As advertising and marketing efforts become increasingly ubiquitous in modern Western societies, the industry has come under criticism of groups such as AdBusters via culture jamming which criticizes the media and consumerism using advertising’s own techniques. The industry is accused of being one of the engines powering a convoluted economic mass production system which promotes consumption. Some advertising campaigns have also been criticized as inadvertently or even intentionally promoting sexism, racism, and ageism. Such criticisms have raised questions about whether this medium is creating or reflecting cultural trends. At very least, advertising often reinforces stereotypes by drawing on recognizable “types” in order to tell stories in a single image or 30 second time frame. Recognizing the social impact of advertising, MediaWatch, a non-profit women’s organization, works to educate consumers about how they can register their concerns with advertisers and regulators. It has developed educational materials for use in schools. The award-winning book, Made You Look – How Advertising Works and Why You Should Know , by former MediaWatch president Shari Graydon, provides context for these issues for young readers.
Public interest groups and free thinkers are increasingly suggesting that access to the mental space targeted by advertisers should be taxed, in that at the present moment that space is being freely taken advantage of by advertisers with no compensation paid to the members of the public who are thus being intruded upon. This kind of tax would be a Pigovian tax in that it would act to reduce what is now increasingly seen as a public nuisance. Efforts to that end are gathering momentum, with Arkansas and Maine considering bills to implement such taxation. Florida enacted such a tax in 1987 but was forced to repeal it after six months, as a result of a concerted effort by national commercial interests, which withdrew planned conventions, causing major losses to the tourism industry, and cancelled advertising, causing a loss of 12 million dollars to the broadcast industry alone.
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Video: Captive Audience: Advertising Invades the Classroom