Think of me as Evil?: Opening the ethical debates in advertising

Think of me as Evil?: Opening the ethical debates in advertising

Category: Reports

Source: Public Interest Research Centre and WWF-UK

Author(s): Jon Alexander, Tom Crompton, Guy Shrubsole

Year: 2011


This report argues that modern advertising’s impact on British culture is likely to be detrimental to our wellbeing, and may well exacerbate the social and environmental problems that we collectively confront. The balance of evidence points clearly in this direction.

The standard defences of the advertising industry can be summarised in three assertions, which, taken together, reflect the main industry response to critics of advertising:

1: Advertising merely redistributes consumption
2: Advertising is simply a mirror of cultural values
3: Advertising is about the promotion of choice

This report addresses each assertion in turn. It finds that, while there is material to support each claim, there is also substantial evidence to the contrary. We present evidence that advertising increases overall consumption; that it promotes and normalises a whole host of behaviours, attitudes and values, many of which are socially and environmentally damaging; that it manipulates individuals on a subconscious level, both children and adults; and that it is so pervasive in modern society as to make the choice of opting-out from exposure virtually impossible.

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