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Media Influence

3) How effective is television – Television advertising

Television has become a massive part of our lives; but how much does it actually influence us? There are two key areas of television that try to persuade us in particular, advertisement and health-related campaigns.

Television advertising

There are several techniques a company might use to increase the effectiveness of their products advertisement. These include: hard and soft-sell, product endorsement, advertisement aimed at children and ‘pester power’.

Hard and soft sell

A hard sell is when the advert tries to appeal to you with facts (central route of persuasion), whilst a soft sell will use more creative methods to try and persuade you. The effectiveness of these two techniques depends on the individual. If a person has a high level of self-monitoring (when someone makes sure they make a positive impact on people around them) then they are more likely to be persuaded by a soft sell, whilst someone with a high need for cognition would be better persuaded by a hard sell.

Product Endorsement

Some psychologists, such as Giles, believe that celebrity endorsement is a very effective technique. This relates to the Hovland-Yale model, which states that the source can affect the effectiveness of advertisement; celebrities are seen as attractive and someone we aspire to be like, so we are more likely to be persuaded by them.

However, Meenaghan disagrees this. He stated that most people see through celebrity endorsement, and would be better persuaded by someone with more credibility, for example an expert of professional.

Advertising aimed at children

Martin (1997) found that the older the child, the better he or she could understand the difference between normal programmes and adverts. He also found older children could understand the aims of advertising better than younger children, so are less prone to be persuaded. This is useful for advertising companies as they know aiming adverts at young children will be effective.

Pester Power

Pester power is a term used to describe when children will nag their parents to buy them a product. Pine and Nash believed that television advertising has a massive effect on the amount children pester their parents. To test this they observed the amount of television children watched, and how many items they put on their list to Santa at Christmas. Their study showed a strong correlation between the two.

Evaluation of the impact of advertising

Giles suggests that advertising on television and in cinemas is so powerful because the audience is ‘captive’, so they are constantly paying attention to the screen and therefor the adverts. However, Comstock and Scharrer argue that 80% of television viewers leave during the adverts. This suggests that television advertising isn’t actually that powerful because only 20% of people watch them.


About Sam Cook

A blog set up to help A Level students revise Sociology


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