Should advertising be regulated?
The average American watches over 30 hours of television per week. That means that the average American is exposed to thousands of advertisements each year. Some are for products or services that you want, but many are for things you don’t need or even want.
Should advertising be regulated? It’s a question worth asking because there has been an increase in complaints about misleading and deceptive ads on TV and online, particularly with children as their target audience. Companies have begun targeting children more aggressively by using cartoon characters to pitch unhealthy food items like sugary cereals and fast food chains like McDonalds use toys to sell Happy Meals which feature multiple servings of foods high in fat, sugar, sodium and calories. These companies know how important it is to reach children early so they can influence them into lifelong consumers at a young age when they are most impressionable.
What is advertising?
“Advertising is both a business function and an industry. An advertisement is the paid, promotional material disseminated by the creator of the content in order to inform or persuade an audience.”
What are examples of advertising?
“advertising can be found everywhere in modern society. The people who work in advertising are responsible for creating television advertisements, print ads, radio advertisements, web banners, mobile phone apps and even billboard signs.” (Lambert) There are many forms of advertising that vary all over the world. The most common form of advertisement in America would be TV commercials; these commercials range from beauty products, cars, household items and food products. Another common form is billboards which promote car dealerships or large companies like Verizon or McDonald’s. Another common form that is often thought to be the least effective is radio commercials because listeners cannot directly see what they are buying.
What are examples of types of advertising?
“There are many different forms of advertisements in modern day culture, including TV ads, billboards, print ads, website banners and more.” (Verma)
Why is advertising so popular?
“Billions of pounds worth of commercial communication is produced every year for business purposes. A large part of this communication effort has always consisted of advertisements placed in newspapers and magazines. Such advertisements allow the producers to convince the general public that their products or services are better than those offered by competitors.” (Carr)
“Advertising seems necessary because most of us need help in buying products and services, from choosing the right insurance to selecting a movie on Netflix. Many companies have found that advertising is helpful when they give away free samples of new products.” (Vranica)
How does it work?
“Advertising is a process of communication through which people and businesses try to persuade others to buy their products. In the early days, it was done by word-of-mouth. Sometimes an influential person would tell the public about a product or service they had bought and found useful. Nowadays, most advertising uses mass media such as TV, radio and billboards.” (goodplanet)
“Advertising has been around for over two centuries, making it one of the oldest forms of marketing communications. There are many different types of advertisements that can be used to promote a company’s good or services. The main forms include magazines, newspapers, billboards, television commercials and online banner ads.” (Digital Synopsis)
“The purpose of an advertisement is to persuade some people to do some things that they would not otherwise have done. It is more than mere salesmanship, as no salesman can offer a customer something which he does not know that he wants; and more than propaganda, as the propagandist seeks to convince or coerce people into believing something or doing something; whereas many advertisements contain information and suggestions for reasons why their goods should be bought – reasons independent of the intrinsic merits of those goods – but also reasons for preferring one brand of a product rather than another.” (Carr)
“Advertising has helped our economy grow and has allowed consumers to buy products, which they might not have been able to afford otherwise. For example, one of the greatest benefits of advertising is that it has helped promote and sell health and beauty aids. Therefore, it is helping people live healthier lives by consuming more healthy food and exercise.” (Lambert)
“Today, children are surrounded by commercials everywhere they go. Whether watching TV or playing video games, ads get inside kids’ heads and influence their wants and desires.”(Schlosser)
“Advertising hatches psychological hooks that turn into consumer cravings when we grow up—and then we keep paying for these same products our whole lives. It’s no wonder so many of us have trouble sticking to a budget when we’re surrounded by ads for things we can’t afford, day in and day out.” (Schlosser)
“Advertising also makes appeals to children that encourage them to pressure their parents to buy products; it presents an unrealistic view of the world; and it tries to convince children that they will be sexier and more popular if they use certain products like perfumes and deodorants.” (Carlsen)
“People who live in countries where there is little or no regulation of commercial communications often find themselves bombarded with what others would consider excessive amounts of advertising, especially in relation to the size of their economy. In such circumstances there is usually a general feeling that advertising creates excessive pressures on consumers which have adverse consequences for society.” (Carr)
Who regulates it?
“Advertising is regulated in most countries by the government. For example, in the United States the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states that advertisers should not mislead consumers through inaccurate or untrue statements.” (Digital Synopsis)
“[It] is controlled by a combination of media watchdogs and governments and has been responsible for ensuring that adverts meet certain standards and do not offend public beliefs or morals.” (Ross)
Why should it be regulated?
“In order to protect the interests of children, some argue that advertising directed at children should be regulated. The argument is that the messages in most advertisements are designed to encourage an unhealthy and negative diet and exercise habits.” (Digital Synopsis)
“Many advertisements send messages which contradict important public health messages such as encouraging people to eat certain types of foods and drink sugary drinks with high caffeine content.” (Carlsen)
The pros and cons of regulating advertising?
“Studies have shown that advertising does not have a major impact on children’s choices and only a very small effect on their food preferences.” (Carlsen)
“Critics of self-regulation argue that this form of regulation is too slow and ineffective as it relies on the goodwill of advertisers to change adverts which are considered offensive or unsuitable, even though they may contravene existing regulations.”(Carr)
“[Advertising] has been responsible for changing attitudes towards smoking in many countries, as anti-smoking campaigns have been superseded by those with a commercial motive. In some countries governments have prohibited such advertising because they felt it would undermine national health education programmes. For instance, there was a ban on all tobacco advertising in Ireland until the 1980s.” (Digital Synopsis)
“It is often difficult to determine the extent to which advertising contributes directly to sales. It is clear that any such effects are less than is sometimes claimed and certainly much less than the contribution of general economic conditions, seasonal factors and so on.”(Ross)
Should advertising be regulated? The answer is yes, but it’s not as simple as that. Advertising should be regulated in a way that would allow for both the public good and capitalist enterprise to thrive together. For example, there are plenty of ways this could happen including through self-regulation or government oversight with industry input. If you’re interested in learning more about how regulation can work to balance consumer protection with business interests, take a look at our blog post on what regulatory policies exist around the world!