OPINION: Why I'm taking a stand against harmful advertisments

Norwich City Centre, Streetview Gentlemans Walk Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Adblock Norwich seeks to keep harmful adverts off city streets - Credit: Archant

I was only half listening because, these days, I tend to read a book while the telly ads are on. I find those strident, fake-friendly voices increasingly hard to take. But something caught my ear… ‘Have what you crave’ said the whining voiceover.

And the tone was as if this was some creed to live by - a liberating philosophy - not crippling nonsense, not an attempt to manipulate the weak and vulnerable in a voice of revelation. 

I looked up from my book. How dare they?

I mean, ‘Don’t crave at all, learn to be content’. That’s better advice, right? 

The Buddha nailed that one 2,500 years ago. Jesus said the same.


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But there it was - the evidence, just more crudely put than usual, that advertisers are not our friends. Of course, there are good adverts - campaigns, good causes and also, to be fair, when a company simply wants to tell us a decent, necessary product is available, what it costs, and what its features are. I’m fine with that.

But too often - way, way too often - they want to infantilise us - keep us childishly hungry for things we don’t need, as if to have everything was some kind of right.

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It causes unhappiness and anxiety at best. And all too often, it’s plain unethical … leading to poor health, addiction and poverty, pushing things that damage our critically-injured planet.

Am I wrong?

But, then, what are you going to do? I confess I kind of shrugged.

Then a few days later I found out that in June, following a campaign by Adblock Norwich, a group of concerned individuals, Norwich City Council voted to limit harmful types of advertising and sponsorship such as gambling, junk food and environmentally damaging produce.

Well done, them.

I missed it at the time, but as this paper reported, the proposal came from Green councillor Martin Schmierer. And Adblock Norwich is part of a national Adfree Cities movement.

As I understand it, the move doesn’t have legal force yet but the council has committed to put together a policy on limiting harmful advertising on both public health and environmental health grounds.

Let’s encourage them to push on with that.

As a member of Adblock Norwich put it to me: “This is completely do-able. Amsterdam voted to end fossil fuel advertising late last year while, closer to home, Bristol has banned ads for junk food, gambling, payday loans and alcohol.”

To find out more about Adfree Cities, see www.adfreecities.org.uk

And you can learn more about the Adblock Norwich campaign on www.facebook.com/groups/adblocknorwich

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