Ideology masked as scientific truth: the debate about advertising and children

Dr. John C. Luik


Ever since the publication of Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders, it has been de rigueur among the “right-thinking” to dismiss both the advertising industry and its patrons as moral myopics at best and at worst moral outlaws unworthy of consideration in a civilized society. For many in the policy-making establishment, it has become an ideological “fact” that advertising, except in the service of state-sanctioned causes, is an evil that even democracies with constitutional safeguards for commercial speech would be better without.

Over the last several years the critics of advertising have launched a series of careful attacks designed to lay the groundwork for circumventing the current constitutional protections for commercial speech. Their strategy has been to suggest that a number of pressing national issues involving children and adolescents, underage drinking and childhood obesity for instance, require paternalistic limitations on commercial speech.