Here's a hard-hitting (NOT) interview involving a couple of Pope puppets about the important issue of advertising and public policy. Like most Pope-aganda, this piece is designed to further the odd notion that corporate speech rises to the same level of first amendment protection as individual speech. In what can only be described as fawning, interviewer Donna Martinez grills John Hood about his outdated book on advertising as part of the “heroic” culture of private enterprise. Check out these choice comments from Ms. Martinez:
Martinez: I think alcohol advertising is really fascinating.
Martinez: Wow, what a claim.
Martinez: Now this is a really interesting subject, your new book about advertising.
Martinez: In your book — it is a really fascinating book.
Don’t bother to read the interview . . . or the book . . . because both are irrelevant and belie a gross misunderstanding of how modern advertising works.
Hood: Advertising isn’t the villain. It is just the way we communicate information. It doesn’t cause us to do things we shouldn’t do. We have to take responsibility for our own decisions and our own actions.
Martinez: The other issue that is pretty controversial, and has been for years, is advertising to children. What is the appropriate point at which it becomes abusive or unsafe? How do we decide those things in society?
Hood: Well, of course…we distinguish between children and adults in many ways, and we should distinguish what they are watching and listening to as well. That is something that parents need to be focused on — is what they are watching. Frankly, the more objectionable material that children watch is not the advertisements. It’s the programs in between the advertisements.
Martinez: That’s right.
Hood: And children — this may surprise people to learn this — but children watch fewer ads today than they did 10 or 20 years ago because they are watching cable TV or they are playing video games. We should worry about what the children are watching or listening to, but advertising is not the main problem.
If you're surprised to learn that children watch fewer ads today than they did 10 or 20 years ago, you should be, because the "fact" is bullshit. Today’s kids are exposed to a never-ending diet of media including music, the internets, video games, magazines, and more. And the line between content/programming and advertising is virtually non-existent. In fact, new trends in product placement, co-marketing and sponsorships are specifically designed to blur that line, capitalizing the kids’ inability to draw distinctions about what is marketing and what is not.
I suppose we have to forgive John and Donna for living in their Art Pope bubble – sort of working for a living, but mostly doing the bidding of the puppet master. Because the real world of declining family incomes, inaccessible health care, and a shredded safety net has left parents at a loss to counter the negative impacts of advertising and media messages. The argument that “personal responsibility” by parents is sufficient to save the day is right-wing delusional thinking.
Our country and our state have a long tradition of protecting those who can’t project themselves. Companies should be prohibited from advertising unhealthy products to children.