The high cost of advertising

No one asked me, but I think America is too stupid for the advertising that we use. I mean when words like “new and improved” make us think that a product is better or that because we see “sale” we think there is a deal, there’s a problem.

We then proceed to spend and spend and spend.

Whether we can afford to or not is not a deterrent. It seems that we spend based on mood. For some of us, if we’re happy and we know it – instead of clapping our hands – we swipe our credit cards. If we are sad and depressed we think to buy something to cheer ourselves up. If we’re angry we think we deserve something new. When we have something to celebrate we buy something. Weddings are celebrated with gifts, as is graduations, births, deaths, going away and coming home parties. There are cards to buy for every occasion under the sun. Hallmark doesn’t miss a thing!

Advertising got us to this point. Although other countries share in the advertising double-cross, in America the Federal Trade Commission is the highest authority. This commission has the responsibility of regulating laws and rules of advertising. Now, although there is much negligence in the way the FTC governs advertising to adults, I want to get your attention by shedding a little light on what they allow to be advertised to our children.

According to the FTC there was 1.6 billion dollars spent in 2006 for advertising to our children. Interestingly enough, there is no universal definition of a child when it comes to advertising. National jurisdiction is supposed to define a child. For the purposes of advertising law, the definition of a child varies from one jurisdiction to another. It seems that,  12 is commonly used as a cut-off point, on the basis of the widespread academic view that by the age of 12 children have developed their behavior as consumers, effectively recognize advertising and are able to adopt critical attitudes towards it.

My oldest daughter is 12 and I have another daughter that’s 10. I would say that my children are definitely true to their age based on maturity. My kids are far more Disney channel and Nickelodeon than anything else. They are still naïve and innocent (Thanks to God!) and they don’t look at commercials and think to themselves, “Wow! That product was geared toward me.” My daughters were watching TV the other day and I noticed a commercial for Dove body spray which had a young girl in the commercial. Afterwards, I asked my daughters did they want to try the product, they responded, “what product?” I smiled. You get that response by limiting the amount of TV.

In any event, you can take a five-year-old down the cereal aisle and watch their expression. Look at where the eyes of the characters on the cereal box are focusing. Who are they staring at? There is a psychology to advertising that should not be allowed. Christmas can almost be considered an attack against us. A deliberate plan to get us to spend money – money some of us don’t have. Our banking system is in cahoots as we are allowed credit limits which exceed our actual earnings. Although it may be too late for us adults, I wonder what it would be like, if the U.S. and the FTC adopted the same guidelines as other countries in regards to its advertising to children 12 and under.

In the United Kingdom, Greece, Denmark and Belgium advertising to children is restricted, and in Quebec, Sweden and Norway, advertising to children under the age of 12 is illegal.

The European Union also has framework legislation in place which sets down minimum provisions on advertising to children for its 27 member States. The EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive sets out several EU-wide rules concerning advertising to children:

Advertising shall not cause moral or physical detriment to minors, and shall therefore comply with the following criteria for their protection:

a. it shall not directly exhort minors to buy a product or a service by exploiting their inexperience or credulity;

b. it shall not directly encourage minors to persuade their parents or others to purchase the goods or services being advertised;

c. it shall not exploit the special trust minors place in parents, teachers or other persons;

d. it shall not unreasonably show minors in dangerous situations

e. Children’s programmes may only be interrupted if the scheduled duration is longer than 30 minutes

f. Product placement is not allowed in children’s programmes.

g. The Member States and the Commission should encourage audiovisual media service providers to develop codes of conduct regarding the advertising of certain foods in children’s programmes.

Source: Television broadcasting activities: “Television without Frontiers” (TVWF) Directive from

2 Replies to “The high cost of advertising”

  1. Well articulated thoughts my friend. I agree that we should be more intentional about the messages we allow ourselves and our children to receive via advertising.

    1. Hi stranger! It’s good to hear from you. Thanks for your comments!

Comments are closed.