Advertising’s Overdue Revolution: A Creative Analysis

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The speech titled “Advertising’s Overdue Revolution” is a very interesting read. I will attempt to break the speech down into a number of main themes discussed by the author. I will then examine each of these themes and decide whether or not I agree with the points presented. On the issues that I have a difference of opinion, I will examine why, and try to support my argument with relevant facts.

How much is advertising responsible for the highest credit card debt and lowest household savings in years?

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Let us make sure we understand what advertising is before we tackle this question. I will not be talking about one particular ad, but from the common theme underlying every ad. There is no question in my mind that advertising has contributed to this. As mentioned earlier a person gets hit with 3000 ad ideas a day. There is of course going to be things that a normal person will see in some of these ads and have a want for. However, advertising is a way for companies to communicate the ideas and products they are selling to the consumer. Can you imagine if there was no advertising at all? How could a company introduce a new product to consumers? They could lay a product in a store and hope people buy it. Of course, it may work for something that looks easy to use and when customers’ have seen similar products. What about when it is a new innovative product? Then of course how would they know what it even is if there was no label on the package. Isn’t the packaging a form of advertising at the point of sale? As you can see when you view it in simple turns, advertising is needed to sell products.

Moving into the 21st century, technology is changing, more companies are popping up, more products are available than ever before, and researchers’ ae developing new ways to advertise each year. Therefor, it is no surprise consumer debt is at the highest level in recent years.

Advertising is increasingly being scrutinized and codes of ethics are being adopted and revamped around the globe. The author of “Advertising’s Overdue Revolution” proposes three clarifications of the industry principles in North America. They are:

1. Promote only those goods and services that benefit human development.

2. Refrain from promoting reckless, irresponsible, competitive consumption.

3. Changes to laws regarding the way we market to children.

Let us examine each of these proposals and decide if it is a good idea to implement any those ideas.

1. Promote only those goods and services that benefit human development.

I do applaud the author for recognizing there is a problem and wanting to do something about. But I see a large problem with his first proposal. With capitalism, free enterprise, and little government control it is impossible to regulate industry and force them to promote only the goods and services that benefit society. Most industry’s are profit driven, answering to their shareholders for instants in a large corporation. There are a few exceptions to the rule such as non profit organizations. The proposal sounds like the building blocks and ideology of a communist government. A communist country is where the state controls the industry, economy and owns all property. In that case it is theoretically possible, but even then the government is using their own subjective view of what promotes human development.

If we believed in this principle, we would be opposed to the most obvious products that harm human development such as cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and nuclear power. We would also have to be opposed to giving kids candy as it has no nutritional value. Big Macs, Coke, Pepsi, and potato chips would all have to be banned. What benefit do these food products offer us? They have no nutritional value and one could argue that soft drinks are addictive because of their caffeine content. The list doesn’t stop at food products, but one can easily see the flaw in such a principle.

2. Refrain from promoting reckless, irresponsible, competitive consumption.

Although it is difficult to implement, this principle is possible. Keep in mind as mentioned earlier that our society is based on capitalism and free enterprise is the main theme of it. All of the companies and corporations selling products or services are profit driven. Although they may appear as not promoting reckless, irresponsible consumption, in some cases it is done just to build good public relations. Building public relations will only go so far. It is not enough to regulate the industry and let advertisers be self governing.

Let us take a look at Player’s Light for instance. Of course, they are no longer able to advertise because they are a cigarette manufacturer, and the current regulations prevent them. The firm sponsors formula one races, and other sporting events throughout the country each year. At first glance it may appear that the firm is contributing to the sport of car racing and they look like a nice corporate sponsor. However, they have alternative motives. The firm that produces Player’s Light has been accused of continuing to advertise their cigarettes by finding a loop hole in the law. Carefully examine all the posters and logos at these sporting events and you will notice that the firm has deliberately chosen to make everything the same colour as their cigarette packs. Walk into a corner store and you will notice a large sign on the wall promoting “Player’s Racing Team.” Conveniently it is called Player’s and the sign is blue, the same as the packaging for the Player’s Light cigarette’s. The point I am trying to make here is that although the firm is unable to advertise in Canada, because they are profit driven they have found a loop hole in the law, and the public relations from the whole thing is just a bonus.

The only way to effectively prevent reckless irresponsible consumption is to have government regulate the advertising industry. I mean companies can still advertise but each ad must be carefully scrutinized and must pass tests with high standards before they can be aired. There is already a government agency responsible for this. However, some would argue that they need tougher new regulations and standards as companies and firms develop more sophisticated ads.

3. Changes to laws regarding the way we market to children.

Let us examine the implications of marketing to kids. Phycologists have proven that to a child all information is educational. They can’t distinguish between advertising and other types of information. Hence, it is impossible to “target” them without being manipulative. Some countries in Europe and the province of Quebec have even banned advertising to kids under the age of 12 based on this evidence. I think most people would agree that advertising to kids is unethical. However, it is most likely not going to create a stir for example if it is Ronald McDonald and later that day your kids ask for McDonald’s for dinner. Most parents deal with that and the politicians would be under little pressure to do anything.

The real controversy begins when we hear of companies such as cigarette manufacturers’ marketing to kids. In recent years cigarette companies have been in the spot light and some have even settled lawsuits with some states, while admitting that they targeted kids with their ad campaigns for years. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that companies target kids so they later will become a frequent user or buyer. Remember I have already illustrated that companies are profit driven. Once kids become addicted, they are continually profit for the remaining of their life. Hence, even if the legal age for smoking was totally enforced, what good does it really do if a kid is already conditioned to begin smoking when they become an adult. And often cases the laws as they stand does not prevent underage smoking and drinking. It would be interesting to know how much market share and profit loss the tobacco and beer companies would have if underage usage was completely stopped.

We have examined the more serious product that can be dangerous and deadly to underage users. Let us take a look at a few different things. According to an article in American Demographics entitled “Born to Shop” children as young as three ask for brand names, and at six months babies recognize corporate logos and spokesmen. That is scary especially considering 93% of teenage girls say shopping is their favourite activity. On this issue I do agree with the author. I think we should ban all advertising to children less than 12. The evidence shows that children under that age cannot make an informed decision. To relate this to a topic discussed earlier, that credit card debt is at its highest level ever. How much of that debt is contributed to parents buying things for kids that are subjected to these ad campaigns. For example Levis’ jeans, Nike shoes, Tommy Hilfigger shirts, and other expensive brand name items that kids increasingly demand so they can fit in or so they do not stand out and get beat up. As you can see, it can be argued advertising to kids creates a number of social problems.


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