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First, They Came for the Advertisers

by nanne Mon Nov 27th, 2006 at 06:29:08 PM EST

Brendan O'Neill has a rather silly piece up on Spiked titled 'Advertising is a free speech issue'.

Let's be short about this: advertising is not a free speech issue. Regulation of advertising is not problematic, it does not restrict anyone from bringing across a particular viewpoint. The opposite holds: advertising will often restrict free speech through self-regulation of the commercial media. Such as Spiked, which often flacks for general corporate interests (as O'Neill is doing here) and also receives substantial sponsership by corporations.

(Crossposted from DJ Nozem - Berlin's Irregular Spin)

Regulation of advertising can indirectly become a free speech issue if it reflects a particular bias in society, which is what O'Neill tries to establish, saying that it reflects a larger drive to ban politically incorrect speech. He might have a convincing argument there, but uses a rather stupid example: an add that made a pun on the word 'faggot'.

Sorry, but the word is offensive, certainly in a society that criminalised homosexuality and regularly locked up gays up to forty years ago. I get the point that minorities should not be oversensitive, but pejoratives that are derogatory towards a (still disadvantaged) minority simply are harmful.

Asking them to be banned from advertising is entirely reasonable.

The main reason O'Neill has decided to be offended by regulation of advertising is that the authority in Britain has decided to restrict advertising of 'junk' food during children's programmes. He uses various fallacies in arguing against this, such as stating that children today are healthier than they were in 1900. I'm sure they are, but that doesn't mean that fast food is good for them.

He also says that advertising only has an impact on only 2% of all children's eating decisions. I don't know how significant that is or isn't. But if advertising doesn't work, why do companies advertise?

One answer to the question what effects advertising has could be that it creates a large enough amount of demand to pay for it. Another answer is that the demand for a product is more or less fixed, but the allocation of the demand between several producers is flexible and can be influenced by adverising. In the first case, regulation of harmful products is justified. In the second case, it does no harm and may even improve competition in the industry.

Either way, the public wins.

Spiked is the UK's answer to Free Republic.

Their own support for free speech is obvious in the way that they don't allow comments.

Unfortunately the site caters to a significant slack-jawed bushy-middle-eyebrow segment of the population in the UK, who are easy pickings for corporate predators because you can throw them some red-meat 'issues' and they'll faithfully follow you around like poodles who are convinced they're unstoppable crusading attack-dog rottweilers.

The article itself is very, very silly, of course. (But on Spiked that more or less goes without saying.)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Nov 27th, 2006 at 09:07:07 PM EST
The Free Republic is still occassionaly worthwile reading, though. Maybe TechCentralStation is a closer analogy, they have some level of cooperation and Spiked is moving more and more in that direction.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Nov 28th, 2006 at 02:12:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is not only the exhorbitant cost of media space that is priced into any product or service that uses them, it is also the profligate spending of the ad agencies on supporting the ridiculous life and work styles of the 20-30  year olds they employ to handle consumer business. Many of these kids are only interested in their own portfolios to move to another agency and a better paid position. It is always the client that suffers.

However clients are also to blame in being unable to define a brief. I spend a lot of my time in trying to get the sort of information out of clients that would enable us to improve their communications.

Thankfully I mostly work in B2B - an area where fiction sinks fast, and reputation management is more important than branding and advertainment.

I can't see the current business model for ad agencies surviving much longer. Like a dentist, I see my job as putting myself out of business ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Nov 28th, 2006 at 10:44:33 AM EST

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