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December 18, 2014
Why An Advertising-Free World is Bad for Consumers
 
We are sure many of you have heard about the recent trend in cities around the world getting rid of advertising from plain, public sight. Several people in those cities believe that getting advertising out of the city will increase the quality of life. On the other side of the spectrum, we have all heard the many school districts in our own nation that are seeking advertising dollars to help boost funding because no one should pay higher taxes for a better school system.

No advertising in public versus advertising in school. Which one is right? Is there a right answer?

In reality, it depends.

In our position, we think going towards the former — no advertising — is an awful idea. It is an awful idea for several reasons. First and foremost, consumers are completely ignorant to the full costs of some of the offerings they take for granted. It is extremely interesting to see that the things consumers take to be "free" are really "free for them," because the costs of providing the good or service have already been taken care of. In many cases, the costs have been paid for by advertising or other efforts.

Second, consumers are not good at choosing the best alternative and need advertising to help them decide. As we said in our last post, advertising assists in informing, reminding, and persuading a customer about a certain good or service. Taking that away from certain businesses could make the decision for the consumer that much harder, and make them more likely to engage in irrational behavior. 

Finally, no consumer wants to pay the full cost of goods and services that they are accustomed to getting for free. The rise in costs would be shocking to consumers, and they would demand that things go back to the way they were, but with no advertising. Many of the offerings would be rendered unsustainable.

An advertising-free world? Again, it is one of the things that consumers think they want, but they really have no idea.

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Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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