NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Virtues Of Advertising

March 4, 1998

After decades of being denigrated, advertising is beginning to have its defenders. One is American Enterprise Institute researcher John Calfee who, in his study "Fear of Persuasion," argues that advertising spreads information, encourages competition, and benefits consumers and the economy as a whole.

Here are some examples:

  • Consumers in states which restricted advertisement for eyeglasses paid about 25 percent more for their glasses, and the least-educated class of consumers paid the most.
  • Before cigarette advertising was heavily regulated, brands tried to compete with one another by claiming they were healthier because of lower tar or nicotine -- thus alerting the public to the health risks involved in smoking.
  • When a National Cancer Institute campaign to promote inclusion of fiber in people's diets fizzled, it teamed up with Kellogg Corporation to tout the benefits of the company's All-Bran cereal -- and within two years one-third of people surveyed were able to name fiber as a means of cutting cancer risks.

Research has shown that about 70 percent of people say they don't believe all the claims made by advertisers. At the same time, however, 70 percent say they find useful information in ads.

Source: Perspective, "Fear of Persuasion," Investor's Business Daily, March 4, 1998.


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