internet, traveling, or reading, we are exposed to advertisements that are made with the sole purpose to attract and persuade us. Advertising is a means of communication used by sellers to inform and influence the users about various products. Advertisements influence our emotions, perception, thinking, desires and our decision making by making psychological as well as biological impressions on our mind.

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Every new experience develops new connections in the brain and these connections get stronger with repeated exposures. Markets make use of this fact to lure customers. Many of us may ignore the fact of being persuaded by the 20 second commercial or being influenced by the models on glossy pages of newspapers and magazines but Changizi in his research indicates how repeated advertisements increase consumer preferences for those products whereas overexposure passes on the signal of the product being overabundant hence common, which decreases the preference (Changizi, 2008).

Mediums of advertisements

The conventional mediums of advertisements include Print advertisements, Television advertisements, and Radio Advertisements. Digital advertising a new platform for marketers to promote their product comes in the form of a dynamic media called the social network. Facebook, one of the fastest-growing social media, helps in quick and uninhibited analysis of anything among its network members for developing an opinion (Akar & Topcu, 2011), (Kim & Ko, 2012). This powerful social media platform provides an opportunity for any brand to advertise its product and develop opinions to create values (Kim & Ko, 2010). With more than 1.6 billion Facebook users, nearly 60% of them use the social network to view product advertisements (Hampton, Sessions-Goulet, Rainie, & Purcell, 2011) and 70% of active users use social media to gain knowledge about the product before buying it (Kim & Ko, 2012).

Strategies in advertising

  1. Use of color: Colors can influence the emotional behavior of consumers by attracting attention to advertisements or highlighting certain elements of advertisements. In advertising use of color is beneficial in eliciting emotional responses from potential consumers. For example, restaurants and food outlets usually use primary colors especially red and yellow.
  2. Heuristics: Heuristics are rules of thumb or mental shortcuts that facilitate decision making by reducing time and cognitive effort and the quantity of information to be processed (Shah & Oppenheimer, 2008). A type of heuristic quite prominently used is the availability heuristic, whereby people make judgments about the likelihood of an event on how easily an example or case comes to mind. For example, a consumer buys Tide detergent simply because when thinking of detergents, Tide was the best example he could recall. Another example is Fogg deodorant advertisement which is immensely popular in youth. Fogg advertisements are very different, unique and are repeatedly shown which make the product name come to the mind very readily. This technique has tremendously increased Fogg’s sale in the market.
  3. Personalization of advertisements: The use of personal data posted on various social networking sites can be used to customize the advertisements that an individual is exposed to on their social network feed. Research suggests that highest personalization condition generated the most positive response and that privacy concerns did not moderate the effects of personalization.
  4. Conditioning: Pairing a product with primal emotions such as fear or love can be a robust motivator for consumers to purchase a product. Another way is to use social learning theory and pair authority or influential figures with the product. Examples of conditioning may include Ads of Diarymilk Silk and Johnson Baby products etc. Emotional conditioning is another strategy wherein positive feelings about a product are created by surrounding it with things that public likes. Example: No sugar, Zero Calorie, more fibre. Products like Pepper sprays and gadgets for the safety of women too have an emotional component in their advertisements.

Positive effects of Advertisements

Advertisements serve to carve a niche in the minds of people in relation to a product or service. They have wide-ranging implications on human behavior, social relationships, cultural and economic dynamics. Advertisement jingles are widely remembered and give opportunities for creativity, drama, and music to be expressed. At times advertisements can challenge social norms, raise thought-provoking issues common to people and even serve to create role models.

  1. Societal benefits: Advertisements are the fastest means to reach the mass. They help in generating knowledge and information about various schemes, effective use of environmental resources, their uses and importance.
  2. Health benefits: Advertisements on toiletries, sanitary ware focus on health and hygiene. The best example is the slogan “Darwaja band toh bimari band” which is an initiative by Government of India towards eradicating open defecation. Advertisements on timely vaccination benefit the mother and child, and the ones with protected drinking water and food etc. promotes healthy lifestyle.
  3. Economic Benefits: Advertisements help in creating jobs and increases the GDP of the country and also provide financial support to media. Public health advertising saves money by encouraging behaviors that prevent disease (Rice & Atkin, 2012).
  4. Cross-cultural benefitі: Advertisement can override cultural differences by putting us all on the same level. Cross cultural advertising minimizes the negative effects of cross cultural differences by creating common frameworks for people from different cultures.

Negative effects of Advertisements

1. Negative body image

Body image refers to a person's emotional attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions of their own body. Body acceptance and love are not narcissism or vanity but love for and comfort with the body even if one is not satisfied with all aspects of it (Tylka & Wood-Barcalow, 2015). Body image is the result of social and cultural construction and it has a huge impact on people's self-esteem. There have been recent studies and discoveries that the women that are shown in social media are on an average ten times smaller and slimmer than that of the average woman today. Models weigh more than 20% less than a typical woman. Due to the unrealistic portrayal of woman’s image, problems with eating disorders have increased over 400% since 1970. Advertisements have become the center of attention for stereotyping the image of women, an image that has been haunting them for the past 30 years. Negative body image can lead to individuals feeling uncomfortable and awkward in their bodies. Negative body image also contributes to severe mental health problems like depression and unsafe weight loss habits as well as inappropriate use of steroids or hormones, body dissatisfaction, and weight-related disorders, like obesity and disordered eating (Borzekowski & Bayer, 2005)

2. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

There are several reasons for individuals' increased use of social media, one of which is the desire to become involved in a social group, which can be explained through Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Today, individuals have a greater tendency towards FoMo as they wish to be constantly involved in social settings, share and view content on social networking sites. Businesses seek to stimulate the tendency of FOMO and to influence consumers' purchasing decisions by creating a perception that products and services are in short supply through various campaigns, thus leading consumers to experience the fear of missing out (Hodkinson, 2019). Many customers who do online shopping experience FoMo while looking for products. Purchasing behavior could be significantly influenced by FOMO, reporting that 68% of the study participants made purchases within 24 hours after they had seen somebody else's actual experience, as a result of their FoMo. Certain objects or opportunities become more valuable as they become less accessible, which is called the scarcity principle. The theoretical support to scarcity principle states that 'any commodity will be valued to the extent that it is unavailable' (Brock, 1968).

3. Promote unhealthy habits

Evidence suggests that children, adolescents, and young adults are exposed to and influenced by the marketing of unhealthy products (Anderson, de Bruijn, Angus, Gordon, & Hastings, 2009). Internet and social media provide marketers with a new platform to spread their messages. More than any other foods/beverages, children are exposed to marketing messages for unhealthy foods such as chips, desserts, candies, sugar-sweetened beverages, etc. The results of a US market research reveal that 63% of 13–32-year olds posted a photo of food or drinks they or someone else was consuming on social media and 57% posted about what they’re eating (FoodPorn: The growing influence of Social Food, 2015).

The models and the advertisements directly affect the imagination of youngsters. Adolescents get fascinated with the images and models and try to imitate them. Alcohol advertising is associated with drinking initiation (Anderson, de Bruijn, Angus, Gordon, & Hastings, 2009) and the evidence shows that alcohol initiation during childhood or adolescence is associated with problematic drinking in adulthood. Major steps should be taken to regulate alcohol marketing in traditional as well as digital media.

4. Create unrealistic expectations

Women have a tendency to compare themselves with other women either in person or on media. This tendency creates feelings of vacuum and inferiority. The current standards of beauty set by the media and models working for the industry are almost unattainable in terms of thinness and scar-free bodies. Women accept these ideals as their own and internalize the disappointment they feel with their own bodies (Tiggeman & McGill, 2004). A larger discrepancy between real and ideal selves may lead to a lack of self-acceptance and psychological issues

The frequent presence of ideal portrayals in the media could be damaging to women’s views of self, especially if they inspire automatic social comparisons. The results of one of the studies revealed that participants expose to idealized images of beauty ate significantly less junk food than did control participants. This pattern supports the assumption that food consumption may indeed be affected by exposure to idealized images of beauty. (Gurari, Hetts, & Strube, 2006).

5. Stereotyping

The stereotype is a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing (Fung & Ma, 2000). When fixated on gender, it differentiates men and women based on certain attributes that are specific to that gender (Afolabi, 2013). The consumers are presented with a set of familiar images that set a recognizable context for that pitch. The problem though is that stereotypes are by definition incomplete, and repeated viewings to these stereotypes can lead the consumers to assume a truth that may not be true. As differences in people are reduced to simple categorizations, sometimes negative, and then are served up as reality. According to expectance theory, if an individual is exposed to the stereotype over and over, they will likely expect that the people who are being stereotyped will behave that way in real life. If the individual is a part of the group being stereotyped then they may even begin to believe that they should be that way.

Proposed Strategies

1. Body positive advertisements

Promotion of body-positive advertisements which showcases models of all shapes and sizes and broadcasting messages of appreciating one’s body and having a healthy body image should be done on regular basis. A prominent example of this is the Dove campaign titled The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.

2. Increasing representation in advertisements

People who identify more with their ethnic group tend to identify more with advertisements that feature a member of their ethnic group. The higher the identification with the advertisement, the higher is the positive attitude towards the brand as well as the purchase intent (DeBenedictis, 2018). So, including people from LGBTQ communities, different religious backgrounds, communities, and cultures will help in developing a better society.

3. Challenging stereotypes

As a result of the ‘touch the pickle’ campaign, the share of voice grew from 21% to 91% and also increased the emotional equity of Whisper. Mainline actors, who traditionally never endorsed sanitary pads, became the face of these products. The campaign was so well-structured on all fronts that it won the Glass Lion Grand Prix at Cannes International Festival of Creativity, which recognizes work that implicitly or explicitly addresses issues of gender inequality or prejudice (Haque & Kumar, 2018).

4. Use of Conditioning

Conditioning can be used to increase healthy lifestyle choices among consumers. A study found that putting animal cartoons on children’s fruit and vegetable snack selections had a positive impact, and also suggested the potential for using animal cartoons to encourage fruit and vegetable selection for children (Karpyn, et al., 2016). An example of this finding is the ‘eat brighter’ campaign that put the characters from Sesame Street onto fruit and vegetable packaging so as to increase the consumption of fresh produce by children.

5. Use of Celebrities

Celebrities command attention and play an important role in the lives of people. Some act as role models and a few are ideals for many. The endorsement of celebrities in advertisements has always been a high-impact tool in marketing. Many celebrities have been able to create an impact and make people realize their true physique and color by sharing unedited without makeup photographs.


With the increase in the number of products and competition among marketers, advertisements act as one of the fastest and effective modes of attracting customers. The intent of this study was to analyze the previous researches conducted in the area of advertisements and their impact on human behavior and society at large. In doing so, we also came up with strategies to nullify the negative effects of advertisements and enhance the positive ones. More awareness regarding the strategies used by the marketers to lure customers is needed so that the youth doesn’t get trapped in the illusion created by promoters.

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Advertisement: A Dynamic Tool For Behavior Change. (2021, July 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“Advertisement: A Dynamic Tool For Behavior Change.” Edubirdie, 27 Jul. 2021,
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