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Advertising Doesn't Work

Advertising is offensive, expensive, and takes advantage of the vulnerable members of our society.

Advertising in America is more intrusive than in any other industrialized country. Yet, in spite of the fact that most Americans are exposed to an estimated 1,000 advertising messages every day, the majority of us are hardly influenced, at least not in the sense that it induces us to buy anything.

Advertising as a means to sell a product or service is simply not effective. People know that advertising is propaganda and don't trust it, nor do they remember it. According to market research studies, only 9 percent of television viewers can name the brand or even the product category they saw advertised a moment before.

If we as consumers have personal experience and a network of friends and relatives whom we can trust to Macy's ad found in the San Francisco Chronicle recommend products and services, this is most likely to influence us. When survey research studies of the final sales influence are conducted, rarely is advertising credited by the survey respondents as a reason for choosing a product or service.

We seem politically and morally blind to the fact that so many ads are dishonest. The victims of this self-serving industry are children, the economically poor, tourists, the elderly, and the educationally disadvantaged. Preschool children, for instance, have not yet learned to be defensive and wary of commercials as have their older siblings and cannot distinguish between television programming and advertisements.

This is not to imply that the majority of advertising agencies or their employees are evil and calculating, attempting to make our lives miserable for a profit. Ad agencies exist to serve their clients and are extremely vulnerable to their every whim. There is little loyalty in this industry. And we, the buying public, are equally guilty, as to a large extent we use advertisers to support their media. Regardless of how tasteless an ad or how corrupt the business supporting that ad might be, by our silence we give them the power over our media.

Those of us who would prefer to use our dollars wisely might consider more actively supporting public television and radio as well as journals and general-interest magazines without advertising. They can stay in business only if their community wants the information they have to offer badly enough to pay for it.