Advertising is harmful

Can we live with them?

In 2011 Google was reported to say that online advertising alone could be worth more than $24 billion a year. It has grown significantly and in 2017 it is now worth $160 billion. With such money pouring into the industry, what is it actually doing to us all? Surely having all these ads online and in every public space from toilets to train doors is influencing us. Some say that it is a sign of prosperity and wealth, a natural by-product of capitalism.

There are also 47 further topics on media and advertising that could further dig into the culture and industry of these highly influential industries.

If you would like more research on the subject the British Advertising Association is a great place to start.

Level: Intermediate: B1/B2
Running Time: 90 minutes +

Materials included

This free lesson plan is suitable for adults, teenagers, and General English classes. Each plan includes:

  • A debate motion
  • A summary of the controversy
  • Points for both Pros and Cons
  • Language to use in a debate
  • Debate role cards to help identify student groups
  • An article
  • Statistics (true or false exercise)
  • Vocab for the topic

Preparation

For more information on how to use this in the classroom, please have a look at our detailed post on using free lesson plans.

Worksheet download

thumbnail of Advertising is harmfulthumbnail of Advertising is harmful – Article

Discussion questions

1. What types of advertising can you name? What’s popular right now?
2. Many adverts are creative and use interesting words and phrases, can you
remember any? What brands are they associated with?
3. Do you have a favourite ad? What is it and what do you like about it?
4. How influential are adverts in trying to change people’s minds?
5. What positive and negative impacts can advertising have?
6. Advertising has become more personalised in recent years, how might this
affect your privacy?

Statistics—True or false? (answers on the next page)

1. In 2016 roughly 300 million people used ad blocking software on their phones.
2. Approximately 90% of people think ads are more intrusive today than only two years ago.
3. Nearly 20% of millennials (those born in the 1980s and early 1990s) have their smartphone by their side, morning, noon, and night.
4. Gmail has more than 1 billion active users each day (which is great for email marketing companies).
5. Only 20% of people unsubscribed from an email service because the brand was sending too many emails.

Useful vocabulary

1. infest – a large number of something, which can cause damage.
2. etch – to draw on a hard surface.
3. distrustful – not to trust.
4. sceptical – having doubts about something.
5. authentic – real, genuine, not a copy.
6. someone does all the talking – informal. When someone explains things to
another person.
7. intimate – very familiar, close, personal.

Reading – The long and winding history of advertising
When we think of advertising our minds shuffle through a mix of images, from big brands on TV, to brightly coloured-billboards, and to those annoying pop-up ads that infest the internet.

While this is commonplace for us today, the industry has changed more in the last 60 years than the previous 2000 years. Funnily enough, even the ancient Egyptians would etch messages onto metal plates and would then place on the walls of buildings. So, what has changed and why has that happened? In fact, the newest
trends are now indicating that consumers no longer wish to sit through ads and are becoming more distrustful of advertisers. They are so sceptical that more than 35% admit to checking out amateur blogs and video reviews before making a purchase. They want to have a more authentic idea of what the product is and how
it would fit into their lives.

What this now means is that companies who are looking to attract new business need to create new form of adverts – where the user is more in control. Millions have been spent to create communities who now become part of the brand itself. These communities create their own content and then share it on Social Media networks, like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. This new style of advertising means the users do all the talking and consumers feel they are part of the brand’s journey.

This change is probably just the beginning. Companies now know that people trust other people and not companies. The future of advertising will now include more intimate and personal consumer journeys to help brands increase their sales and grow their business.

Answers to the statistics
1. True (Hubspot, 2016) 2. True (Hubspot, 2016) 3. False, it’s 80% (Google, 2015)
4. True (Statistica, 2016) 5. False, it’s 80% (Hubspot, 2016)

Debate introduction

In 2011 Google was reported to say that online advertising alone could be worth more than $24 billion a year. It has grown significantly and in 2017 it is now worth $160 billion. With such money pouring into the industry, what is it actually doing to us all? Surely having all these ads online and in every public space from toilets to train doors is influencing us. Some say that it is a sign of prosperity and wealth, a natural by-product of capitalism.

Points For

  • The volume of advertising is huge and annoying. It’s not possible to watch TV without seeing a tidal wave of ad. Some research from the NY Times suggests people living in a city today sees up to 5,000 advertisements a day. It’s simply not sustainable.
  • It’s overwhelming to see so many ads in our daily lives, they are all competing for my attention. This overloading of choice leads us to feeling less happy.
  • Advertisers are using dirty tactics to sell their products. The images they use are often of naked women with words or slogans that are usually very suggestive.
  • Ads have distorted ideas of beauty and what it means to be healthy.

Points Against

  • You don’t have to look and read all of them. The argument is silly as when we walk down the street we don’t say ‘Hello’ and shake hands with everyone we see. We are selective. Same with advertising, you have the ability to control yourself.
  • People are unhappy not because they can’t have everything, but because they have too much choice. Advertising is great as it gives people the knowledge to buy products within their price range.
  • Adverts which use very sly methods like subliminal images (images which are shown so quickly the viewer doesn’t consciously realise they saw them) are already banned. The other forms of advertising are just companies being creative.
  • Celebrity culture is more harmful than advertising. They promote selfishness and they are often responsible for leading people to suffer from eating-disorders.

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Further reading / additional resources

The Negative Effects of Advertising on Society

9 Negative Side Effects Of Advertising On Children

If We All Hate Ads So Much … Why Do They Still Exist?

 

 

 

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