Thursday, May 21, 2009

What?! Advertisers are not concerned with my health?!

By Erin Rose Pfeifer

The USA Today article, “Warning: Advertising May be Hazardous to Your Health,” was really not all that surprising to me. Granted, I’ve been studying journalism for the past four years and have become cynical of every aspect of the media, almost to a fault. However, is it really “news” that advertisers put unrealistic, material-based and often unethical ideas in our heads? I didn’t have to pay $20,000 a year at college to figure that out.

The article did, however, bring back a particular memory of high school study hall. I attended an extremely sheltered, conservative Catholic school in Columbus, Ohio. At the beginning of every study hall, a five-minute program aimed at delivering the news to high-schoolers would run, complete with upbeat music, a handsome male and an attractive female anchor. The key events covered by most major news sources would be touched on, often involving funny quips, clever phrases and common slang for teens. There were also some very targeted advertisements during this five-minute news program. Although my memory is a bit foggy, I’d have to estimate that about 2 to 2.5 minutes of the program were sold to advertisers like Clarisol skin care, Nike shoes, Herbal Essences shampoo and Axe body wash.

It was targeted advertising, it took up a lot of program time and it congested the minds of countless teens with the idea that their skin wasn’t clear enough, their shoes weren’t cool enough, their hair stunk and they would get more chicks if they wore Axe. Overall, however, it was ethical (at least according to today’s standards). The editorial content wasn’t altered (that I know of) to accommodate the wants of the advertisers and the line between the reported news and when the advertisements started was clear.

Of course advertisements aren’t going to aid in us reaching optimal mental, physical or emotional health, but advertisements aren’t going away, so we need to deal. We need to educate ourselves on the concept of brainwashing, keep a level head, stay realistic and be happy with the life we are living. And we need to teach our children to do the same.

It’s sort of like smoking cigarettes. They are there. They are bad for you, pretty much all around. But they are legal and they aren’t going away. So we use our free will, ability to make decisions and education to deter people from using them. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Some people will buy into the advertisements (pun intended) and some will not. If you are of age, it is ultimately your decision to make, as to how (or if) you will let advertisements contaminate your thinking. If you aren’t of age, it is your parents’ obligation to help you see through the gimmicks.

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