The development of consumerism represents one of the great changes in the human experience, literally around the world, over the past two or three centuries (Sterns, 2001, p. 137).

Concurrent with the development of consumerism has been the creation of new and sophisticated types of marketing and advertising. This, in turn, has altered the world, particularly the United States, and resulted in different expectations and measures of happiness and success.
From a positive perspective consumerism can benefit society. The following excerpt from Sterns (2001) adequately summarizes this notion:

Its role in responding to blurring of identity is crucial. Consumerism helps people deal with confusions about social status and with challenges to established patterns because of new foreign influence. Consumerism also, relatedly, allows quiet challenges to hierarchy, in terms of freedom and individual expression, however hollow the outcome. And, particularly outside the West, if offers a sense of belonging to a larger whole, of gaining access to the up-to-date and modern. It compensates for change, and also provokes further change in the interests of apparent personal fulfillment and new forms of identity. (p. 137-138)

While these affects of consumerism clearly benefit a developing society, the weight of the argument concerning the effects of consumerism lies heavily with the negative approach. From a negative approach, Sterns (2001) suggests that consumerism describes a basic function of our society that is populated by people who are no longer concerned with subsistence, but desire to acquire and accumulate goods.



Dependency Theory is “a major paradigm of developmental economics” (Mueller, 1996, p. 252) that states that a consequence of western development in low-income countries is a state of dependency and reliance on a capitalist system in which they cannot fairly compete. Much of the population in these countries can ill afford the goods that are marketed and advertised.

Adherents of the dependency theory frame their principles around the following four assertions:

(1) A center-periphery relationship exists between advanced, developed countries and less developed countries because economic and political power is distributed asymmetrically between the center and the periphery.
(2) Many of the tenets of classical economics, especially the Theory of Comparative Advantage, do not apply to the economic development of the periphery.
(3) The center realizes disproportionate gains from trade that favor it.
(4) Conspicuous consumption by the affluent minority impedes economic development in the periphery by diverting critically needed investment capital. (Tansey, 1994, p. 28)



The arguments against international advertising assumes AIDA, the Awareness-Interest-Desire-Action model, or the ‘Strong Theory.’ The Strong Theory is a classic approach to media effects. It approaches the role of advertising with the belief that it “is first to generate awareness and then to exert a powerful persuasive influence on consumers that ultimately results in (purchase) behavior” (Hoek, 1999, p. 25). If this model were true, for example, bans on tobacco advertisements would decrease consumption and lower the number of new users.


The arguments for the benefits of international advertising support ATR, or the Awareness-Trial-Reinforcement Model. Supporters of this model believe that the role of advertising is “to reinforce attitudes which follow desired behavior patterns and so to increase the probability of repeat-purchase behavior” and to help ensure “that brands are maintained within customers’ brand repertoires” (Hoek, 1999, pp.26-27). This theory takes into account other environmental factors and influences that may cause the initial trial of a product. The initial consumption of any product can be attributed to peer or family influences, by income, product price, or health warnings.





Provided by Megan VandeKerckhove - Meginski@aol.com
Last Updated December 5, 2002
Copyright Megan VandeKerckhove 2002 all rights reserved