Economist John Maynard Keynes one mentioned advertising as an economic booster just as potent as fiscal and monetary stimuli. Edward Bernays, the man behind "The Engineering of consent" and inventor or Public Relations, would've probably agreed. Even Lester Brown from Worldwatch Institute echoes these opinions:
The communications industry is the only agency possessing the capacity to convey the knowledge necessary for sustainable development to the required extent in the timeframe we have at our disposal
Obviously, communication has been abused as a tool. In a British Library's exposition about propaganda one could see a poster featuring Japanese soldiers standing in front of a rising sun. The latter was symbolically important in the shinto religion and, in times of war, the government didn't mind linking military success with religious fulfillment !
Baron Viscount Northcliffe, owner of the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror and head of the department for enemy propaganda in 1918 (how's that for a CV), even scribbled half-a-dozen cardinal rules of propaganda. A notable one summarising his subtle psychological techniques:
Unless men are very ill or uncomfortable they resist fears and welcome hopes. The human mind dismisses fear and accepts and even invents hope with all its strength. Propaganda that merely threatens achieves nothing unless it holds out hopes also.
But communication is more than a tool. Its very form can transmute our everyday lives. In "Identity", Milan Kundera explains how in the 1920s, there was a movement promoting daily poetry. In Milan's opinion, advertisement relays this vision today as a rightful heir - It transforms simple life objects into poetry ! "Thanks to ads, everyday life starts singing" - Originally : "Grâce à elle la quotidienneté s'est mise à chanter". Enjoy your next banner ad !