Study explores whether advertising contributes to people’s happiness

By our African Marketing Confederation News Team | 2024

Advertising is a positive force when it reduces marketplace uncertainty. But over-emphasising materialism causes problems.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Advertising has long been known to depict a virtual reality of life, leading some people to expect more out of life than is practical. This is driven by idyllic imagery and storytelling, among other techniques such as an emphasis on materialism.


As a result, critics of advertising say it creates unrealistic expectations among consumers, which contributes to disappointment when it comes to general life satisfaction. Meanwhile, others say that advertising actually enhances life satisfaction by providing consumers with valuable information that they can use to make their lives better.


These issues informed some of the questions behind groundbreaking research that examines the relationship between consumer life satisfaction and advertising.


The research article, titled ‘A Longitudinal Examination of the Relationship Between National-Level Per Capita Advertising Expenditure and National-Level Life Satisfaction Across 76 Countries’, is published in the peer-reviewed journal Marketing Science.


The authors of the study are Michael Wiles of Arizona State University, Saeed Janani of the University of Denver, Darima Fotheringham of Texas Tech University and Chadwick Miller of Washington State University. All the institutions are in the US.


Advertising may be related to life satisfaction


“Given advertising’s ubiquity and ability to sway consumption decisions, there is good reason to believe that advertising may also be related to life satisfaction,” says Wiles. “Advertising can be an effective information dissemination mechanism that individuals rely upon to gain knowledge about consumption options, ultimately improving life satisfaction.”


He adds: “Another view of advertising is grounded in the perspective that it exists to distort individuals’ preferences for consumption options that they may not actually need or want. As a result, advertising sets unrealistic or unhealthy consumption norms. This can lead to reduced life satisfaction.”


The researchers explored these issues by studying certain patterns in 76 countries from 2006-2019. They looked at how per capita advertising expenditure in individual countries was associated with national-level life satisfaction. To do this, they created empirical research models that broke down perception data. They used secondary data and conducted a series of experiments.


“We found that per capita advertising expenditure is positively related to national average life satisfaction,” Wiles notes. “But we also found that to a certain degree, too much advertising can be a negative, particularly when you consider cultural, income and other inequality factors. Advertising can, in some situations, contribute to reduced life satisfaction.”


According to Wiles, the lessons from the research are that when advertising is used to reduce marketplace uncertainty it can be a powerful force for good.


“But we always have to be cognisant that this force can over-emphasise materialism and, as a life-satisfaction tool, it can be mitigated in certain places,” he says.

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    Dr Kin Kariisa

    Group CEO - Next Media

    Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
    With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
    Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

    Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

    Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

    • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
    • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
    • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
    • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.