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Advertising During the Holiday

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  • Pages: 8
  • Word count: 1763
  • Category: Ramadan

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Religion significantly influences people’s attitudes, values, and behaviors at both the individual and societal levels. Religion also provides a source of meaning and purpose for its followers, thus making it both comprehendible and interpretable. Religion teaches us good practices and provides a plethora of social behaviors, thus religion with its values and practices are often utilized and responsible in influencing ones’ everyday life. This can be done with the help of symbols and rituals. One way we see religious symbols in our life is through advertising. The moral values of right and wrong are key in choosing what marketing strategy should be best implemented.

Members of a religion possess common belief systems, which may influence that group’s behavior, inevitably their purchasing habits. Even though attitudes and behaviors are directly influenced by at least the perception of religious-rooted aspects in culture, religion’s impact on consumption have not been widely studied. Studying religion and the way one’s religious beliefs affect their perception towards the advertising of products has been studied. There is a pattern found across the globe and many religions. There is a vast distinction among product groups and the major religions of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and non-believers. The product groups are social/political services, gender related products, health and beauty, as well as addictive substances including caffeine.

Advertisers utilize demographics acquired through research and census’ to find out the specific make up of their target audience. Once this target audience has been identified companies will begin to exploit this group by almost any means necessary. This includes utilizing the one thing that it most sacred to us all, that is religion. Advertisers use a multitude of tactics to succeed at this task.

The most obvious is in advertisements that would not typically fit our religious beliefs. We view these and the religious undertones are usually quite apparent. For example, a woman wearing a Hijab to a person of Muslim faith would be nothing but customary, while to a Christian this same woman would be a glaring example of something different. This may seem benign, however cultural and especially religious beliefs must be accounted for in all advertisements. What sells well in one region may not sell the same if advertised the same in another region with consumers of a different, and often opposing religious beliefs.

Muslims consider Islam to be a complete way of life, one characteristic that separates Muslims from followers of other religions, is that the influence of religion is very clear in every aspect of a Muslim’s life. This is dictated in the Koran and is considered Sharia law. The Sharia Law is a comprehensive code governing the duties, morals and behavior of all Muslims, individually, and collectively in all areas of life, for both men and women. Logically all areas of life would include marketing and commerce. Sharia law describes the values that Muslims should possess, truth, honesty, social obligations, justice, collective responsibility, and the roles of gender.

The Islamic Sharia law dictates everything one should do emerges from Islamic teachings. The teachings are the “Koran’, ‘Sunnah’ conduct of the Prophet Mohammad, “Mantiq” or reasoning, and “Ijma” the consensus. Islam has not addressed many of the modern phenomena such as marketing and advertising explicitly, but it’s expansive value system consequently influences advertising evaluation, execution and content. Muslim activities are categorized as “sharia’ or lawful and “haram” unlawful which constitute a system of values for assessing other’s speaking and behavior as well.

Advertisements which portray prohibited elements offend or may be perceived as offensive. Advertisements that ignore these may have an adverse effect to their current and future sales, as well as their ability to reenter the market in the future. In an attempt to relate basic Islamic values to advertising and avoid financial losses, companies have set their focus on values to which Muslims hold most precious truth, honesty, politeness, responsibilities, as well as social and collective obligations. By general practice Muslims should keep away from falsehood and deception. This principle is key to the formulation of advertisements. Business’ cannot lie and should avoid any excess or alteration of the truth. This suggests that advertisers should strive for excellence and more importantly truthfulness. Therefore, Muslims process exaggerated messages in advertising such as a lie or even puffery, as an intent to mislead them.

Muslims also find the advertising of gender related products, social/political groups, and health and beauty products to be offensive relative to the other religions. Moreover, the more devout one is towards one’s religion the more an advertisements tone is important. Finding the perfect balance in an audience has proven to be a difficult science. This can be seen most glaringly in the Middle East. Here advertisement not only has to conform to religious ideology, it must also conform to multiple religious ideologies within the same religion. In the Arab world, the outward appearance of woman Is accepted at different levels, thus forcing advertisers to alter their strategy. Egypt and Lebanon were found to depict women who are dressed less modestly than Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Globalization and hegemonic content within advertisements have created great strife among the Muslim nations. Contrasting with Islamic values, Muslims gravitate towards the negative evaluation of an advertisement. Muslims think that advertisements present western values and ignore Arab history and customs. This has become a widespread conflict that varies in degrees of response. Some countries have banned certain types of advertisement to maintain their religious and cultural convictions.

To overcome religious barriers and to further the respect of Islamic values, most advertisers utilize Islamic elements to produce a favorable feeling among Muslims. One method advertisement companies utilize is the use of Qur’anic words to enhance the persuasion the advertisement contains, and make it more palatable to the Muslim population. Examples are the words “Bismillah” in the name of God or “All ahu Akbar” God is greater. Companies utilize these words to describe their product and how it may be made, or made to make you feel. The value of these words generates a greater appeal and ultimately sells more products.

One more aspect of religion that is emphasized in advertising is religious holidays and seasons. One example is Ramadan, the entire month is a period of increased spirituality and religious contemplation for Muslims. As a result, the whole sphere of a Muslims life including their behavior of consumption, and communication is different. Companies target fewer ads during this holy time, and place a greater focus on charitable messages, and more conservatively dressed models in their ads during this period. Advertisers intentionally tone down the way they depict women in their commercials. This is typically attributed to a form of respect for the Islamic principles and values during this holy time of Ramadan.

Religious beliefs are not the only antagonist to advertisements. Governments themselves often meddle with the way religious items may be utilized. One example is France. France’s controversial new law banning the overt display of religious symbols in school, directed at the wearing of the hijab, brings to the forefront the contemporary significance of the veil as a culturally constructed symbol of female Islamic identity. Westerners often regard the hijab as a symbol of backward cultural, gender politics, and even fundamentalism, but the practice of adorning the hijab among Muslim women is based on religious doctrine. These laws against a certain religion also dictate how a company may or may not advertise. Clearly in the instance of France this law disrupted the entire need to advertise this product.

In Malaysia, Islam exerts great influence on advertising regulations. The Islamic principle of covering the “aurat” or private body parts, for women and the prohibition of using women as sex symbols in advertising are strictly enforced. Some Malaysian advertising codes stipulate that female models in advertising must be fully clothed up to the neckline. The length of the skirt must be below the knees. The arms may be exposed only to the edge of the shoulder without exposing the underarms. While less strict than the middle East, this kind of censorship is unfathomable in western society, even in most Christian faiths.

Christianity comes in a multitude of forms, but all tend to have the similar core beliefs. This also influences advertisement in what I would consider our culture. Identifying as a Christian you tend to gravitate like Muslim’s towards items and words that are pertinent in our beliefs. The most common uses of symbols in advertising are the cross and the sign of the fish. When targeting an evangelical audience advertisers will use models that wear a necklace with a cross. The use of the cross is acceptable across all Christian beliefs. Marketing firms also target Christian audiences through peak religious seasons as well. The most notable season is Christmas. This religious holiday has been so over saturated with marketing ploys and schemes that its time has been inadvertently extended from one day to an entire season. However, in the United States it has been found that if you place to many religious items in an add it has an adverse effect on the sale of the product.

This is most prevalent with non-believers and the youth. Advertising companies are reporting a drastic decline in the effectiveness of religion in advertisement throughout western civilization. One can attribute this to the lack of connection the consumer will have with the advertising model if he/she is seen as something other than themselves. Religious items of any kind can be seen a subversive or even discriminatory to certain segments of the population. As this segment continues to grow so will the decline in the use of religion in advertising.

Advertisements are judged differently by individuals, based on a social acceptance. Cultural groups differ in their attitudes, prejudice’s and values they possess, and thus each group will develop its own unique response, and understanding of the advertisement. In a diverse world, a message that is sent, may not always be the message that is received. Productive advertising provides information and uses symbols and language including religious ones that are in line with the views of the audience, because customized advertisements are more successful. Advertisers use signals, like culturally similar models, common cultural symbols, and religious language with the hope that the signals will be comprehended by the target audience. With this knowledge one can only conclude that advertisers may be curbing the way they use religion, but it is still key to their decision in production of adds.    

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