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Advertising, a form of commercial mass communication designed to promote the sale of a product or service, or a message on behalf of an institution, organization, or candidate for political office. Evidence of advertising can be found in cultures that existed thousands of years ago, but advertising only became a major industry in the 20th century. Today the industry employs hundreds of thousands of people and influences the behavior and buying habits of billions of people. Advertising spending worldwide now exceeds $350 billion per year. In the United States alone about 6,000 advertising agencies help create and place advertisements in a variety of media, including newspapers, television, direct mail, radio, magazines, the Internet, and outdoor signs. Advertising is so commonplace in the United States that an average person may encounter from 500 to 1,000 advertisements in a single day, according to some estimates.
Most advertising is designed to promote the sale of a particular product or service.
Some advertisements, however, are intended to promote an idea or influence behavior, such as encouraging people not to use illegal drugs or smoke cigarettes. These ads are often called public service ads (PSAs). Some ads promote an institution, such as the Red Cross or the United States Army, and are known as institutional advertising. Their purpose is to encourage people to volunteer or donate money or services or simply to improve the image of the institution doing the advertising. Advertising is also used to promote political parties and candidates for political office. Political advertising has become a key component of electoral campaigns in many countries.
I believe that advertising has important economic and social benefits. However, advertising also has its critics who say that some advertising is deceptive or encourages an excessively materialistic culture or reinforces harmful stereotypes. The United...