The advertising industry is, with no little irony, extremely poor when it comes to selling its own strengths. Okay, so that’s not completely true – the industry does do a great job of communicating what it can deliver for advertisers. But considering most advertising is aimed at the general public, the industry isn’t quite so strong when it comes to emphasising the positive role advertising the industry plays in wider society.
However, this week there have been some refreshingly positive articles about how advertising can act as a force for good. On Forbes, Adam Thierer makes a strong case explaining how advertising is the lifeblood of most media and supports freely accessible information generally:
Advertising plays the same role in your media diet that vegetables play in your regular diet; most of us would prefer to skip that course and go straight to dessert. But, just like veggies, advertising plays an important role in sustaining a body; in this case, a diverse body of content.
Advertising is the great subsidizer of the press, entertainment, and online services. “It’s possible that no single industry — not newspapers nor search engines nor anything else — has done as much to advance the storehouse of accessible human knowledge in the 20th century as advertisers,” argues Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein.
As I noted in a recent law review article on the importance of advertising, media economists have found that advertising has traditionally provided about 70% to 80% of support for newspapers and magazines, and advertising or underwriting has entirely paid for broadcast TV and radio media. Similarly, the vast majority of online sites and social media services we enjoy today are almost completely ad-supported.
You can read the full article here. In a similar vein, you might also enjoy Conor Friedersdorf’s article titled Love or Hate Advertising, It’s More Egalitarian Than the Alternative, in which he takes aim at Thomas Friedman, who believes advertising is crowding out many American civic pasttimes.