Society has been discussing the negative effects of advertising for decades. But now, suddenly a real backlash is occurring with concrete changes emerging in countries around the world.
Sao Paulo enacted a near-complete ban on outdoor advertising in 2007 and Spain recently passed a new law restricting advertisements that promote the “cult of the body,” including slimming products, surgical procedures and beauty treatments. Restrictions on cigarette and alcohol advertising have marked significant victories in many countries, as have limits on advertising on children’s TV shows.
Now a report by the UK think tank Compass entitled “The Advertising Effect” is a bold call to further action.
Compass urges radical new policies to restrict and control advertising, an industry whose goal they say is, “the creation of a mood of restless dissatisfaction with what we have got and who we are so that we go out and buy more.”
The Compass plan of attack includes new taxes on advertisers and a complete ban on advertising in public places, all alcohol advertising and viral marketing. But it is their insistence that we outlaw advertising to children under 12 years old that is truly revolutionary.
Warning of the role advertising plays in family breakdown, teenage alienation and premature sexualization, Compass insists, “Children should be protected until their minds are able to cope with complex selling techniques – they should be free to be children not just consumers.”
It will be the next generations who will ultimately decide whether to proceed with our hyperconsumptive way of life or embrace a more sustainable standard of living. We must take all necessary steps to prevent their indoctrination and counter the effects of advertising.
The strength and scope of the trillion dollar a year advertising industry is frightening, but as awareness grows and tangible changes are seen, there is hope that its pervasive influence on our lives can be scaled back in the future.