THE ADVERTISING EFFECT
How do we get the balance of advertising right
Zoe Gannon and Neal Lawson
We would like to thank the Polden-Puckham Charitable Foundation for their invaluable support for this project. While the words are our own, we would also like to thank all those who advised us: Colin Crouch, Victor Anderson, Howard Reed, David Ritter, Willie Sullivan and Melanie Smallman. Also thanks to everyone in the Compass office who helped: Joe Smee, Bryan Young and of course Gavin Hayes.
About the authors
Zoe Gannon is the research coordinator for Compass. Neal Lawson is the chair of Compass and author of All Consuming (Penguin, 2009), www.allconsuming.org.uk.
Published by Compass − Direction for the Democratic Left Ltd Southbank House, Black Prince Road, London SE1 7SJ T: +44 (0) 207 463 0632 firstname.lastname@example.org www.compassonline.org.uk Designed by SoapBox, www.soapboxcommunications.co.uk
Executive summary Introduction: advertising and the good society The good society The principles behind the regulation of advertising 4 7 9 10 12 12 13 14 14 16 16 18 18 19 20 21 21 22 23 23 23
The problems caused by the advertising effect
Sowing too many seeds of unhappiness Consumer debt Time The environment
How can we counter the advertising effect?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Ban advertising in public spaces Control advertising on the Internet End the commercialisation of childhood Tax advertising Introduce a time and resources levy Put the agencies’ mark on their work Introduce statutory regulation of the advertising industry
1 UK advertising regulation 2 Advertising – a brief history
As long as there has been something to sell, there has been something to advertise. Advertising plays an enormously important role in our economy and culture, and it is important to recognise this. However, the extent and nature of advertising is changing dramatically and as a society, rather than just a market (or Meerkat as we now know it), we need to understand the consequences of the changing nature of advertising and make decisions about what, if anything, should be done to counter it. This document is being published to spark a long overdue debate about an industry that in recent years has changed dramatically, and ask whether regulation needs to catch up.
‘The central argument of this report is that this changed advertising environment should not happen by stealth; instead it should be discussed in the open and ultimately be up to society to decide what is advertised, when, where and how.’
1. Juliet Schor (2004)Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture
We live in a moment of ongoing financial difficulty caused in part by a toxic mix of greed and debt that many have argued was fuelled by an insatiable desire for more. It is for this very purpose that the advertising industry exists – to persuade us we always need more. We live also in an age of climate change, brought on and exacerbated again in large part by the West’s desire for more: more flights, cars, fridges, gadgets and just about anything else you can think of. A desire for more that is transported around the globe by advertising that projects only one way to achieve happiness and one route to progress. Other ways of living are at best ignored and at worst undermined by adverts exported around the world designed to persuade everyone to live the life of the fully loaded Western consumer. This is now reaching what appears to be a crisis point, a point where we must pause and start to ask the big questions: How do we want to live our lives? Is
society broken? and why are we getting richer but not happier? There is little point for hysteria here but we do need a discussion about the future of advertising. Although advertising is just one part of a much bigger system it would be wrong to ignore the role that advertising...