Consumer Affairs published and article today titled, “Do Advertising Bans Deter Bad Habits in Youth?” The article raises some interesting concepts, most notably that bans on alcohol and tobacco related advertising does not quell these high-risk behaviors by youth.
The focus of the article is on the review of studies conducted to support advertising bans. Jon Nelson, professor emeritus of economics at Penn State is quoted in the article as stating,
“The studies, in fact, are deficient in so many respects that the big question is whether there’s any influence of marketing at all, especially the mass media.”
Well, Mr. Nelson, I can tell you, without a doubt, that if bans and regulations were lifted, the marketing of tobacco and alcohol products to youth will have a dramatic effect. Usage will increase. This is because smart marketers know how to get people to do the things they want them to do. And that is precisely why the limitations are in place.
We know that effective marketing will push behaviors in a certain direction. I believe what Mr. Nelson is trying to convey is the absences of marketing does not necessarily push behaviors away from risk taking. While I agree with the sentiment, when it comes to teenagers smoking and drinking, a stalemate is a pretty decent, albeit not perfect, solution.
And how can you expect more? There is a proliferation of “adult” advertising that teenagers resonate with. 17-year old girls are not trying to emulate other 17-year old girls, they are trying to emulate sophisticated and beautiful adults. Like the women these ads:
Even if you take advertising out of the equation, look at what teenage and young adult movie stars are show doing on a regular basis. Images are prolific of the “it” stars Robert Pattison and Kristen Stewart smoking. And what teenage girl isn’t currently in love with Pattison? (Marlboro must simply love this image of Pattison).
The bottom line is you can blame advertising for getting people to do something. But can’t blame the lack of advertising for unsuccessfully preventing action. Community hospitals, government agencies and other healthcare organizations that want to decrease risky behavior in youth should spend money on “anti” campaigns. Because, like I already said, good marketers can make people do what we want them to do.
A couple of anti-smoking “youth” ads found on the 10steps.sg website…