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Does Advertising Serve Your Purpose?

By: Charles Kovess (view speaker details)

Charles Kovess
What is the purpose of advertising? Answers vary but, essentially, it's to sell, or sell more of, a product or service.

This implies that advertising tries to make us discontent and spend more. Being discontent or unhappy with something suggests that upgrading it or replacing it with a bigger or better version will make us happy. Will it? Do possessions make us happy? Do they satisfy the deepest longing of the human heart? Many would say no, yet the underlying message of most advertising is that happiness equals possessions.

US psychologist Tim Kasser disagrees: "People who place high value on material goals are unhappier than those who are less materialistic." In simple words: less is more - less possessions equals greater happiness.

If possessions don't make us happy, what does?

If we define happiness as the richness of the human experience, then better relationships, more appropriate human contact and deeper social experiences are the key to happiness.

Alternatively, if we define happiness as living a life that means something significant, a life of meaning, then discovering such a life by pursuing our passions would be the key.

Interestingly, according to some sources, in the original draft of the American Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote that all have the right to life, liberty and "the pursuit of possessions"; later revised to "the pursuit of happiness". Centuries later it seems we are still pursuing possessions as a substitute for happiness.

What would you value more - a million dollars or life itself? We all understand this, so why doesn't the lottery give away happiness instead of money? The simple answer is it can't. It can give away money, but it doesn’t have the power to create happiness - we do.

Money will buy you stuff, more money will buy you more stuff and advertising can help you in that regard. If by buying more we help fill advertising's purpose, what does that do to ours?

We define our purpose, and have the power to create happiness. Realising this might not make us immediately happy, but it can enlighten and motivate and provoke us to do something about it.
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