Selling the Dream: Why Advertising Is Good Business

By John Hood | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Advertising and the
Consuming Child

Imagine what it would be like to be a child growing up in a society that did not allow anyone to advertise products to you. When you turned on the television to watch your favorite cartoon show, there would be no commercials urging you to purchase the latest action figures, video games, or building sets. When you went to school, you would see no signs advertising soft drinks or sneakers. When you listened to your favorite radio station, there would be no promotions in between the songs telling you about the special toys you could get with your kid's meal at the fast-food joint.

What would this experience be like? Well, there is nothing imaginary about it and therefore no need to speculate. In 1980, the Canadian province of Quebec enacted a law that banned advertising toys, sweets, and other products to children under the age of 13. A toy company immediately sued the government for violating its free speech rights, but nine years later the Canadian high court upheld it. So for more than a generation, children in Quebec have grown up without, for the most part, seeing or hearing the advertising aimed at their peers in other Canadian provinces or the United States. And, also for the most part, there do not appear to be substantial differences in how many toys they have, how much food they eat, or how happy or healthy they are.

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