With regard to Iain Murray’s rant against the proposal to limit advertising of junk food on television (MW, June 22) he has a point worth arguing when talking about commercial freedom, but ruins it by splitting hairs on how advertising works.
He says an aim of advertising is to make consumers want to buy, but that this is OK, because it does not make them buy. He misses the point, in that advertising does cause consumers to buy, and this is the valid argument put forward by the anti-advertising pressure group (I disagree with the ban, but accept the validity of their argument). My company measures advertising effects and there is no doubt that this causal relationship exists.
Murray is right to say that banning or restricting advertising provides a good soundbite. The true target – but not such an attractive soundbite – should be supermarket promotions, in particular multibuys. They provide stock at home that will be consumed in the same period as single products, leading to the problem of obese children.
If manufacturers and retailers acted responsibly, they would limit these promotions. But this might affect profits – so it’s better for them to keep arguing about advertising.