OPINION: Why I oppose harmful advertising


I was only half listening because these days I tend to read a book while the TV commercial is on. I find these high-pitched, fake voices harder and harder to take. But something caught my ear… “You have what you crave,” said the wailing voice-over.

And the tone was as if this were a creed to live by – a liberating philosophy – not crippling nonsense, not an attempt to manipulate the weak and vulnerable with a voice of revelation.

I looked up from my book. How dare you

I mean, ‘don’t long at all, learn to be content’. That’s better advice, isn’t it?

The Buddha nailed that 2,500 years ago. Jesus said the same thing.

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But there it was – the proof, put more crudely than usual, that advertisers are not our friends. Of course, there are good advertising – campaigns, good causes, and also, to be fair, when a company just wants to tell us that a decent, necessary product is available, what it costs, and what features it has. I am satisfied with it.

But too often – far too often – they want to infantilize us – make us childishly hungry for things we don’t need, as if it were somehow right to have everything.

At best, it causes unhappiness and fear. And all too often, it’s just plain unethical … leading to poor health, addiction and poverty, and fueling things that harm our badly hurt planet.

Am I wrong?

But what are you going to do then? I confess I kind of shrugged my shoulders.

Then, a few days later, I found out that in June, following a campaign by Adblock Norwich, a group of concerned individuals, Norwich City Council voted to limit harmful types of advertising and sponsorship such as gambling, junk food and polluting products.

Well done you.

I missed it at the time, but as this paper reports, the suggestion came from Green City Councilor Martin Schmierer. And Adblock Norwich is part of a national movement for ad-free cities.

As far as I know, the move is not yet legally binding, but the Council has undertaken to draw up a directive to limit harmful advertising for reasons of public and environmental health.

Let’s encourage them to keep doing it.

As a member of Adblock Norwich, it told me, “This is absolutely doable. Amsterdam voted late last year to stop advertising fossil fuels, while Bristol banned advertising for junk food, gambling, payday loans and alcohol. “

For more information on ad-free cities, see www.adfreecities.org.uk

And you can find out more about the Adblock Norwich campaign at www.facebook.com/groups/adblocknorwich

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