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Advertisers: Our New Scapegoat?

The Old "They Made Me Do It" Routine
 
Some professions take the brunt of the blame for societal problems. Lawyers, lobbyists, politicians, and banking executives are perennial fodder for late night talk show jokes. But a new Harris Poll has found that Americans believe another vocation should be added to the list: advertising agencies.
 
According to a survey of 2,200 Americans, a whopping 66 percent believe that advertising agencies have at least some responsibility for the current economic crisis. Their line of thinking is that advertisers "caused" people to buy things they couldn't afford. Thirty-three percent said that advertisers had "complete or a great deal of responsibility" for the economic downslide.
 
Here are the rest of the numbers:

- Print media, such as newspapers and magazines, are deemed to have at least some responsibility according to almost three in five Americans, while 56% of Americans say news and other information websites bear at least some responsibility for the economic crisis;
- Just over half of Americans say talk shows on TV or radio, cable news programs and network and local news programs all have at least some responsibility for the current economic crisis because they caused people to buy things they couldn't afford; and,
- Friends and family come out a little better - just over half (54%) say they do not have that much responsibility or no responsibility at all for causing Americans to buy things they couldn't afford.

There is a division by age group in where the blame should land. People aged 55 and older are more likely to blame the five media categories and the advertising agencies.  On the flip side, those aged 18-34 are less likely to say these six groups have at least some responsibility.  For example, three-quarters of the older age group say advertising agencies have at least some responsibility compared to three in five 18-34 year olds.  When it comes to print media, two-thirds of those aged 55 and older say they have at least some responsibility while just half of the younger age group say print media has at least some responsibility.
 
Why the Blame?
 
When people are mad, they look for someone to blame (or sue). Americans are angry about the state of the economy and need to hold someone or something responsible. The media is always a perfect scapegoat when it comes to taking the blame, whether it's a political slogan such as 1992's "Annoy the media, re-elect President Bush" or causing the recent economic crisis.  Advertising agencies, however, are normally under the radar screen.  Now, thanks to television shows like Mad Men and Trust Me, they are slightly more visible and they are an easy scapegoat.

By Neil Whitehall
Get Advertising Jobs, Contributing Editor

Source: The Harris Poll® Apr. 15, 2009, “Majorities of Americans Lay at Least Some Blame for Economic Crisis on Media and Advertising Agencies.” Harris Interactive Inc.  All rights reserved.

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