How has advertising affected american values?

How has advertising affected american values?

How has advertising affected american values?



Advertising plays a significant role in shaping American values, influencing consumer behavior, and shaping societal norms. Over the years, advertising has evolved and adapted to the changing landscape, utilizing various mediums to convey messages and promote products or services. This article explores the impact of advertising on American values, examining both the positive and negative aspects of this influential industry.

The Power of Persuasion

Advertising techniques: Advertising employs a wide range of techniques to persuade consumers and shape their values. These techniques include emotional appeals, celebrity endorsements, catchy slogans, and persuasive storytelling. By appealing to consumers’ desires, fears, and aspirations, advertisements can influence their values and beliefs.

Consumerism and materialism: Advertising has played a significant role in promoting consumerism and materialism in American society. Through constant exposure to advertisements, individuals are encouraged to associate happiness and success with the acquisition of material possessions. This emphasis on material wealth can lead to a shift in values, with an increased focus on materialistic pursuits rather than personal relationships or experiences.

Gender Roles and Body Image

Gender stereotypes: Advertising has often perpetuated traditional gender roles and stereotypes. Women are frequently portrayed as objects of desire, while men are depicted as strong and dominant. These portrayals can reinforce societal expectations and limit the potential for gender equality.

Body image ideals: Advertising has also played a significant role in shaping body image ideals, particularly for women. The promotion of thinness and unrealistic beauty standards in advertisements can contribute to body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and the development of eating disorders. These ideals can have a detrimental impact on individuals’ mental and physical well-being.

Social and Cultural Values

Representation and diversity: Advertising has the power to shape societal perceptions of race, ethnicity, and culture. By featuring diverse individuals and representing different backgrounds, advertising can challenge stereotypes and promote inclusivity. However, it is crucial to ensure that this representation is authentic and not merely tokenistic.

Social responsibility: Advertising can also influence social values and promote social responsibility. Advertisements that advocate for environmental sustainability, social justice, and ethical practices can raise awareness and encourage positive change. By aligning with socially responsible values, brands can attract consumers who prioritize these issues.

The Dark Side of Advertising

Manipulation and deception: While advertising can be a powerful tool, it can also be manipulative and deceptive. Some advertisements use misleading tactics, exaggerate product benefits, or make false claims. This can erode trust between consumers and brands, leading to skepticism and cynicism.

Unrealistic expectations: Advertising often presents an idealized version of reality, creating unrealistic expectations among consumers. Whether it is the flawless models in beauty advertisements or the picture-perfect families in commercials, these portrayals can lead to dissatisfaction and disappointment when reality fails to meet these standards.


Advertising has undoubtedly influenced American values, both positively and negatively. While it has the power to shape societal norms, challenge stereotypes, and promote social responsibility, it can also perpetuate harmful ideals, manipulate consumers, and create unrealistic expectations. Recognizing the impact of advertising on our values is essential for consumers to make informed choices and for advertisers to consider the ethical implications of their messaging.


1. American Psychological Association. (2010). Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls.
2. Kilbourne, J. (1999). Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel. Simon & Schuster.
3. Lutz, R. J. (1985). Affective and Cognitive Antecedents of Attitude Toward the Ad: A Conceptual Framework. In R. J. Lutz (Ed.), Advances in Consumer Research (Vol. 12, pp. 235-239). Association for Consumer Research.
4. Pardun, C. J., & McKee, K. B. (2012). The Influence of Media on Body Image Concerns Among Women: A Meta-Analysis of Experimental and Correlational Studies. Human Communication Research, 38(1), 28-48. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2958.2011.01421.x