Should There Be a Ban on Product Advertising?

The average American is exposed to a great number of advertising messages every day, with estimates running from several hundred to several thousand ads per day. [“Anywhere the Eye Can See, It’s Likely to See an Ad,” (New York Times, January 15, 2007)]

We see ads from a subway stop to the app we use for our music. Can you imagine a world without advertisements? Sounds appealing? I mean sure they’re an inconvenience at times but should we ban them?

That’s definitely possible, doesn’t mean we’ll go along with that now would we? Or could we?

Advertisements are used to influence a target audience or customer’s behavior by creating awareness, generating interest and persuading them to purchase their products or services. Business organizations used this as a tool, not to drive sales but at times also to achieve their set objectives or influence an opinion.

New strategies for advertisements are always implemented and brought into action to promote sales, ideas, products, services, etc. making use of the current market trends and channeling the promotions on all platforms and media to increase brand recognition.

  • Mention of the ongoing debates surrounding product advertising

Viewpoints differ, mindsets change. What does it have to do with advertising? Well not everything we see is appropriate for the community. Studies have proven public opinion gets influenced by the media they consume. The companies designing ads should be very careful of what they’re displaying because there have been times when advertising takes a political turn.

  • Purpose of the article: to explore arguments for and against a ban on product advertising

The global advertising market was valued at $495 billion in 2013 (the United States was the largest national market at $152 billion). Advertisements also pave the way for businesses to distinguish themselves from their competitors, giving them an opportunity to offer their services, freedom to express themselves, etc.

Arguments for a Ban on Product Advertising

A. Protection of Consumers

Have you ever noticed that your social media apps get filled with ads about the item you recently searched?

Doesn’t that feel out of the place? Well that’s because some businesses and social media companies share our data, leading to targeted ads. This puts the consumer’s privacy at risk because these ads rely on collecting their data. Indeed, this is a violation of privacy but it does more harm than that. People often find it difficult to distinguish an alarming ad from the others because they aren’t provided with anything else to compare to, the main reason is, targeted ads.

  • Discussion of deceptive or misleading advertising practices

We’ve seen businesses getting in trouble for making false claims or giving out the wrong impression just to increase sales. Deceptive ads are not only unethical but also illegal.

Hyundai agreed to pay more than $85 million in a settlement in 2004, after it overstated the horsepower of cars imported to the US, according to Consumer Affairs. The class action lawsuit was on the behalf of around 840,000 people who bought the 1996 to 2002 models of the Hyundai Elantra sedans and the Tiburon sport coupes.

Another example of unethical advertising was when a Reebok ad gave out a statement as a tagline, “Cheat on your girlfriend, not your workout”, this encouraged infidelity; this faced backlash from their consumers.

  • Concerns about the impact on vulnerable populations (children, elderly, etc.)

It’s easy to influence a child’s mind. Ads revolving around candies, cereals, fast foods, snacks, toys, amusement parks, etc are all targeted at children. Not only that but the ones that glorify concepts like alcoholism, smoking, a “perfect body shape”, their role models performing stunts that would urge them to imitate their behavior to be like them, leading them to indulge in unhealthy habits.

Children aren’t the only vulnerable population, it’s also the elderly. While most brands use feel good messages and words of encouragement to promote their sales, others resort to deceptive means. Using their insecurities or problems against them to trap them in scams isn’t something new, it’s been going on for a while now. Some ads promise them that their medications will help them to get rid of their joint pains, some to increase stamina, some promise weight loss; using testimonials to attract them and the list goes on.

  • Arguments related to consumer rights and well-being

Consumer rights are to protect the civilians from falling prey to false schemes and traps. These rights are to help them report a business or a firm that had wronged them or caused them harm in any way. To ensure consumers’ well-being and rights, they are being made more and more aware through campaigns, and again, advertisements, etc.

B. Reduction of Consumerism and Materialism

  • Critiques of the culture of consumption and its negative consequences

Consumer culture’s definition is, ‘a lifestyle hyper-focused on spending money to buy material goods that one thinks is a necessity because it was advertised in such a way.’ It is often attributed to, but not limited to, the capitalist economy of the United States.

To understand this, we must know what consumerism is. It is the promotion and protection of the interests of the consumers. This also leads to materialism. Critiques are of the view that consumption culture leads to negative consequences, not only promoting materialism but it aims at obtaining goods at a symbolic value.

Other drawbacks include, causing pollution, depletion in resources, possibilities of child labor, surplus goods manufactured out of mediocre quality,

  • Environmental concerns and the role of advertising in promoting wastefulness

Advertising has played a major role in promoting wastefulness by idealizing and turning the wants into the needs, thereby influencing the consumer’s behavior, leading to wasteful consumption.

Capitalism has resulted in countries, especially in countries like the United States as the business attracts buyers by proving the necessity of the product in one’s life.

Now this affects the environment too. Ads can help fight the evils but companies are always putting the product in a positive light, at times promoting goods that harm the surroundings and the climate. There are instances of surplus production that lead to unstable growth in the economy.

  • Potential benefits of a shift towards more sustainable lifestyles

Amidst all of this, there are responsible citizens that switch to sustainable and green lifestyles to give back what they took from the environment. Now it isn’t necessary that only those take these steps that had something to do with deteriorating it, all of us have played a part in it. It’s never too late to change!

Benefits to sustainable lifestyle include a promise for a better future, improved quality of the living, works to bring the community together and protection of the resources, safeguard biodiversity, etc.

C. Health and Social Issues

  • Link between advertising and unhealthy habits (tobacco, sugary drinks, )

Research says that children are unable to critically interpret advertising messages.

By now we’ve discovered that advertisements sways one’s opinions but it’s not just that, it also influences our food preferences, choices through marketing and glorifying their products like alcohol, tobacco, etc. Children and adolescents fall victim to it, which leads to unhealthy habits. These ads take advantage of their vulnerability.

Hence a task force of the American Psychological Association (APA) is recommending that advertising targeting children under the age of eight be restricted.

  • Effects on mental health and self-esteem due to idealized representations

Other than that, ads glorify a certain body type, shape and later promote goods that will help individuals achieve that; thus meeting their objectives. What they fail to realize is what it does to the viewers. Creating unrealistic beauty standards and body types, individuals feel pressure to adhere to the ideal representations in order to fit in, especially the adolescents. When failed to do so, they resort to unhealthy habits like drinking, smoking, or self-harming practices like cutting, or bullying. Not to mention that the peer pressure in this age is also very prominent; to give out a certain impression of themselves, teens resolve to any means.

  • Arguments about the influence of advertising on societal values and norms

Advertisements at times normalize unhealthy habits, glorify certain practices, encourage certain behaviors that could harm the individual’s health, cognitive development, hinder their ability to tell apart from right and wrong, etc.

It also contributes to certain mindsets, opinions and standards of living. For example, if one is using an iPhone in a business meeting, they’re said to make a better impression.

They often shape one’s aspirations, overly sexualize women, raise unrealistic standards which lead to eating disorders, low self-esteem, depressive mood, low self-image, etc.

Counterarguments against a Ban on Product Advertising

A. Freedom of Expression and Commercial Speech

Banning product advertisements would violate one’s right to speech and freedom of expression. Yes, advertising has negative effects but one cannot restrict someone’s right to speech.

Mr. Justice McKenna, dealing with advertisements said: –

“Advertising is merely identification and description, apprising of quality and place. It has no other object than to draw attention to the article to be sold and the acquisition of the article to be sold constitutes the only inducement to its purchase.”

  • Balancing commercial interests with societal well-being

Despite there being instances of companies making false claims and misleading the consumers there have been times when an advertisement has brought change through a 15-20 seconds commercial. Individuals who are seeking self-satisfaction and improvement in the society are easily influenced by advertisements and act towards a cause.

However, we cannot ban ads entirely because certain businesses decided to mislead people.

Balance is the key. Ad designers can find a common ground between commercial interests and societal well-being to cater to the people’s interests and not violate their rights at the same time. Brands should focus on casting them in a positive light, attracting top consumers by forging their loyalty to the brand. These are a few signs of a socially responsible company. When a company starts owning up to their actions and takes care of the damage they did to the environment, it increases in sales and customer loyalty. Citizens desire to lead sustainable lives, hence they’re more likely to invest in companies that prioritize societal well-being over commercial interests from time to time.

B. Economic Considerations

  • The significant role of advertising in supporting industries and employment

Advertising is known to play a significant role in supporting industries and generating employment as it helps differentiate your brand from others, retain a position in the market and the competition, ensures target and customer reach, increases employee morale, makes them want to work willingly if the customer is aware of the products and trusts the brand.

  • Potential impact on business revenues and innovation without advertising

Without advertising and marketing, the growth of a business would slow down. If people aren’t made aware of what the company has to offer, generating sales would become a challenge. Usually in advertising, the product sells itself, taking that out of the equation would reduce the chance of a business to stay in the market or the lead. It wouldn’t matter if the services offered are the best in kind of no one knows about it.

Innovation is what keeps the buyers interested, without that, the buyer would lose interest and the other industries will flourish.

  • Arguments for a regulated advertising environment rather than a ban

Rather than banning advertising, there should be regulations to avoid deceitful information being circulated, resorting to unfair means; violating the buyer’s rights. A regulated advertising environment ensures smooth flow of information, healthy competition, giving everyone a fair chance to advocate their services.

C. Personal Responsibility and Consumer Choice

  • Emphasis on individual autonomy and informed decision-making

Individual autonomy refers to that one can be their own person and take decisions that protect their interests and work in their favor. A company can try and influence customers’ buying patterns but not actually make them buy their products.

  • The role of regulations and disclosures in addressing concerns

Role of disclosure refers to giving the investors and stakeholders a glimpse of how the company works, in order to help them decide whether or not they want to invest their money, keeping the risks that could arise in future, in mind. This is crucial as the more transparent the company, more likely it is to be trusted. Disclosure could be positive and negative, it is the company’s responsibility to reveal the information in their financial statements and not misguide the investors.

Middle Ground: Alternative Approaches and Regulations

Instead of banning a concept entirely, we can always explore its alternatives that ensure to work in the best interest of concepts like societal wellbeing as well as commercial interests. Regulation of ads is to promote better economic and social outcomes, and deliver true information to the consumers. The Federal Trade Commission stated that under all circumstances claims made should be truthful. They shouldn’t be deceptive and should be backed by evidence.

Just taking care of the consumers isn’t the solution. Organizations should also take care of their employees and value them. Seeking feedback, creating a safe space for them, letting them express their concerns, valuing their opinions will make them feel appreciated.

At the end of the day, honesty is the best policy. If there is something that concerns the stakeholders or the consumers, the company should make them aware of the fact.


Throughout the article we explored arguments that supported for and against a ban on product advertising. We came to a conclusion that a few underlying evils shouldn’t be the reason we deprive the businesses of a very vital tool used to enhance their sales and stay in the market. Balancing interests of both the industry and the consumers, along with adhering to the regulations set, one can achieve great success in their field.

As we know effective advertising is availing true information to the consumers, promoting healthy competition, giving a fair chance to everyone to come forth and advertise their product, garnering attention of the audience, advertising in a way that will bring out more participation and establish a rapport between the producer and the consumer, etc.

Advertising cannot be banned, however, we can take certain steps to protect the community from false claims and information and keep them from straying away from the cause.