Leave our kids alone – the case for banning ads targeted at children


11:01 am - April 12th 2013

by Rupert Read    


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Yesterday morning, a campaign was launched aimed at banning advertising directed at children. (BBC radio discusion after 7min)

Why do the remarkable range of signatories we got for this letter believe I that such a ban should be brought in? Simple: Kids of 4 or 5 years old have no defence against adverts.

It’s hard for parents to shield children from all the advertising directed in the home and virtually impossible elsewhere, so we need to be responsible enough to ban the ads in the first place.

That’s the point that is undeniable about our campaign: that it just cannot be right to let advertisers effectively brainwash tiny children.

The most common argument against our proposal that we’ve heard so far is that parents should be responsible enough to control their children and not just buy them whatever they get pestered to buy by the ad-men.

But this argument really won’t wash: it isn’t enough for YOU to be a responsible parent. Your kid will still be exposed to vast amounts of dangerous consumerist drivel – through peer pressure from other kids.

In any case, as I already implied earlier, good parenting alone isn’t ever going to be enough.

However good a parent you are, you can’t control the billboards your kids pass as they walk down the street, you can’t control what other parents’ kids flaunt or demand…

Moreover, even if it was working in its own terms, the current system would still be insufficient, because under it harm needs to be proven before action will be taken.

We ought rather to take precautionary attitude to our kids’ mental health and to protecting their mental environment.
If you agree, please back our proposal: www.leaveourkidsalone.org

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About the author
This is a guest post. Rupert Read is a Green Party councillor and ran as a MEP candidate in Eastern region in 2009. He blogs at Rupert's Read and Comment is free
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Reader comments


So who will fund and provide children’s TV then?
Aah yes, your beloved BBC.

And then, when the BBC realises that nobody is paying their licence tax, who funds it then?

Or parents could try parenting.

I remember well the unquenchable urge that would swell inside of me when I really wanted the lastest toy. A toy that had been brought to my attention by a colourful and cheery TV advert. When my parents were badgered for said toy one of a number of responses usually followed:

(1) Well you have Christmas or Birthday coming up, if you work hard at school and don’t bug me about it you may just get lucky.

(2) Don’t badger me about the toy, it is useless, over-priced, and inappropriate. No means no. (To which I usually made my own version, and/or soon forgot about the toy which I later discovered was useless and over-priced).

(3) Okay, I will give you a small amount of money to do various jobs around the house and you save up for the toy. (To which I had to plan a budget)

So I totally disagree with the idea that good parenting alone is not enough. I was raised brilliantly with these ideas in mind, realising nothing came from nothing and that it usually took hard work to get these things, even at a young age.

This just smacks of more regulation, for the sack of it. It will do nothing for the desires of children to get the latest toy or gadget, and will just cost millions to administer.

If only the Green Party would leave us all alone.

There are other arguments, not least of which is who gets to decide what is and is not the approved speech to which children should be exposed.

The anti-consumerism of the authors of the letter for example is a political point of view. It is not at all obvious that wanting things and learning about markets is intrinsically harmful. Learning the difference between greed based on entitlement and reward based on thrift, is rather an important lesson for children, right or left.

Enforcing anti-consumerism on children as an ideology though would be a rather chilling state-intervention in what is currently a social marketplace with many different ideas of the good life competing for attention.

The next big issue is, if advertising to children is morally wrong because it churns out little consumers, then what?

Should all children’s films be banned, or simply the toys and clothes sold on the back of them. Should the games Monopoly (ironic origin noted) and Operation be banned? Howabout Hungry, Hungry Hippos? Should Lego be allowed to sell model shops and give Harry Potter gold coins. Should on that note JKR remove Diagon Alley from HP to improve his moral worth?

What other channels will this apply to. Should Twitter in the UK be obliged to screen toy campaigns etc. Should even non-advert-carrying programmes like Eastenders be wary of showing Bianca’s kids demanding new trainers. Given young kids are now using tablets do they have to carry special filters on the apps?

Are there other destructive ideologies dangerous to children that should be banned. Voldemort’s national socialism for example is hardly subtle. Is exposure to the ideology of Death Eaters a danger? IS Philip Pullman’s portrayal of the church in the Dark Materials series approved or not approved in a country with an established church.

And so on. What starts as a little whinge and restriction on freedom in the ASA evolves quickly into a ridiculous raft of ever more coercive measures based on a flawed premise.

Ultimately parents who don’t like their children demanding things they’ve seen on TV should control their viewing.It may be hard, but good grief, what part of parenting isn’t hard? There are plenty of alternatives to watching CITV. Alternatively they might chill out and worry more about the dangers of trying to control their children on trivia when they need their authority to be taken seriously on things that really matter like drugs and crime.

Any of you lot above who don’t support relaxing the ban on tobacco advertising to 5 year olds are hypocrites.

If you accept tobacco firms should not be allowed to advertise cigarettes at 5 year olds you have already accepted the principle that children should be protected from some advertising. The only disagreement is then over the extent of protection.

@5 PlaneShift

Seriously, is that the best that you can do? Even as straw men go, it’s lame.

It is illegal to sell cigs to minors, and to advertise cigs to anyone, in case you hadn’t noticed.

7. Shatterface

Yesterday morning, a campaign was launched aimed at banning advertising directed at children. (BBC radio discusion after 7min)

Right, the debate on advertising is to be held on a publicly funded radio show.

Why do the remarkable range of signatories we got for this letter believe I that such a ban should be brought in? Simple: Kids of 4 or 5 years old have no defence against adverts.

Children as young as 3 are able to distinguishe between adverts and TV programmes. Have you actually read any of the extensive work done on child audiences by the likes of David Buckingham?

It’s hard for parents to shield children from all the advertising directed in the home and virtually impossible elsewhere, so we need to be responsible enough to ban the ads in the first place.

The words you are looking for are hysterical and authoritarian rather than responsible. Being responsible implies taking responsibility – something you want to palm off to the State.

That’s the point that is undeniable about our campaign: that it just cannot be right to let advertisers effectively brainwash tiny children.

It is deniable because there’s extensive empirical evidence to show you’re talking horseshit. See Buckingham’s work cited above.

The most common argument against our proposal that we’ve heard so far is that parents should be responsible enough to control their children and not just buy them whatever they get pestered to buy by the ad-men.

Yeah, heaven help us if parents are expected to raise their own children.

But this argument really won’t wash: it isn’t enough for YOU to be a responsible parent. Your kid will still be exposed to vast amounts of dangerous consumerist drivel – through peer pressure from other kids.

Well if exposure to other children is the problem you’re fucked. Maybe you should teach Peregrine and Lucinda at home.

In any case, as I already implied earlier, good parenting alone isn’t ever going to be enough.

Repeating an unfounded and unjustified claim doesn’t make it any less unfounded and unjustified.

However good a parent you are, you can’t control the billboards your kids pass as they walk down the street, you can’t control what other parents’ kids flaunt or demand…

No, but you can expect the State to control ‘what other parents’ kids falunt or demand’, apparently.

Moreover, even if it was working in its own terms, the current system would still be insufficient, because under it harm needs to be proven before action will be taken.

Like wow – its ‘insufficient’ because you need to prove it causes harm before you ban something. How unreasonable!

We ought rather to take precautionary attitude to our kids’ mental health and to protecting their mental environment.

Maybe you should talk to someone qualified in ‘mental health’. For several reasons.

You lot already killed children’s television on ITV, condemning children to imported cartoons on specialist channels.

Nothing brings out the liberal parent’s inner-fascist like the thought they might have to tell their children no

Most of us agree that children need to be afforded some protection.
We vet most of the adults that come into contact with them, we expect teachers, child minders and others entrusted with their care to have their best interests at heart.
Advertisers don’t have childrens best interests at heart, they serve their clients who serve their shareholders. That’s all the more of a concern when the research, carried out for DCMS, National Consumers Council, Unicef and WHO all suggests links between aggressive consumerism, advertising and poor mental health outcomes particularly in children whose personal circumstances are difficult.
So we need to decide what, if any, protection we give small children.
If we were to apply the same standards to ad companies we expect of others who come into contact with our kids we would have the situation we have at present.

9. Shatterface

If you accept tobacco firms should not be allowed to advertise cigarettes at 5 year olds you have already accepted the principle that children should be protected from some advertising. The only disagreement is then over the extent of protection.

And if you’ve accepted that the State should control what children see you accept the argument the State should control everything adults see.

And if you accept that consumerism is bad you accept the logic only people who produce absolute necessities have the right to employment.

Being stupid isn’t a trump card.

10. Planeshift

“It is illegal to sell cigs to minors, and to advertise cigs to anyone, in case you hadn’t noticed”

That being the general point – we have accepted that it is legitimate to ban advertsing of cigs to children and have not become the soviet union as a result.

Shatterface – I wrote that “The only disagreement is then over the extent of protection”.

We can disagree over what products and services should be banned on the grounds of being harmful but once we agree that tobacco companies shouldn’t advertise cigarettes to 5 year olds we accept that it is legitimate to have bans on specific products for specific reasons.

11. Andy Mayer

The tobacco analogy is weak, in no small part because what the authors are talking about, with their anti-consumerist bent, is banning the communication of ‘harmful ideas’ not ‘harmful products’. They are not suggesting children are harmed by playing with toys, only finding out about them.

A better analogy in that regard would be the ban on racism or homophobia in commercials. But are the authors so very extreme in their anti-capitalism that they seriously believe there is moral equivalence between shopping and anti-Semitism?

12. Shatterface

We vet most of the adults that come into contact with them, we expect teachers, child minders and others entrusted with their care to have their best interests at heart.

Advertisers don’t come into contact with children.

Ironically, BBC radio presenters did.

13. Rupert Read

Most of the comments here which criticise and which are worth responding to have been answered by Jonathan or by Planeshift. The rest are already answered in the piece itself or on our website: http://www.leaveourkidsaloneorg
I just want to point something to show how sadly Shatterface’s persistent nastiness backfires, from the very start. Shatterface starts out by pointing out (sic) that our campaign started with a BBC interview. Er, no, it didn’t. It started with a letter in that well-known state-funded left-wing propaganda organ, the Daily Telegraph.

Rupert

Seriously, how will kids know what is available this Christmas? Will you publish an approved list of presents? Not everyone can get to the local organic farm, buy UNESCO adopt-a-goat coupons or visit Bluewater or The Trafford Centre.

15. Daniel Factor

You really mean ban advertising aimed at working class children who are stupid and their parents who sit round watching Jeremy Kyle and the X Factor are brainwashed ignorant masses who need enlightened Oxford educated Guardian reading “anti consumerist” sorts to tell them how to raise their kids.

16. Shatterface

I just want to point something to show how sadly Shatterface’s persistent nastiness backfires, from the very start. Shatterface starts out by pointing out (sic) that our campaign started with a BBC interview. Er, no, it didn’t. It started with a letter in that well-known state-funded left-wing propaganda organ, the Daily Telegraph.

Maybe you shouldn’t have implied otherwise. You began your OP with this paragraph:

Yesterday morning, a campaign was launched aimed at banning advertising directed at children. (BBC radio discusion after 7min)

Maybe you realised admitting complicity with the Daily Telegraph wasn’t going to win you friends here.

As to my ‘nastiness’ I’m not advocating that the State control what we people or hear.

And since you chose to respond maybe you can answer the question of just what the Green Party are goiing to do with the excess population once all the ‘necessary’ positions (growing lentils, spinning wool and making mud huts) are filled?

The reason that the Greens are considered authoritarian as well as anti-science is that they advocate totalitarian measures based on a ‘precuationary principle’ even when the evidence is against them:

Moreover, even if it was working in its own terms, the current system would still be insufficient, because under it harm needs to be proven before action will be taken.

Scary, authoritarian and anti-intellectual.

17. Shatterface

I just want to point something to show how sadly Shatterface’s persistent nastiness backfires, from the very start. Shatterface starts out by pointing out (sic) that our campaign started with a BBC interview. Er, no, it didn’t. It started with a letter in that well-known state-funded left-wing propaganda organ, the Daily Telegraph.

Maybe you shouldn’t have implied otherwise. You began your OP with this paragraph:

Yesterday morning, a campaign was launched aimed at banning advertising directed at children. (BBC radio discusion after 7min)

Maybe you realised admitting complicity with the Daily Telegraph wasn’t going to win you friends here.

As to my ‘nastiness’ I’m not advocating that the State control what we people or hear.

And since you chose to respond maybe you can answer the question of just what the Green Party are goiing to do with the excess population once all the ‘necessary’ positions (growing lentils, spinning wool and making mud huts) are filled?

The reason that the Greens are considered authoritarian as well as anti-science is that they advocate totalitarian measures based on a ‘precuationary principle’ even when the evidence is against them:

Moreover, even if it was working in its own terms, the current system would still be insufficient, because under it harm needs to be proven before action will be taken.

Scary, authoritarian and anti-intellectual.

18. Shatterface

Incidentally, the headline would violate the Trades Descriptions Act.

You claim that you are making a case for banning advertising to children when you don’t ‘make a case’ you just make a series of bizarre assertions.

Have you any stats on the mental health problems suffered by children as a consequence of seeing adverts?

Rupert – the main criticism, which you haven’t addressed, is what happens to non-BBC children’s television.

The answer is that it either shuts down, or moves to subscriber-funded channels. Banning adverts = signing the P45s of people who work in kids’ TV. Maybe this doesn’t bother you – and maybe you think children shouldn’t be watching TV anyway, but it’s something that you have to address head on.

ALso, how far do you want this to go? Can toy shops put up posters advertising their wares? What about websites, magazines and catalogues?

My feeling is that this is a very marginal issue compared to plonking the kids down in front of the TV for hours at a time, regardless of the content.

@14: Take a closer look. Our proposal is not to ban ads for products for children. It is to ban ads for products for children that are directed at children. There are different ways that this could be done. Greece does it by banning ads while kids are awake. The Nordic countries just restrict the ads directly.

@19: We don’t have to sort out all the potential ramifications; we just have to have the determination to make the principle work. As you say, there are various ways this could be handled: e.g. subscriber-funding.
The bottom-line is that if the only way that commercial TV for kids can survive is through predatory marketing directed at kids then it would certainly be better if it died.

@Shatterface: you are not worth talking to. But, just in case anyone gets confused by your nonsense, let me point out again that you fell at the first hurdle. You failed to click the first link in the article, which takes one direct to the Telegraph letter.

22. Charlieman

Independent television (ie TV with adverts) was launched in the UK 58 years ago. What has changed during that time which demonstrates increased vulnerability of children to adverts? To make life easier, limit that question to the introduction of Freeview in the UK.

WRT the website that Rupert suggests we visit, it lists four countries which have prescriptive advertising rules. I’m not convinced by that sort of argument; what others do should not determine what the UK does. But four examples (out of 200ish countries) seems a bit flimsy.

Rupert Read: We don’t have to sort out all the potential ramifications; we just have to have the determination to make the principle work.

If I didn’t know who had said this I would have guessed Iain Duncan-Smith on welfare reform. Do you want to rephrase it to something less sinister that better reflects your views?

Rupert, contrary to what you say, you do have to work out the potential ramifications – the costs and benefits. Otherwise you have no idea whether you are doing more harm than good.

Childrens TV channels can move to a subscription model. Plenty of channels work by subscription as it is. Sky and other operators offering packages will almost certainly offer a children’s channel or two as an incentive along with the sport, lifestyle, shopping, drama, movie and adult channels.

Pointing out that it has been done elsewhere simply shows it’s poossible. We’re not arguing that proves it makes it right.

If it isn’t pretty plain that turning advertising techniques honed on adults onto children of 4,5 and 6, who haven’t developed the critical faculties we have as adults, then we’re not going to persuade you. Parental common sense tells you that it’s problematic. It was brought home to me by my child’s reaction to adverts and then the crazy obsession with stuff that dominates at school. Most of the parents hate it – they just get fed up with being the mean one. Two parents vs a £21Bn a year industry and all the kids they’ve already brainwashed is a pretty uneven struggle.

If you really believe the rights of corporations trump that of children then I’m assuming you’re here because you like picking an argument rather than because you are concerned with issues. Fine, but let’s not pretend otherwise.

26. Shatterface

@19: We don’t have to sort out all the potential ramifications; we just have to have the determination to make the principle work

Stick that on a Post-It note and the Green’s can save trees by not bothering with a manifesto.

Have you got a solution to the problem of excess population in your Green future yet or are you just going to wing that too?

It’s not enough to say ‘We’re nice guys, vote for us and we’ll work out what to do when we’re in power’ – we tried that with the Liberals.

27. Churm Rincewind

@ 25 Jonathan Kent

Well it all depends on what you mean by “children”. The Telegraph letter refers to Primary School Age or younger, which I take to be any age up to 11. Yet we know that from about the age of four, children can detect the difference between commercials and programming, and from about the age of seven they understand its persuasive intent and are clear that advertisements are trying to get people to buy something (this applies to all advertisements and not just those aimed at children).

My point here is that children from the age of four or five are reasonably media literate, have an appreciation of advertising’s agenda, and can go on to discriminate between the things they want and the things they don’t. The fact that they are prepared to use every ounce of pster power at their disposal to achieve their ends is indeed a problem – for parents, but not for children.

So I’m not sure what you’re seeking to protect them against. Their own wishes?

28. Daniel Factor

The moral panic about consumerism destroying children’s fragile little minds (it’s amazing how the liberal left can be as concerned about the media poisoning children’s souls as the shrill right-wing can) is hugely prevlent amongst middle class trendy metropolitan parents.
They raise their children in such a way as to shield them away from all advertising and marketting and they ban them from watching TV, having computers, mobile phones, game consoles and DVD players.
They want to be seen to be different from mainstream parenting and more to the point to be seen to be raising their children in what they perceive to be a better way than “lower clas” parents who they sneer at for spending their benefits on flash gadgets for their kids.
In Amercia events such as “Screen Free” week and groups such as the Campaign For A Commercial Free Chilldhood are hugely popular with affluent middle class parents from areas like San Fransisco. As well as feeling and acting incredibly smug because they drive a Prius they feel they are superior to all other parents because their kids don’t watch any TV.
In the past wealthy parents wealthy parents flaunted their perceived superiority by boasting how much they spend on their children. Now they do it by boasting how little they give their children and how they worry they are being turned into “mini consumers”.

I think a lot of parents would agree with this.

30. Daniel Factor

“Your kid will still be exposed to vast amounts of dangerous consumerist drivel – through peer pressure from other kids.”

Gosh why don’t we then go and ban kids spouting “dangerous consumerist drivel”. Any kid found telling his/her mate “Hey Playstation 4 is dope you should get your parents to get you one” should be dragged off to the dungeons for filling his/her friend’s head with evil consumerist filth.

What this really is is an attempt by an anti consumerist pressure group to impose their anti consumerism on everyone else.

Consumerism is good. And far, far better than poverty.

32. The Inspector

Are parents that weak these days that they cannot say a simple no or explain how something is not needed and how money does not grow on trees?

I wanted many things as a child, and I occasionally asked my parents for them. I was denied many of these things, and it didn’t mentally damage me or my parents. Why, I can hardly remember most of things I wanted as a child.

All I see here is another attempt by the political class to censor. It seems the fashionable thing these days for them to do, no matter the political inclination.

At the rate we are going entire companies will go bust because they won’t be able to advertise their goods anymore.

33. The Inspector

The idea that children’s TV could be funded by subscription implies that subscriptions make up the entire budget of those channels, but many subscription channels still have advertisements. The idea of plowing on ahead with an idea without figuring out the implications or proving there’s even an issue is a notion that should raise eyebrows no matter what you political inclination and would set a bad precedent for other issues.

34. Richard Carey

If children are brainwashed so easily, maybe the parents could counter-brainwash them back again without too much trouble.

35. Planeshift

“Are parents that weak these days”

Yes. Yes they are.

@34 If children were brainwashed that easily advertisers wouldn’t spend so much money trying to do it – the industry is worth £12 billion a year. It employs psychologists. It has honed its arts oover decades. It works. Any parent who has seen a child react instantaneously to an ad and than had to defse a tantrum when they say ‘no’ willl instinctively understand what this is about.

@31 Since when has consumerism been the opposite of, or even the only alternative to poverty?

There’s a lot of fulmination going on amongst opponents here but no substantive points.

Questions.

1. What about product placement?
2. What about the internet?

38. Daniel Factor

I noticed Johnathon Kent and Rupert Reed are both Greens.
Greens mostly take an anti consumerist ideological viewpoint about how the world and society should be run.
Effectively what calls for an ad ban are is an attempt to enforce that ideology on society.

Here are my thoughts on this:

Because of the über standard of toys advertised today, what is their lifetime, how short is it? 6 days, weeks, months, before the kids become bored of the latest plastic fad? Where does that toy go after? A landfill site perhaps? How much do parents have to pay for buying what inevitably becomes landfill? Is that seriously a smart thing to do?

40. Richard Carey

@ 36,

“There’s a lot of fulmination going on amongst opponents here but no substantive points.”

We don’t need to give you substantive points. You have to make a compelling case, if you want the state to restrict an existing freedom and impose new, job-destroying laws, and the occasional bratty kid throwing a tantrum because he can’t get his way is not compelling. Such transitory irritations are perhaps character-forming for the young, and provide opportunities to introduce them to the Rolling Stones’ seminal ‘Let it Bleed’ album, via the last track – “You can’t always get what you want”.

@40 Richard Carey

“We don’t need to give you substantive points. You have to make a compelling case, if you want the state to restrict an existing freedom and impose new, job-destroying laws”

Interesting, you seriously think us working all hours to afford overpriced plastic tat is an existing freedom, and regulations destroy jobs, when deregulation has resulted in mass unemployment worldwide, and we are facing resource depletion problems that will cost more than jobs.

http://www.environmentalmanager.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/measuring-environmentally-sustainable-development.pdf

42. Richard Carey

@ 41,

You are misrepresenting the point I made, which was specific to the subject, and taken us off on a wild tangent that is not relevant about global unemployment and resource depletion.

If you think that the proposed new regulations should be adopted because they will solve global unemployment and resource depletion, then maybe they would be a good idea, but can you substantiate such a seemingly unlikely claim?

Is it a wild tangent? Adverts are rightly considered to be a form of brainwashing, you are bombarded by literally thousands of ads per day – all implying you are somehow inadequate without the latest must-have gimmick/gadget/toy etc. As my first comment on this thread stated, how long do those fads last before they become landfill? How much of the worlds resources are wasted on becoming landfill? If that isn’t a problem, how about the fact that in the home even the most cynical and clued up adults can sometimes let the bombardment of all those ads influence their choices. What hope do kids have?? Do you think it is wise to push such blind acceptance of consumer society, with its instant gratification memes onto the next generation, when the next generation are the ones who will have to clean up the mess it has caused?

It was you incidentally that claimed it would cost jobs to regulate – I merely pointed out that there is a counter argument, backed up by the fact that mass unemployment is a consequence of deregulation.

Right, I’ve finally had time to sit down and read through the research the campaign links to. All interesting, by the way, especially footnote 38. So:

The 3 Ws research is UK only, and again seems fairly solid methodologically – but its conclusions don’t really support your views on advertising: advertising was either insignificant or marginal (or both) in effect in terms of measures of materialism – TV use and computer use were far more significant and substantial predictors of materialism there. Children were found to be aware of what advertising was, and like adults, generally claimed to disbelieve it.

The Unicef research covers Sweden, Spain and the UK. Of those, only Sweden has the regulations you want … but the big split in the results in terms of consumerism is not “Spain + UK” and “Sweden”, but “Spain + Sweden” and “UK” (and if anything Spain the least materialistic of the three, in many cases). That suggests that it’s not the less-regulated advertising which is the cause of the problem.

The DCMS research is again UK only, and says outright in its executive summary (which I further condense and summarise here) that it’s more complicated than that, but parent/peer pressure is considerably more relevant than commercial interactions. It raises the advertising-funding issue that several have been raising here, and comes to the conclusion that it’s complicated and insufficient research has been done. On the links between advertising and materialism, it says the research is contradictory, but mostly agrees with the 3 Ws research. Also as with the 3 Ws research it concludes that the effectiveness of advertising on children is unclear, and evidence of special effectiveness compared with adults is patchy.

So that’s the research you’re using to justify the campaign?

Where are the studies showing a strong link between advertising and materialism in children? Where are the studies comparing Sweden/Greece/Norway/Quebec with other areas of Europe and Canada to show reduced materialism? Where are the studies comparing consumerism and materialism in children in those four regions before and after the introduction of the regulations?

Where, in short, is the research that actually suggests your proposal might be effective at dealing with the problem you’re wanting to fix?

“Won’t somebody please think of the children?”

Ought to be a Godwin. Strip these campaigns of their fake laudable rhetoric and we find that they are nothing other than projections of middle-class rage at the masses. They tend towards misanthropic solutions because they begin with the view that humanity must in some way be curtailed to conform to the activists prejudices. Misanthropy comes natural because it is not all about protecting my children from the visual pollution of advertising and consumerism. Other people’s sovereignty must also be surrendered to ensure conformity.

@ 44 Cim

You do make good points about no evidence that ads make more consumerist populations. Which just begs another question, if they make no difference, why do all companies pushing their wares indulge in expensive advertising campaigns to start with? Why is so much creative talent (or lack, I’ll leave to you to judge after watching/reading/walking past ad#1,200-3,000 today) wasted on the latest flashy campaign on TV and elsewhere? Does that mean that all ad agencies are pulling a fast one on these apparently poor, gullible companies?

If advertising to children was ineffective as some comments imply on this thread because even children can “tell the difference” between an advert and a programme, what is their point? Unless of course those adverts were far more effective than the claimed cynicism about adverts you get from people.

@45 Richard W

“Strip these campaigns of their fake laudable rhetoric and we find that they are nothing other than projections of middle-class rage at the masses. They tend towards misanthropic solutions because they begin with the view that humanity must in some way be curtailed to conform to the activists prejudices. Misanthropy comes natural because it is not all about protecting my children from the visual pollution of advertising and consumerism. Other people’s sovereignty must also be surrendered to ensure conformity.”

Isn’t that the purpose of adverts, getting people to surrender their sovereignty and to conform to consumerism, after all, your not worth it if you don’t have…

48. Richard Carey

@ 46 Dissident,

“You do make good points about no evidence that ads make more consumerist populations. Which just begs another question, if they make no difference, why do all companies pushing their wares indulge in expensive advertising campaigns to start with? ”

Just because they make no difference insofar as brainwashing the population into consumerism, they still serve their actual purpose, i.e., to make people aware of products and brands, which then makes them more likely to choose these products. If it wasn’t for advertising in some form or another, people wouldn’t know that the product existed.

As for your general view, that people are in thrall to the advertisers, who are capable of making us buy rubbish stuff we don’t need, what about yourself? Are you constantly buying such things, due to advertising? Or are you personally able to resist the siren song?

@48 Richard Carey

Here is an informative blog about advertising. It spells out that adverts that purely give you information about product A will not be noticed. All play on deeper levels than that. so your claim that adverts are solely about informing you about the existence of product A is not quite true.

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/02/15/the-psychology-of-advertising/

One section of this link spells out my take on advertising succinctly.

“Walter Dill Scott published a book on advertising in 1903 called The Theory and Practice of Advertising. Interestingly, he asserted that people were highly suggestible and obedient.

Scott wrote “Man has been called the reasoning animal but he could with greater truthfulness be called the creature of suggestion. He is reasonable, but he is to a greater extent suggestible” (Benjamin & Baker, p. 119-120).”

Incidentally I have in the past made terrible purchasing decisions on the basis of adverts. Which is why I at the very least do research about products before buying. Over the past year what has got through such filtering is an iPhone 5 (replaced a computer & phone that died on me), a picture frame for one of my paintings which was a gift for a close friend an e-cig (to wean me off tobacco). Of course, there have also been the inevitable Christmas presents for children in my family, of which half are no longer played with as they broke or became boring! #pester power transfer through adults….

why do all companies pushing their wares indulge in expensive advertising campaigns to start with?

Well, I wouldn’t underestimate the power of the herd. We’re pretty sure that the inflated levels of executive pay aren’t actually good for companies, but it doesn’t stop them doing it. They may well be spending quite a lot of money on ineffective adverts just because everyone else is and they can’t be sure it doesn’t work.

But assuming at least some level of effectiveness, as is reasonable, the adverts don’t need to increase net demand at all to work. They just need to redirect that demand away from competitors.

Unless of course those adverts were far more effective than the claimed cynicism about adverts you get from people.

Well, of course they are. And people say that journalists/politicians are the least trusted occupations, but still in aggregate go on to believe almost everything they say. People’s self-assessments are notoriously bad.

What the evidence isn’t strong enough to conclude is that children are especially vulnerable to this compared with adults. Perhaps – given adults’ considerably greater spending power – the ban should be on advertising to them if you think a reduction in advertising would reduce consumerism?

Kids mental health? Come again now?

And secondly can you please direct your political activities to something more worthwhile than anti-consumerist moralism.

52. Charlieman

“Rupert Read, OP: “Why do the remarkable range of signatories we got for this letter believe…”

I dunno. The problem with that list is that it is unremarkable. It just looks like a list of names who habitually sign campaign letters to newspapers.

53. MarkAustin

There have been a number of people posting along the lines of “if advertising (to children) was banned there would be no commercial children’s TV programming”.

I don’t think they realise that, in fact, they are making the case for a ban, since they implicitly accept that commercial children’s TV is mostly advertising for the spin-off toys.

@53 MarkAustin

Seriously, wtf? Are you saying that there’s no demand for Children’s programmes?

You have completely mangled the message. I do understand. How would you fund Children’s programming? Please don’t say ‘another tax’.

Mark Austin: and if advertising to adults was banned there would be no other free-to-view commercial TV programming, either. (If we take it that far, also no Liberal Conspiracy, no newspapers, etc)

That doesn’t mean that all commercial TV, all newspapers, and many internet sites exist primarily to advertise things – it just means that they haven’t found a business model that covers their expenses without it.

56. MarkAustin

54. Stuart

What I am saying is that many TV children’s programmes ARE advertising: they exist for no other purpose than to promote the spin-off products.

55. cim

Straw man argument. No-one is saying anything about advertising to adults, so your arrgument is irrelevant to the discussion.

Mark Austin: No-one is saying anything about advertising to adults

I’m aware of that! I did read your site, and all the highlighted research. I’m now asking “why not?”.

Adults:
– have far greater spending power to be consumerist/materialist with, and indeed the campaign is to some extent about their spending, not children directly spending their own money
– have far more direct and measurable influence over their child’s attitudes towards materialism/consumerism than advertising (according to the campaigns own highlighted studies)
– make similar self-assessments of their abilities to understand and disbelieve advertising (according to same).

So why do you believe that there is a far stronger case for banning advertising to children than there is to adults, to the extent that you’re not even making the second suggestion at all?

None of your highlighted research suggests that banning advertising to children would have more than a marginal effect on levels of consumerism: some of it suggests that there isn’t even a strong correlation between the two. Meanwhile most of the “common sense” arguments you make that aren’t actively contradicted by your highlighted research apply equally or more strongly to adults.

So … why not suggest banning advertising to adults / older children? What’s the case for only banning advertising to younger children?

58. Ian Barber

@25. Jonathan Kent

“Two parents vs a £21Bn a year industry and all the kids they’ve already brainwashed is a pretty uneven struggle.”

Finally – a fact.

Yet TOTAL UK advertising spend annually is £16bn. And DCMS estimates advertising of children’s products (but not TO children) at £350 million.

So it seems advertising is not alone in standing accussed of wilful manipulation.

Why would a supposedly seriously intentioned campaign spout such nonsense. Utterly self defeating.

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Really though, we’ve had advertising directed at kids for years and they haven’t turned into a bunch of criminals or psychopaths. To be honest, it’s just not that bad and shouldn’t be a priority. Leave those ads alone!


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