Advertising and consumerism: Yay or nay?

As I watched “Mad Men” on Netflix the other day, I realized how drastic the impact Advertisement Agencies can have on society as a whole. I have always thought advertisements affect our economic decisions to some degree, but this show does a phenomenal job of exposing the raw power behind those who run advertisements.

For those who have not seen “Mad Men,” the show follows Don Draper, a creative director at the Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency; while critiquing the glamorous 1960’s lifestyle that came along with the job.

This masterful show displays the dangers of a materialistic culture by ironically showing this through the eyes of a man who promotes materialism. In “Mad Men,” the Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency thrives on contorting the general public’s belief system, in order to sell their products. False importance and pathetic appeal are the strength behind Don Draper’s proficient advertisements, which parallels some advertisement techniques that are used today. We are consistently exposed to advertisements every day, and we may not be aware of the effects they have on our psyche.

Advertising is a vital part of an individual business’ success and the modern economy as a whole, but consumers need to be aware of the incentive that exists behind it.

Keep in mind, the main goal behind advertisements is to persuade consumers into buying a certain product, by any means necessary. Advertisements possess specific intentions, and these intentions have been carefully thought about behind ad agency doors.

Exaggeration in advertisements have fooled consumers for years. For example, published a fascinating article detailing the success of the Grey Goose Premium Vodka.

They highlight Sidney Frank’s brilliant marketing campaign, and how the public has been fooled by this. Essentially, Sidney Frank found out how to market a decent spirit as the best one found in stores. He purposely picked the location of distillation (France), the carefully designed bottle and the fancy shipment crates so that consumers would associate the product with high quality. Ads associated the vodka with opulence and sophistication, and the vodka began to sell in huge numbers.

But, in reality, the quality of Grey Goose cannot be differentiated from other spirits in blind taste tests. In a blind taste test conducted by, volunteers were asked to down a shot of Grey Goose and a shot of $8 grain vodka and pick a winner.

Astonishingly, 22 of the 50 participants picked the $8 dollar vodka over Grey Goose.

Ethically, there is nothing wrong with the marketing campaign of Grey Goose. The masterful Sidney Frank convinced the masses to associate his product with quality, without being fraudulent. I would have done the same thing if I were in his shoes. Grey Goose sold to Bacardi for $2 billion, so I am sure he is happy with his results. But, advertising is a persuasive business, and people should not take advertisements as divine truth. Every aspect of an advertisement is taken into consideration, with the aspiration of convincing the public of a product’s superiority over another.

If viewers of these advertisements are not aware of advertisements’ incentives, they can easily be pulled into the American Consumerist culture we exist in today. As Tyler Durden says in “Fight Club,” “The things you own end up owning you.”
If you are not careful, of course.

Chris Chipman is a junior English major and columnist for The Vidette. Any questions or comments regarding his column can be sent to 


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