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Commercials influence behaviour

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 12:41 -- Mike Czechowicz

Most people agree that advertising on TV is intrusive and pernicious, but few are willing to shell out the money it would take a network like CNN or even our own CBC, heavily subsidized by Canadian tax payers, to stay afloat, exclusively from subscriptions.  If you are a consumer of news it is especially galling to be interrupted from the newest, juicy tidbit, of the all-day soap opera, As the World of Donald Trump Turns, by what seems like ten minutes of commercials for every ten seconds of news.

CNN seems to be heavily subsidized by the pharmaceutical industry and due to laws, which govern drug companies in the US, there must be full disclosure of the negative side affects that may accompany any drug. Typically, in one of these ads, you see someone suffering from some ailment or other, having taken the drug, happily frolicking around with their dog or family, while a serious voice over lists all the ways this drug may kill you or at the very least make you worse off than you when started taking it.  

What is even scarier in the TV commercial landscape is the way people drive in car ads, and if you ever thought there was a correlation between what people consume on TV and the way they behave in real life you need look no further than the bad driving exhibited on our hi-ways and bi-ways. This is all very unscientific and studies trying to link childhood watching habits to their behaviour usually come up short on definitive conclusions. But there are an equal number of studies that show how we “are what we watch,” and there is no denying that advertising influences what we buy and at times how we behave.

Though many car commercials tote the safety features of a particular model they seem to imply that these will save you if you are too distracted to brake, need to weave to avoid snowmen attacking your car, find yourself going off road to get to your destination quicker, or are too involved with what your passengers are up to. Many commercials are obsessed with power and speed as if we live in a world without rules or limits.  They seem to be advertising cars which should be on a track, racing, rather than a road. getting us to work.  In many, the car is being driven in snowy, less than ideal conditions, at high speeds, along coastal roads, with hair pinned turns where the smallest driving error would spell disaster, with the car tumbling down a steep crevasse.

A few questions come to mind, such as why companies market some cars with such unsafe driving practices on display, and why these companies can advertise such irresponsible behaviour when road deaths, due to bad driving are ever on the increase and one of the major causes of death in Canada.

Suffice it to say that such ads are irresponsible, even though somewhere in the ad, where no one can see it or have time to read it, there are disclaimers about stunt drivers and how this should not be tried in real life. It may be time to force car manufacturers to list the side effects of driving like an idiot front and centre in their ads similar to what drug companies are compelled to do in US. Better yet, just like some cigarettes packages, show a corpse with the words “driving like this-a leading cause of death!”

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