The speaker asserts that the many ads which make consumers want to "be like" the person portrayed in the ad are effective not only in selling products but also in helping consumers feel better about themselves. This assertion actually consists of two claims: that this advertising technique is used effectively in selling many products, and that consumers who succumb to this technique actually feel better about themselves as a result. While I agree with the first claim, I strongly disagree with the second one.
Turning first to the statement's threshold claim, do many ads actually use this technique to sell products in the first place? Consider ads like the wildly popular Budweiser commercial featuring talking frogs. There's nothing in that ad to emulate; its purpose is merely to call attention to itself. Notwithstanding this type of ad, in my observation the majority of ads provide some sort of model that most consumers in the target market would want to emulate, or "be like." While some ads actually portray people who are the opposite of what the viewer would want to "be like," these ads invariably convey the explicit message that to avoid being like the person in the ad the consumer must buy the advertised product. As for whether the many, many ads portraying models are effective in selling products, I am not privy to the sort of statistical information required to answer this question with complete certainty. However, my intuition is that this technique does help sell products; otherwise, advertisers would not use it so persistently.
Turning next to the statement's ultimate claim that these ads are effective because they help people who buy the advertised products feel better about themselves, I find this claim to be specious. Consumers lured by the hope of "being like" the person in an ad might experience some initial measure of satisfaction in the form of an ego boost. We have all experienced a certain optimism immediately after acquiring something we've wanted a good feeling that we're one step closer to becoming who we want to be. However, in my experience this sense of optimism is ephemeral, invariably giving way to disappointment that the purchase did not live up to its implicit promise.
One informative example of this false hope involves the dizzying array of diet aids, skin creams, and fitness machines available today. The people in ads for these products are youthful, fit, and attractive what we all want to "be like." And the ads are effective in selling these products; today's health-and-beauty market feeds a multi-billion dollar industry. But the end result for the consumer is an unhealthy preoccupation with physical appearance and youth, which often leads to low self-esteem, eating disorders, injuries from over-exercise, and so forth. And these problems are sure signs of consumers who feel worse, not better, about themselves as a result of having relied on the false hope that they will "be like" the model in the ad.
Another informative example involves products that pander to our desire for socioeconomic status. Ads for luxury cars and upscale clothing typically portray people with lucrative careers living in exclusive neighbourhoods. Yet, I would wager that no person whose life-style actually resembles these portrayals could honestly claim that purchasing certain consumer products contributed one iota to his or her socioeconomic success. The end result for the consumer is envy of others that can afford even more expensive possessions, and ultimately low self-esteem based on feelings of socioeconomic inadequacy.
In sum, while ads portraying people we want to "be like" are undoubtedly effective in selling products, they are equally ineffective in helping consumers feel better about themselves. In fact, the result is a sense of false hope, leading ultimately to disappointment and a sense of failure and inadequacy-in other words, feeling worse about ourselves.