Further evidence today from the BBC on the influence of advertising on children. Regular Cru-blog readership will be aware of my on-going enthusiasm for a ban on advertising aimed at the under-12s in the UK. On the basis that they're too young to understand the difference between what an advertiser tells them: "you must have a doll with her own make-up bag and beauty equipment" and what a teacher or adult tells them: "you must look both ways before crossing roads". As Adbusters like to periodically remind us - the average American teenager sees 100,000 alcohol advertsisements before reaching the legal drinking age (point taken - these are not necessarily aimed at children, although I think some alcopops ones do appear to be). Compare this with, at best, a few hours of education about the risks of alcohol and drugs and smoking. Net result: they don't stand a chance.
And in answer to the most popular counter-arguements on the subject...
1) It would hurt the economy.
It might be bad for the advertising industry, true. But it would probably be great news for places like the early learning centre which sell educational toys. It might be bad for the bigger chains, like McDonalds, but it would be good for smaller family-run restaurants. And the loss to chains like McDonalds would be partly recouped by the reduced cost to them of advertising. And if kids demanded less stuff from their parents, the parents would have more money to save or to spend on other things. And even if netting all these factors off it did hurt the economy a little, who is to say it wouldn't be worth it?
2) Why can't we give people free choice?
In order for people to effectively exercise free choice they need balanced unbiased information on the situation. Children can make their own choice about advertising once they are old enough to recognise it as such and understand what that means and what views it therefore represents. Personally I think 12 is a pretty low estimate of the age at which that is possible. We don't let kids drink or smoke at that age. So why should we allow them to be bombarded with messages advocating unhealthy and addictive lifestyles?
3) What about the sports, public transport, etc that is partially funded by advertising?
There's a reason why advertisers are prepared to pay for good advertising slots. Because it brings in more money than it costs. We shouldn't be running out sports facilities or our public transport on money donated by corporations alone. The next step is advertising in schools (already happpening in the US - see these horror stories) and a slippery slope to advertisers being involved on decisions about what to sell in school tuck shops (to the point of guaranteeing certain levels of sales to the pop manufacturers) and what to put on the curriculum . Eventually the corporations would run our education system. Is that what we want?
...oh and by the way - today is Buy Nothing Day. Why not see how hard you find it to go 24 hours without buying anything. Pretty hard huh? And if it goes well the next event in the anti-consumerist, anti-media diary is TV turn-off week in April.