Posted by: David Kiley on April 22, 2009
A new Harris Interactive poll shows that 66% of Americans believe advertising agencies bear at least some responsibility for the recession because they “caused people to buy things they couldn’t afford.”
One-third of respondents tagged agencies with “complete responsibility” or “a great deal of responsibility” for the current economic woes. Print media, such as newspapers and magazines, were deemed in the poll to bear at least some responsibility by almost three in five respondents. Fifty-six percent of respondents said news and other information websites bear at least some responsibility.
The poll was conducted online within the U.S. March 31 and April 1 among 2,220 adults.
The question asked was, “How much responsibility, if any, should the following groups take for the current economic crisis because they caused people to buy things they couldn’t afford?”
The structure of the poll is a bit questionable. Respondents’ choices were ad agencies; print media (e.g. newspapers and magazines); news and information websites; talk shows on TV or radio; cable news programs; network and local news programs; or friends and family. Oddly, banks, Wall Street, AIG, the government, etc. were not included.
But the results speak to the disdain the public has for the advertising profession—historically in line with how they feel toward car salespeople.
My feeling is that people have the opinion of the ad profession they do for several reasons:
1. We are beset with advertising that is irrelevant to us because of the inefficiencies of targeting. So, non-dog owners are pelted with dog food ads, and men are subjected to make-up ads galore. In short, the ad industry annoys us almost daily.
2. Most parents try and do some kind of job teaching kids how to eat, what to value, etc. Ad agencies try very hard to reach passed parental guidance and get their messages straight to kids’ sponge-like brains, and succeed most of the time.
3. We have a raft of ad laws that have been enacted to correct bad advertising practices, such as photographing food to make it look more appetizing than it really is. There is a lot of case law created after ad professionals tried to hoodwink us.
I could go on. But the short of it is that we don’t trust advertising, and it annoys us a lot.
But blaming the ad business for the current economic meltdown? That seems crazy. I’d point to the advertisers themselves: banks, car companies, etc. making too much credit too available to people who did not merit it based on their income and asset levels. People lived beyond their means because they could and because the banks and finance companies allowed them to.
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