Advertising is one of the most potent forces fuelling modern capitalism. But what is the role and place for advertising in Society 3.0? We have come from an era where accumulation and acquisition was an accepted norm in society. The default was to acquire. Advertising has always been a tool used to create that demand. That is its economic effect. But the tension with advertising has always been in its social effect on society, which has been significant. Is there a place for advertising in Society 3.0?
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- Advertising has been used to create demand. Will that help us to build Society 3.0?
- It’s a powerful tool which shapes societal norms and influences beliefs and behaviours
- At its core is creative thinking, which is in itself neither good nor bad
- We can apply that power to better design Society 3.0, through influence, persuasion, and yes, manipulation
About Ed Melvin:
Ed Melvin is a Director at Publicis Dublin, an award-winning creative consultancy that provides advertising, design, strategy and communications services.
Contacting Ed Melvin:
By Ed Melvin
Advertising exists at the intersection of our economy and our society.
Advertising has formed societal norms both positive and negative, created cultural reference points, and has been influencing both beliefs and behaviours in society for over a century. It is unashamedly propaganda, that has created permission for us all to quite literally, consume with abandon.
Where we are now is an era where advertising is even more powerful than ever. Its effects on society are clear. Targeted advertising gets people to vote, or nudges them not to bother. It manipulates people to take action in real-time, to make bets, purchase tickets, treat themselves. It persuades us over time to buy into and believe myths about products and brands.
There is a shift from influencing people on a societal level, towards persuading people on an individual level. Modern advertising does both. Our society continues to be shaped by commercial forces, reaching us through advertising.
It seems clear that if there is going to be a Society 3.0, then we will all need to take collective and individual responsibility, for reducing consumption. What is the role for advertising in this? There are businesses such as Patagonia and IKEA that are embracing the circular economy, adopting sustainable practices. They understand business models that are completely for-profit are less likely to appeal. Those are just two examples of businesses that understand their societal responsibilities.
In general though, advertising has been directed thus far to drive consumption. But what is its role in building Society 3.0? The answer is perhaps to harness the creative thinking that is at the core of advertising. And to apply it in new ways, across:
- Behavioural design to change society for the better
- Helping people to make choices that will benefit them in the long-term
- Creating new social norms around sustainability and responsibility
In short, advertising’s negative associations and questionable ‘moral’ impact on society is just down to how creative thinking has been used to persuade and manipulate. To this point it’s been used largely for commercial ends and that has had a societal impact. I’d like to posit that in creating Society 3.0, it will be used largely for societal ends and that will have a commercial impact. But I believe it will have a very relevant role that is perhaps underplayed, perhaps because of perhaps distaste around discussing it.
I am fond of this honest observation by advertising great Bill Bernbach, who spearheaded creativity in New York in the 1960s:
“All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.”