The Dark Side of Ads and Addiction

The Dark Side of Ads and Addiction

In the April 2011, issue of Impact, is an article entitled The Dark Side of Advertising written by Professor Dante Pirouz, of the University of Western Ontario.

The purpose of advertising is to create a need, that leads to increased profits. Advertisers seek ways to promote their products to a consumer market.

In a recent study by Professor Dante Pirouz, brain scans and lab tests were conducted to discover how cigarette advertising affected both smokers, and non smokers. The assumption would be that smokers are affected by cigarette ads, but that non-smokers would not be.

Surprisingly, both groups were stimulated by the cigarette advertising, but the smokers were more resistant to it. Smokers had mechanisms in place that dampened and modified craving for tobacco upon seeing ads for cigarettes. Non-smokers however, although not the target audience, were very responsive to the cigarette smoking ads – although not attracted to cigarettes, they would increase their reward behavior, such as having a drink, as a response to the stimulation of cigarette advertising.

see article

The research opens up the question of how much our behavior is modified by “lifestyle” advertising. The research confirms that people who are stimulated by ads for a particular product, will also be attracted to a range of other products or behaviors that satisfy the same need.

The article also raises the question – how much of our behavior is modified and controlled by lifestyle pressures. When we have an addiction, that we try to overcome, we might be able to resist that particular temptation, but the brain will seek out other ways in which to satisfy the need.

For example a dependence on cigarette smoking or alcohol might be voluntarily stopped by resisting the temptation to smoke or drink. However, there comes a point at which the craving overcomes the resistance. The person might still accept the prohibition on smoking or alcohol drinking, but seek compensation in the form of aggressive driving, gambling or excessive spending – perhaps substitute the eating of unhealthy food for the forbidden cigarette smoking.

The research suggests that a complexity of messages and images might be responsible for the maintenance of triggers for our behavior and addictions. Advertising for high class real estate, might be out of our price range, yet stimulate a need for us to go out and buy a prestige product. If a person has quit drinking, and sees an alcohol advert, it might not make him want to drink, but it might make him want to gamble.

The idea that advertising can create a stimulus but that there are different ways in which we might choose to satisfy it, is similar to the situation with addictive behavior. It has long been recognized that the different methods that people use compulsively to satisfy emotional needs are symptomatic of, rather than the cause of addiction.

When we are stimulated by intensely negative emotions, and feel in need of relief, we might compulsively resort to a particular behavior, or make a variety of responses. We might choose to overeat, to smoke, to drink or gamble, or use a combination of these things.

As such there is no real difference between the proper treatment of say, an “eating disorder” and alcoholism – the underlying emotional triggers are what need to be addressed.

Stopping a person from acting out their preferred behavior,when under pressure, only introduces frustration and additional stress, until another means of relief is found. People trying to give up substance abuse when they are addicted, relieve their tension and their stress in other forms of behavior. To overcome addiction people need to get in touch with and resolve their negative emotions.

Advertisements that stimulate a desire in us to have something, and having an addictive craving for something are very similar in their dynamics.

Powerful advertising can make us want something as much as if we had an addiction. Advertising directed at children can create strong feelings of “need”. Powerful advertising and an addiction both tend to make us respond in a particular, direct way to get the satisfaction that we “need”.

Addictions arise from having conflicts and issues, emotional tension that we want to resolve. Advertising can cause a similar sensation of dissatisfaction and tension until we satisfy the need that it creates.

The causes of addiction are toxic stress and emotional discomfort. Advertising can also induce in us levels of stress and dissatisfaction, that we need to resolve.

The study suggests that a means to overcome the tension caused by exposure to advertising is to develop self esteem, and self control, to be able to thoroughly evaluate and resolve everyday pressures and tensions, in order to feel relaxed, have a happy, contented life.

Similarly with addiction, comprehensive programs for complete alcohol and drug addiction recovery have for over forty years, taught courses to their students that promote self esteem, self control and that provide an ethical and moral framework in which to evaluate and resolve the many toxic pressures of life that can lead to emotional stress and addiction.

Advertising can promote feelings of dissatisfaction and depression, that advertisers hope you will choose to resolve by purchasing their products. People with an addiction to drugs also have unmet needs, that they hope they can resolve by the purchase and use of drugs.

Comprehensive alcohol and drug addiction recovery programs can help people to resolve emotional issues they have that are caused by toxic levels of stress.

People who want to get clean of toxic stress and drug use will find that the comprehensive courses, designed to assist addiction recovery, will also enhance their ability to deal with other stresses of life. See article

Real freedom of choice, means freedom from stress, and clarity of purpose. People wanting to start a healthy, balanced life will benefit from completion of comprehensive addiction recovery courses – a new way to “do” your life.

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