An Introduction


Advertising has successfully integrated itself into American culture to the point where advertisements are not analyzed by the public but absorbed and accepted by their audience. The amount of advertisements the average American is exposed to ranges in the 1000’s as advertisements are present in television, radio, magazines, and billboards in addition to the gross amount of advertisements on the Internet. This trend of massive adverting has allowed for populations to be desensitized to advertisements and to absorb the messages without any inkling of deception.

This situation, in itself, has opened the door for advertising companies to distribute propaganda disguised as advertisements as a more effective means of promoting sales. For continuity and argument reasons, we will define propaganda with Jowett, and O’Donnell’s explanation that “Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist”. Now, when we put that definition into the context of an advertising agency, we can infer that their thought process becomes “why tell one to buy something, when one can make one believe that one must have it”.

Because of both the advertising industry’s and the public’s new mentalities, other industries can use propaganda-as-advertising to easily influence consumers to buy their products or services. While many may regard this as creative capitalism, for many industries the use of propaganda as advertising is dangerous towards its audience in addition to being unethical. This is best seen in the modern pharmaceutical industry.

Pharmaceutical companies have the ability to send information to their consumers directly through advertising agencies and now can do so with much more force. A countless number of people can now be told that exactly what prescription medicines they need for their unique medical conditions wherever they are thanks to amazing amount of advertisements around them. In addition, pharmaceutical companies can sponsor doctors to further spread the word of their new medicines and can use these doctors in tandem with advertisers to make their publicity more effective. I attest that these is actions, like all things, can be seen by different people in different ways. However, the market situations presented to pharmaceutical companies allow for them to easily manipulate the public. In this case, I attest that the methods in question are propaganda and therefore are unethical and more importantly dangerous to use in the pharmaceutical market.