Advertising is Creating Materialistic Consumers

Advertising is Creating Materialistic Consumers

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American youth represent a large target for the advertising market. Advertising to American youth means big business and lucrative profits for suppliers of products and services. “American children represent a dynamic retail market, influencing an estimated $500 billion in total retail spending” ("Marketing to children:" 2009). Youth are impressionable, they will examine many advertisements and conclude they want or need many of the advertised products and services. The result is purchasing and the collecting of inanimate objects, in most cases many of them by our youth. Through constant global advertising, extreme purchasing and the plentiful accumulation of objects, our youth are turning into “shopaholics” or “consumer addicts” and they are adopting materialistic values.
In other words, materialistic values are being forced upon our youth in advertisements by encouraging or persuading consistent purchasing of products and services. Since advertising is virtually all around us, materialism can begin at a very young age. According to Goldberg and Gorn (1978), “Materialistic values are correlated to exposure to marketing for children as young as preschoolers” (p. 22). The younger the better in the advertisers yes as they see dollar signs. If you target them young, you can mold them like clay and the materialism will build and expand over time.
Keep in mind youth are easy prey, and reaching them as a demographic is also a simple accomplishment. Television commercials, magazines and the internet are the some of the more popular methods in which to reach America’s youth. They are a captive audience, they spend countless hours watching television and surfing on the internet. It is a shame our technological advances over the centuries have actually turned against our youth, at least when it comes to non-censored advertising. It should be no surprise they are a likely target and potentially big money makers.

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In addition, Dr. Marvin Goldberg (2002) states “Results from my own research suggest marketing efforts aimed at youngsters may indeed be robbing children of their childhood and making kids more materialistic, and it can have long-term negative consequences on shaping values” (p. 1). Youth tend to focus on materialism rather than spirituality or their self-esteem, their ultimate goal is to consume.
In fact, those with materialistic values are more likely to exhibit anxiety, decreased self esteem and be less engaged in social interactions and relationships (Easterlin, 2004). Peer pressure is another factor to take in consideration for those with materialistic tendencies. Youth want to wear the latest fashion trends and they desire the latest electronic devices available in the market. They can be in competition with their friends and classmates, and they could face an inferiority complex or ridicule if they don’t have the latest and greatest like their companions. The advertising market is actually banking on that scenario. Also, strained relationships can be another unfortunate side effect of peer pressure and materialism within the youth social realm.
So there are many comprehensive methods of advertising to youth, and you combine that with the desire to obtain the latest toys, fashions trends and electronic gadgets; all you need now is money to purchase the objects of their choice. Keep in mind the latest craze in toys, fashion and electronics is very cyclic, the cause and effect is consistent purchasing of newer objects or the latest version of those objects. Youth have their own purchasing power as they influence their parents to make the actual purchasing decisions (2009). Advertising and materialism can stress the individual, parents and the family unit. The nagging and coursing to parents to spend money to purchase more items which may be obsolete in a few months, the space needed for stockpiling, plus the extreme cash flow in these economic times can place great strain between the individual and parents as well as siblings and other family members.
Naturally, ethical concerns that have been raised in regards to marketing to youth; are their efforts truly ethical or do advertisers take advantage of the young, the inexperienced and in some instances the naive. Advertiser displays products and services to persuade you to make a purchase; that is their intention or purpose. However, what advertising does not do is actually demand you purchase something, it is ultimately the individual’s decision on what they actually purchase. As Pamela Divinsky (2008) states, “Individuals need to take responsibility and accountability for their own actions” (p.1).
On the contrary, not all advertising is bad and not the entire youth population of American get draw into a materialistic world. By coaching and guidance of parents, self restraint from wanting and needing everything that is seen in advertisements can be controlled. American youth should be under the influence of their parents. Parents need to set the example, by setting limits on spending and collection of material objects. This is not to say the parents are completely responsible, but they do play a role in forming youth, their values and their purchasing decisions. Parents also need to be able to say “no”, you don’t need that or question the value that it is going to provide. These actions help prepare the youth to become responsible adult consumers.
In conclusion, advertisers and product suppliers will to continue to target American youth as they are a large demographic, they are heavy consumers, and businesses will cash in on the wealth. They will continue to be challenged to make decisions on purchases as a result of what they see advertised in various forms of media. They will also continue to be heavy consumers of objects. By exhibiting some level of self control, and with guidance of parents, spending as a result of advertising can be managed. If there is lack of responsibility on the part of the youth and the parent, spending will continue to spiral out of control and our youth will continue to possess materialistic values.


Works Cited
Divinsky, P. (2008, July 8). How is Advertising influenced by ethics?. Retrieved from http://www.lexisnexis.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/us/lnacademic/results/docview/docview.do?docLinkInd=true&risb=21_T8076871205&format=GNBFI&sort=RELEVANCE&startDocNo=1&resultsUrlKey=29_T8076871208&cisb=22_T8076871207&treeMax=true&treeWidth=0&csi=266325&docNo=3
Easterlin, R. (2004, January). The High Price of Materialism. Contemporary Sociology, 33(1), Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3593606
Goldberg, M.E. & Gorn, G.J. (1978). Some unintended consequences of TV advertising to children. Journal of Consumer Research, 5(1), 22
Goldberg, M. (2002, July). Children and materialism in the new era. Retrieved from http://www.smeal.psu.edu/news/latest-news/jul02/material.html
(2009). How Marketers target kids. Retrieved from http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/parents/marketing/marketers_target_kids.cfm?RenderForPrint=1
(2009). Marketing to children: kids and tweens demographic research reports. Retrieved from http://www.marketresearch.com/browse.asp?categoryid=938&SID=24075190-464607052-450759930
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