Everyone imagines that advertising has as its goal the satisfaction of the consumer’s desire. A person supposedly obtains happiness by buying the product.
However, the logic of such a supposition actually leads to the opposite conclusion: advertising does not create satisfaction but dissatisfaction. It constantly proposes to the consumer that which he does not have and which is just beyond his reach. He is promised status if he buys a product that is above his current economic level and tends to be uneasy until he reaches his new status.
What makes people happy is not upward comparisons but downward comparisons. A person experiences a certain happiness knowing he has advanced economically and not when he is challenged to buy a more expensive product. Advertising is successful to the degree it increases uneasiness with one’s present status.
Robert E. Lane notes that, “Although it is said that the function of the market is to satisfy human wants and so to maximize various satisfactions, it is not true that the function of advertising is to maximize satisfaction; rather, its function is to increase people’s dissatisfaction with any current state of affairs, to create wants, and to exploit the dissatisfactions of the present. Advertising must use dissatisfaction to achieve its purpose. (Robert E. Lane, The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2000, p. 179.)