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  • Writer's pictureathinabampinioti

Consumerism and advertising; a new form of slavery


Just like the sea is drawn by the moon, metal drawn by magnets, the Earth by the sun, humans are drawn to consuming. You are surfing on the net and you are looking for a new dress or a new pair of football shoes. You don’t find anything interesting, and you decide to check your feed on Instagram. Suddenly, all sorts of sponsored posts containing dresses or football shoes appear. You take a look, and after being too tired of searching you find something that seems nice, and you order it. Another typical day. This everyday activity of constant consuming is called consumerism. Basically, “what consumerism really is, at its worst is getting people to buy things that don’t actually improve their lives.” once wisely said Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. So, I am only urged to ask you, ladies and gentlemen, “Why do we have this need to consume more and more, to shop until we drop?”

The answer to this question can be found in the most complex yet fascinating part of the human body, the brain. Decision-making is indissolubly connected to the unconscious and our emotions. While watching an advertisement the brain parts that are responsible for decision-making and memory, such as the limbic system, which is responsible for our emotions, show, according to a UCLA study, high levels of functioning. Brain waves that trigger heightened attention augment, whereas those who cause less-focused attention subside. Recent researches have shown that the largest part of what our brain processes while watching an advertisement goes in to the vast valley of the unconscious, where a new science, neuromarketing, is trying to create needs for consuming to the viewer. Taking into consideration that 95% of our decisions are made subconsciously, we can only predict to what extend this science can develop, especially nowadays, the era of consumerism. But let’s think to ourselves… “Isn’t this alarming? Isn’t this a form of brainwashing…or… “brandwashing”, as it is frequently called?”. The so called “brain whispering” business is reaching its zenith nowadays, as numerous neuromarketing firms emerge and try to manipulate the deepest part of our existence, the part where every desire, every dream, every impulse comes from… the unconscious. And we, the consumers become “shopping robots” ready to follow every direction that is subconsciously given to us by the product company… It is evident, ladies and gentlemen, that we have lost control of ourselves and our desires.

Did you know that Google has tested almost 50 different shades of blue in order to see which of them would result in more clicks? This specific type of blue that we see in or screens every time we surf online was not randomly chosen but was based on an experiment that eventually increased Google’s revenue by two hundred million dollars. Another tangible example of neuromarketing is that of Coca Cola. More specifically, an experiment conducted by neurologists and advertisers showed that when people blind-tasted Pepsi and Coca Cola, they remarked that Pepsi tasted better. However, when they were told which drink is which before trying it, and, thus were no longer blind-tasting, they affirmed that Coca Cola was tastier. Neurologist found that when the participants were informed that what they are trying is Coca Cola, many parts of the brain involving emotions, decision-making and memory were highly functioning. Throughout their entire lives, the participants had subconsciously related Coca Cola to happiness, good taste and positive feelings, which was achieved through numerous ways of advertising that the company had used, including celebrities posing for them, or nurses saying that Coca Cola was good for them. Hence, this experiment proves how our feelings, memories and emotions can subconsciously influence our decisions when buying a product.

Listening to all that makes us wonder “Is this brain meddling legal?” Traditional advertising is indeed allowed for adults, as they have the mental capacity to distinguish between truth and untruth. However, neuromarketing completely erases that fine line, as the information is directly engraved into the large labyrinth of the unconscious. We have all heard of the famous “mind-controlling” practices that cinemas used, in order to impulse viewers to buy food and drinks, by projecting messages that were imperceptible to the conscious mind, which were, after it came to the viewers notice bound forever. Thus, ethical boundaries must be placed, so as to avoid illegal practices through this newly emerging science that still has a long way to cover in terms of research.

In conclusion, next time we watch television and we feel this urge to buy the product that is presented, let us think twice. Do we really need it or this or this impulse is just a mere product of our unconscious mind? Let us remember that the products do not own us, but we own them…Let us not forget the wise words of Fulton Sheen, a well-known archbishop of the Catholic Church, who once said that “advertising tries to stimulate our sensuous desires, converting luxuries into necessities, but it only intensifies man’s inner misery. The business world is bent on creating hungers which its wares never satisfy, and thus it adds to the frustrations and the broken minds of our times.” We cannot hinder the sun from being drawn by the Earth, or the magnets by metal, or the see by the moon, but we can control ourselves. Ladies and gentlemen, it is high time we freed ourselves from the manacles of consumerism that have kept us fettered long enough!

Thank you for your attention!



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