Can ads create new desires

 As discussed in the textbook, p. 293-4 on Galbraith’s “dependence effect”, there is some debate among philosophers as to whether advertising creates wants as Gailbraith argued in his book, The Affluent Society. According to him, as a society becomes more affluent, wants are increasingly created by the process by which they are satisfied. Others disagree though, claiming that advertising merely appeals to underlying desires already present. This issue is laiden with meta-ethical significance of course because if ads can and do create new desires, then advertisers may have a moral responsibility to avoid using behavioral or psychological means to create desires that might not in fact be good for consumers and society. On the other hand, if they cannot actually create new desires, then some will argue that this places less of an ethical burden on them since they are only appealing to desires people already have, and it’s not up to them as advertisers to decide which ones are better or worse. Rather, it is up to them to appeal to whatever it may be that consumers already do want. 

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What do you think about this debate? Can you come up with some example(s) in your life or someone else’s where advertising of one form or another created a new desire that clearly wasn’t there before? And if so, can you say if it was generally for the better or worse? 


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