Advertising and consumer autonomy | Free Writing Example (2023)


  1. Prohibited
  2. The concept of consumer autonomy and advertising
  3. advertising ethics
  4. Arguments against advertising
  5. Final thoughts and position
  6. Application
  7. Bibliography


Advertising is the backbone of the business industry as it provides potential consumers with critical information about products and services in a timely and cost-effective manner. But there have been fierce discussions about the role of advertising and its morality in human society, as some organizations prey on consumers by promising manufactured benefits. However, advertising ethics have been criticized for their ability to disempower consumers. Critics of advertising argue that it is morally wrong because it undermines consumers' autonomy by manipulating what they want using problematic approaches. On the other hand, the defensive side suggests that the ad is subject to ethically sound business practices because its manipulative actions are acceptable. That said, this article challenges the notion that advertising is immoral and undermines individual autonomy. Although consumers are informed about products, they are not required to make purchases. Therefore, business organizations are entitled to use various techniques to persuade individuals to buy their products.

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The concept of consumer autonomy and advertising

Individual autonomy is the central concept of the Western Enlightenment and the basis of economic theories of consumerism. In layman's terms, autonomy is related to free will and is defined as the ability of an individual to act according to his will and make choices without external influence. In a consumer context, autonomy refers to a person's right to choose from a range of options and make decisions based on their will, without being influenced in any way (Wertenbroch et al., 2020). Consumers therefore have the right to exercise their autonomy in choosing from a range of options without direct or indirect influence. However, consumer autonomy is dictated by time, price and information, generating much research on how consumers can navigate these barriers.

Over the years, advertising and marketing have become top business strategies and top priorities for organizations. Unfortunately, advertising agencies are sometimes attacked for unethical practices of providing potential consumers with misleading information to encourage purchases. However, Todorova (2018) suggests that the ultimate goal of marketing and advertising is to encourage buyers to make a purchase and thus earn more. Easy access to the commercial sector has resulted in numerous manufacturers and suppliers offering similar products in different capacities. As a result, advertisers try to be as informative as possible, but in a broader sense more persuasive than their competitors, which encourages them to mislead consumers (Wertenbroch et al., 2020). However, there is a fine line between rational and irrational advertising and deceptive and non-deceptive marketing. Because consumers are easily tricked into buying products, critics of advertising suggest that advertising creates unnecessary and harmful cravings.

advertising ethics

Robert Arrington's article "Advertising and Behavior Control" is one of the few articles that exhaustively breaks down the complexities of consumer autonomy into four components. The author suggests that interfering with an individual's autonomy through advertising is not equivalent to convincing him to buy products. Arrington defines thwarting human autonomy as deliberately falsifying the benefits or value of individual products or services, which is unethical and immoral (Carachilo & Pikas, 2018). Rather than undermining consumer autonomy, advertisers should address individuals' concerns and provide solutions to problems. through product promotions. However, most manufacturers do not take this approach because they inform consumers about their needs, creating and satisfying needs. Drumwright (2019) argues that organizations benefit from the consumer dependency effect, which meets the production needs and desires of consumers rather than satisfying their innate needs. As such, producers have power over consumers because they have the power to manipulate them into buying things they don't need. Based on this relationship, it is unwise to promote human desires to satisfy them and earn money.

Corporate advertising can undermine individual autonomy in four ways. They can facilitate non-autonomous desires that individuals did not previously have, irrational desires, promote compulsive behavior, or control consumer behavior. However, Arrington rejects these ideas because most human desires are cultivated, not innate (Carachilo & Pikas, 2018). For example, people love certain types of music, food, and art. However, they must be in contact with these products to initiate an affinity for them. Instead, Arrington defines autonomous desires as those that individuals learn and accept as their own. In this sense, if a person is persuaded by an advertisement to buy a certain product, the choice is autonomous as long as the individual does not reject the desire. According to Todorova (2018), the manipulation of consumer desires is justified if individuals accept the process of creating desires. That said, as long as company and product advertisements don't mislead individuals into making inappropriate purchases or buying products that don't work, they have the right to advertise and publicize their brands so that others can discover and use their products.

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Arguments against advertising

Kilbourne is a researcher who has gone to great lengths to uncover the dangers of advertising, especially its impact on women and girls. Over the past twenty years, the business landscape has changed dramatically with new companies entering the market. As a result, most organizations thrive on product differentiation, requiring strategic marketing techniques to gain an advantage over other vendors. However, Kilbourne (2019) suggests that advertising is ubiquitous because it uses people to believe that certain goods and products will satisfy their inner desires. Advertising is toxic to people's lives because it constantly conveys the message that certain products can recreate people and change their lives. This is possible because advertising agencies have learned that it is easier to get into people's pockets by exploiting their emotions.

While ads should be designed to be informative, most ads sell ideas, not products. Parekh and Shrank (2018) see advertising as the ability to retain people's minds and intelligence to make money. But in the process, these ads undermine women's self-image by creating an unrealistic objectification of beauty. Kilbourne points out that no women naturally look like those in model magazines. Some of the images presented in these magazines underwent several applications, including Photoshop, causing even the models not to meet the suggested perfect standards (Balog, 2020). Over time, girls and women try to meet these standards, buying countless ointments to keep their skin flawless and surgical operations to get a curvy figure or a slim face. Therefore, advertising is an interference in the lives of individuals and a threat to the development of society due to the power it exerts over people's perception and reasoning.

In this new era, consumer autonomy takes on a more complex perspective as AI solutions make people assume they are in control. Technological devices are used to do menial tasks, protect homes, drive cars and improve lives. However, skeptics argue that these solutions deprive individuals of autonomy in making decisions on their behalf, which undermines consumer welfare (Carachilo and Pikas, 2018). The truth is that artificial intelligence systems use sophisticated software and algorithms to behave online, thus allowing marketing agencies to deliver relevant advertisements. But others see this approach as intrusive and suggest that it reinforces irrationality, cynicism, selfishness, social rivalry, anxiety, and materialism (Drumwright, 2019). Regardless, it is impossible to stop the implications of new media, as they have revolutionized human interaction and productivity, increasing their vulnerability.

Final thoughts and position

The dispute over the role of advertising in undermining consumer autonomy is complex because there are several factors to consider. Although defenders of this concept have solid arguments to support their arguments, the final decision to purchase a product depends on the customers who come into contact with advertisements (Wertenbroch et al., 2020). Individuals respond to their external environments, which are based on cultural factors and social beliefs. Therefore, it is unreasonable to declare that the advertisements are misleading because people can also get their desires from other places (Carachilo and Pikas, 2018). For example, many people in society find it rewarding to drive fast and expensive cars, which allows them to drive their ambitions to a certain level. So the person might see someone wearing a watch or using a product and develop a craving for that product. Thus, given people's insatiable nature, advertising does not create cravings. Rather, it informs individuals about solutions to curb some, but not all, of their desires.

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All forms of advertising are legitimate as long as they don't convince people to buy products. Big pharmaceutical companies are among the organizations that occasionally get involved in controversy because they sell drugs to people who don't need them. In most cases, these organizations change drugs or their strength and promise unrealistic benefits. These forms of advertising are therefore destructive and a form of coercion as they force individuals to purchase unworthy products (Drumwright, 2019). However, if the ad conveys information in such a way as to encourage the consumer to see or try the product, it does not harm the individual's autonomy, as it does not force the purchase decision. The person still has the possibility to decide if the purchase of the product will solve his problems or not. Given the fierce competition between industries producing similar products, advertising is inevitable as it allows individuals to differentiate quality products from counterfeit ones.


Business organizations depend on marketing and advertising for market diversification and promotion. Therefore, advertising is a priority in any organization that sells goods or services to consumers, as it allows them to create awareness and encourage purchase. However, most people suggest that advertising is intrusive and takes away consumer autonomy. According to proponents of this idea, advertisers use individuals' desires to sell them ideas about how certain products will meet their needs. In this process, shoppers make hasty decisions and end up buying items that are not beneficial. Next, ads are disturbing because of their ability to change individuals' preferences and thinking, as in the case of the "ideal woman seen in magazines." However, consumers are never forced to make purchasing decisions as they are only exposed to information about goods and services. Thus, they make consumption choices based on free will, that is, they exercise autonomy. Furthermore, individuals get their desires from the environment and not necessarily through advertising. Therefore, the ads are legitimate as long as they don't deliberately mislead people.


Balog, I. (2020).Skinny white bitches: female agency in contemporary advertising.Network.

Carachilo, G. and Pikas, B. (2018).When Philosophers Disagree, A Philosophical Analysis of Marketing Advertising. Marketing Development and Competitiveness Magazine,12(two). Network.

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Drumwright, M.E. (2019). Advertising ethics and theory. INadvertising theory(s. 503-522). Routledge'a.

Kilbourne, J. (2019). "The more you subtract, the more you add": Fit Girls in Ad Size 1. IRace/gender/class/media(s. 131-135). Routledge'a.

Parekh, N. and Shrank, W.H. (2018). Threats and opportunities of direct-to-consumer advertising.Journal of General Internal Medicine,33(5), 586-587. Network.

Todorova, R. (2018).Knowledge, reality and fantasy in advertising discourse. KNOWLEDGE-international newspaper,22(1), 297-301. Network.

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Wertenbroch, K., Schrift, R.Y., Alba, J.W., Barasch, A., Bhattacharjee, A., Giesler, M., … & Zwebner, Y. (2020). Consumer magazines,31(4), 429-439. Network.


What are some examples of consumers advertising? ›

Examples include Diet Coke and Mentos videos, the "Crush on Obama" video, and Star Wars fan films. Companies that have employed consumer-generated ads include Subaru North America, McDonald's, Rose Parade, and Toyota North America.

What is autonomy in advertising? ›

Broadly, consumer autonomy is the ability to reflect on what one has good reasons to do in the marketplace, and to act accordingly. Consumer autonomy is a foundational principle of liberal democracy whereby marketers are granted license to influence consumers, provided they respect their autonomy (Anker, 2020).

What is an example of ethical advertising? ›

An example of ethical advertising is an ad that presents true statements in a decent manner, although the definition of decency may vary between individuals. The purpose of advertising is to increase sales and generate more brand awareness.

What is consumer advertising write a short note? ›

Meaning of consumer advertising in English. the activity of making products or services known to the public and persuading people to buy them: Detergent is mainly marketed through consumer advertising to create brand loyalty and pre-sell the product.

What are the 3 things that advertising does for consumers? ›

Advertising has three primary objectives: to inform, to persuade, and to remind. Informative Advertising creates awareness of brands, products, services, and ideas. It announces new products and programs and can educate people about the attributes and benefits of new or established products.

What is a good example of autonomy? ›

The most obvious example of functional autonomy is employees that are allowed to create their own work schedules. This demonstrates trust, freedom to make decisions, and individuality.

What is 1 example of autonomy? ›

Autonomy is the state of being self-governing or having the ability to make one's own decisions independently of external control. For example, as a reward the teacher granted her students autonomy from the structured schedule when she said, "You may have 30 minutes of free time."

What are some examples of unethical behavior in advertising? ›

What is unethical advertising?
  • Spamming – sending spam emails, letter, or generally attempting to contact one customer more than once.
  • Plagiarising or copying content – directly ripping content from other companies websites or marketing materials.
Dec 3, 2020

What are 3 examples of ethical? ›

Here are ethical behaviour examples you can use as a reference to improve the workplace:
  • Punctuality. ...
  • Following rules of conduct. ...
  • Respecting other people. ...
  • Helping teammates accomplish organisation goals. ...
  • Maintaining a professional demeanour. ...
  • Exercising accountability. ...
  • Delivering high-quality work. ...
  • Serving the customer.
Dec 20, 2022

What is the purpose of consumer advertising? ›

“Some typical objectives for consumer advertising include introducing new customers to your product, increasing awareness among existing customers, reinforcing brand awareness in the marketplace and stimulating product usage.

What is advertising in consumer behavior? ›


The role of advertisement is to influence the consumer decision-making process and influence consumer decisions in all stages based on the marketing and advertising goals. Advertisers use different channels to reach consumers at different times.

What are four benefits of advertising to the consumer? ›

Benefits of advertising
  • increase customer reach.
  • build customer awareness of your business and brand.
  • promote the benefits of your products or services.
  • communicate information about your business.
  • increase sales and demand.
  • gain an advantage over your competitors.
Mar 7, 2023

How do you write an advertisement example? ›

How To Write An Effective Advertisement
  1. Determine the medium. Before you write your advertisement, think about where you want to publish it. ...
  2. Identify your audience. ...
  3. Create a headline. ...
  4. Include a hook. ...
  5. Use second person. ...
  6. List a problem. ...
  7. Share a solution. ...
  8. Describe your product.
Sep 6, 2022

What are the types of advertising explain with examples? ›

ADVERTISEMENTS: Nine types of advertising media available to an advertiser are: (1) direct mail (2) newspapers and magazines (3) radio advertising (4) television advertising (5) film advertising (6) outdoor advertising (7) window display (8) fairs and exhibition and (9) specially advertising!

What is advertising and provide a few examples? ›

What is advertising and example? Advertising is a form of communication used to persuade an audience to take some action, usually with respect to a commercial offering, such as an item for sale or a service. Examples of advertising include television and print advertisements, product placements, and infomercials.

What are the 5 key points in advertising? ›

The five principles of great advertising can therefore be summarized as:
  • Establish relevance to target audience.
  • Exhibit uniqueness from competition.
  • Prove credibility through product characteristic or use.
  • Add to consumer knowledge.
  • Execute through relevant touchpoints.
Aug 19, 2009

How do advertisements attract consumers? ›

Advertising can increase sales by telling potential and current customers about your new product launches, special offers and improvements. Apart from reminding current customers about your business, advertising can also help to create or develop a distinctive brand for your business.

What are 4 common advertising techniques? ›

Some of the most common advertising techniques include emotional appeal, bandwagon pressuring (AKA bandwagon advertising), endorsements and social proof as well as weasel words. In this guide, we're going to share 23 of the most common techniques when it comes to advertising.

What are the 4 types of autonomy? ›

The forms of autonomy analyzed by this article include personal autonomy, cultural auton- omy, functional and administrative autonomy and legislative autonomy.

What does autonomy mean example and sentence? ›

noun, plural au·ton·o·mies. independence or freedom, as of the will or one's actions: the autonomy of the individual. the condition of being autonomous; self-government or the right of self-government: The rebels demanded autonomy from Spain. a self-governing community.

What is an example of autonomy in a company? ›

One example of autonomy in the workplace is allowing employees to set their own schedules or work remotely. This allows them to have control over when and where they work, which can lead to increased job satisfaction and productivity.

What is an example of autonomy as a student? ›

Example Strategies:

Offer choices rather than mandating a single option whenever possible. For example, consider having students choose assignments or assessment formats from a menu of different options.

What are the two main types of autonomy? ›

Although behavioral and emotional autonomy are important facets of the overall development of autonomy, they often represent an inadequate point of reference for adolescent development. The development of cognitive autonomy is especially important to facilitate development into adulthood.

How do you explain autonomy? ›

In its simplest sense, autonomy is about a person's ability to act on his or her own values and interests. Taken from ancient Greek, the word means 'self-legislation' or 'self-governance.

What are 5 examples of unethical behavior in business? ›

5 Most Common Unethical Behaviors Ethics Resource Center (ERC) Survey
  • Misuse of company time. Whether it is covering for someone who shows up late or altering a timesheet, misusing company time tops the list. ...
  • Abusive Behavior. ...
  • Employee Theft. ...
  • Lying to employees. ...
  • Violating Company Internet Policies.
Jul 2, 2016

Are there any ethical issues in advertising? ›

Here are some key ethical issues in advertising: Stereotyping: Using stereotypes or promoting harmful or offensive images or ideas. Exploitation: Using vulnerable groups, such as children or the elderly, for commercial gain. Privacy: Collecting and using personal data without the individual's consent.

What is unacceptable advertising? ›

Ads must not promote products, services, schemes or offers using deceptive or misleading practices, including those meant to scam people out of money or personal information.

What is an example of unethical marketing by a company? ›

A food company that uses misleading photos of their food items to make them look better than they actually are is an example of unethical advertising. Another example would be when a drug company omits information about negative side effects associated with their products.

What is an example sentence for unethical behavior? ›

You might still be out of a job because of his unethical conduct. The unethical behaviour of the energy companies is disgraceful. But recently we have seen just what the cost of unethical behaviour can be. They are not moral issues involving something clearly wrong or unethical.

What are two examples of common unethical behaviors? ›

Asking for recognition for someone else's job, calling in sick to go to the hill station, sabotaging someone else's work, and, in sales, falsifying the product or service to fulfill the target are all examples of unethical behavior in the workplace.

What is an example of something that is ethical but illegal? ›

Ethical, but Illegal

A common example of this is “whistleblowing,” or an individual's disclosure of dishonest, corrupt or illegal activity. While it may be ethical to denounce such activity, doing so may violate organizational policies and thus be considered illegal.

Which is the best example of ethical behavior? ›

Common examples of ethical behaviors include following rules, keeping secrets, remaining loyal, and telling the truth.

What is an example of ethical example? ›

Ethics, for example, refers to those standards that impose the reasonable obligations to refrain from rape, stealing, murder, assault, slander, and fraud. Ethical standards also include those that enjoin virtues of honesty, compassion, and loyalty.

Why is consumer behavior important to advertisers? ›

Why Is Consumer Behavior Important in Marketing? By understanding how buyers think, feel and decide, businesses can determine how best to market their products and services. This helps marketers predict how their customers will act, which aids in marketing existing products and services.

What is the importance of advertising ethics for consumers? ›

Ethics in advertising means upholding moral principles and having a clear mode of communication between the buyer and consumer. True to the subject matter, ethical ads do not make false claims or spread lies. The main motive for ethical advertising is to boost sales, gain awareness, and drive more customers to brands.

How can advertisers change our behavior? ›

If a company can get access to an audience's attention, it can then attempt to persuade them, through rational and emotional messaging, to change their behavior. This behaviour is usually at some point in the future — otherwise, all advertising would work like 'as seen on TV' direct response.

Do advertisements influence your choice? ›

Advertisements can easily sway one's food choices, especially adolescents and younger children. Food companies spend a lot of time and money to convince people to buy their product.

How does advertising influence people? ›

We use things influenced by advertising every day, from toothpaste to clothing. Marketing influences consumer purchasing decisions. Frequently, we make decisions based on marketing trends, such as where to have coffee, what to buy for dinner, which phone or Snickers to get, etc. Advertising is ubiquitous.

How do advertisers manipulate consumers? ›

Companies use manipulative tactics in ads to exploit consumers' cognitive biases and emotional vulnerabilities. By doing so, they can influence consumers' purchasing decisions in their favour. Some common techniques include emotional appeals, persuasive language fearmongering, and false claims.

What are the 4 C's of advertising? ›

We call them the Four Cs, which are the company, the category, the consumer and culture. Within each of those, there are different amounts of research that you may need to do, depending on what you already have available and what new questions you need to answer.

What is an example of consumer example? ›

A consumer is any person or group who is the final user of a product or service. Here are some examples: A person who pays a hairdresser to cut and style their hair. A company that buys a printer for company use.

What are 3 examples of consumer products? ›

Clothing, food products, and dishwashers are examples of common consumer goods.

What are the 4 types of consumers in marketing? ›

primary consumers, secondary consumers, tertiary consumers or apex consumers are the different types of consumers. These types are according to the trophic level to which they belong.

What is consumer brand advertising? ›

Brand advertising is a strategy used by organizations to build consumer loyalty and increase their customer base. Brand advertising also creates an immediate and favorable response to specific products or companies, which may be accomplished through jingles, images, catch-phrases, or hashtags.

What are the 5 types of consumers and give an example for each? ›

These are:
  • Primary consumers (herbivores) - plant eaters (e.g. a cow).
  • Secondary consumers (carnivores) - meat eaters (e.g. a lion) and omnivores.
  • Tertiary consumers (omnivores) - plant and animal eaters (e.g. humans or birds).
  • Decomposers - organisms that break down dead organic material (e.g. fungi).

What is a simple example of consumer behavior? ›

When a consumer enjoys trying new products and seeks variety in their buying patterns. For example, they might like trying new flavors of tea or enjoying a different fragrance of hand soap each time they make their purchase.

What is a simple example of consumer to business? ›

Here are some example scenarios of C2B:
  • A food blogger who shares an affiliate link to a kitchen company's cooking products on their blog.
  • A tech blogger who displays a company's service ads to their audience in exchange for a cut of the ad revenue.
Mar 10, 2023

Can you think of at least five examples of business products? ›

Examples of business products include raw materials, equipment, supplies, business services, and software. Business software is a major sub-category of B2B products. Examples include accounting, customer relationship management (CRM), human resource management, and product development software.

What are some examples of product marketing? ›

Product Marketing Examples
  • Coca-Cola.
  • Apple.
  • MailChimp.
  • Airbnb.
  • Fenty Beauty.

What are the four types of consumer products with examples? ›

There are four types of products and each is classified based on consumer habits, price, and product characteristics: convenience goods, shopping goods, specialty products, and unsought goods. Let's dive into each one in more detail.
Examples of convenience goods include:
  • Gum.
  • Toilet paper.
  • Soap.
  • Toothpaste.
  • Shampoo.
  • Milk.
Mar 23, 2023

What influences consumer behavior? ›

Consumer behavior is influenced by many external factors and internal factors such as situational, psychological, environmental, and marketing factors, personal factors, family, and culture.

What is the difference between marketing and advertising? ›

In basic terms, marketing is the process of identifying customer needs and determining how best to meet those needs. In contrast, advertising is the exercise of promoting a company and its products or services through paid channels. In other words, advertising is a component of marketing.

What is an example of a creative advertisement? ›

By building the familiar shape of a Heinz ketchup from slices of tomato, they are making the suggestion that the product is pure tomato, ripe, organic. And therefore perfect. A clever, pure brand-conscious example of creative advertising. The bigger the brand, the simpler the creative advertising.

Why is consumer advertising good? ›

Advertisements can increase familiarity and trust between a company and its customers. If a potential customer sees multiple ads about your product, they may consider you a trusted brand. You can also use advertising to address any concerns, which further builds trust between your company and your customers.

How does advertising add value to a brand? ›

Companies that use brand advertising aim to get long-term positive recognition. These companies establish brand identity, credibility, and loyalty with their prospects intellectually and emotionally.


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