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Debate: Ban on advertising

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Should advertising be banned?

Background and context

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Morality: Is advertising in principle immoral?

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Pro

  • Advertising promotes non-rationality. There is nothing moral about encouraging customers to be non-rational and impulsive in spending.
  • "Advertising manipulates small children even before they reach the age when they are legally responsible for their actions." [Vance Packard, "The Hidden Persuaders"]
  • Advertising exploits our deepest fears, sensitivities and yearning. There is nothing moral about such actions, the less for commercial purposes.
  • Advertising creates an attitude of wastefulness. There is no justification for encouraging the "psychological obsolescence" of products currently in use.
  • Many adverts are not justifiable on moral basis. There is no justification for promoting products that effectively ruin people's health (cigarettes, alcohol) and cause several millions of deaths annually. Worse still, it cannot be ensured that such advertisements do not reach and affect children.
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Con

  • Advertising leaves everybody better off. Not only do the consumers benefit from the products they buy thanks to adverts, but also the whole economy benefits from these "impulsive" buys, thus leaving everybody better off (both the producers and consumers). Thus, advertising cannot be really immoral.
  • Advertising boosts the economy. The economy is boosted by the economy in many ways. First, it promote consumers from buying products from producers. Many companies, especially new, upcoming business, could not survive without advertising Second, the advertising industry is huge. Not only does it keep vast amounts of money cirulating throughout the economy, it also employs many workers responsible for generating the advertisments.
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Economics: Is advertising vital for growth of our economy?

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Pro

  • Advertising curbs imperfect information. Advertising is necessary for consumers, as it not only promotes new products, but it also provides essential information. Imperfect information can result in market failure, therefore anything that limits it should be encouraged.
  • The more is produced, the more needs to be consumed. Without advertising, people wouldn't be buying things they do not necessarily need, which would slow the economy down, as economy cannot grow unless people consume.
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Con

  • Advertising exacerbates imperfect information. Advertising always presents one point of view and thus does not help consumers make more informed decisions, quite the contrary.
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Freedom: Are advertisements a valuable form of expression?

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Pro

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Con

  • Advertising is a mere distraction, disturbance. Omnipresent advertising merely annoys people, as it effectively destroys beauty of historic centres in cities, distracts drivers (and thus poses a threat to their security), and - for example - takes up space in newspapers (in place of articles).
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Enforcement: Is the ban feasible?

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Pro

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Con

  • There is no way to ban advertising. Taking into consideration that adverts are omnipresent in today's society, it is not feasible to regulate them. The Internet, newspapers, TV, billboards, posters, radio, magazines,... - all media are packed with advertising, a flourishing business.
  • Difficult to "draw the line". Are informative leaflets going to be banned as well? And negative adverts? And if there are colourful posters without an inscription, is it considered an advert (if the product for which it is a promotion is linked to the posters after some time)? Are "112" posters informing about police/ambulance/fire fighters also "an advert"?
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Slippery slope: Does the ban not lead to unforeseen harmful consequences?

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Pro

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Con

  • Dangerous precedent. Ban on advertising is in effect a restriction on freedom of expression and freedom of press, which not only goes against the basic values of modern societies, but it also sets a precedent for censorship of media. Therefore, it would be made much easier for governments to control media and thereby deny their citizens basic human freedoms.
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Gain: Would any gain from the ban be significant?

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Pro

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Con

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See also

External links and resources:

Books

  • Vance Packard - The Hidden Persuaders

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