26th March 2023:
I want an end, a complete ban, on all corporate advertising, and in this blog post I want to explain why that is necessary.
All across the world groups, individuals and communities are involved in projects known as behaviour change projects, where the aim is to challenge existing behaviours with a view to people adopting more healthy, and dare I say it, mature behaviours.
For example, most of the project ideas contained in the campaigns section of this website are behaviour change projects, where the aim is to shift behaviour from car travel to more sustainable forms of transport. Other examples include carbon reduction projects, where you focus an initiative such as carbon footprinting on a community, and couple it with a carbon reduction plan that is supported with workshops and events, the overall aim being to change peoples behaviour to forms that produce less greenhouse gases (GHGs).
The usual thing with a behaviour change project is that you run it for a period of time, say 6 months, and then you do follow up work, say a year later, to try and embed any behaviour change, so that the effect is more permanent. Without any follow up work, the likelihood is that people will just revert to the way they operated before the project, as that is the way they are used to doing things and will tend to go back to that, all else being equal.
Behaviour change projects are difficult. Lots of governments around the world have spent many millions of pounds on behaviour change projects, looking to address car travel, or the nation’s carbon footprint. In addition, many NGOs and grassroots campaigners like myself have also run many behaviour change projects, trying to understand why people act they way they do and what the forces are that are preventing positive change from happening.
The answer is complex, but one thing that stands out a mile is the effect of corporate advertising on people. I mean, I might run a community project in a neighburhood for 6 months, engaging people on travel habits, running events, and so forth, thinking night and day about how I can help effect a modal shift in transport behaviour. I might have a budget of a few thousand pounds, or perhaps I managed to get a good funder and I’ve got fifteen thousand pounds. But all the while there is an unseen enemy that I am fighting, one that is far more powerful, far more well resourced, and far more intelligent than I am, one that spends many thousands of hours and millions of pounds focused on effecting mass behaviour change in the entire population. That unseen enemy is, of course, corporate advertising.
I mean, there’s me running my small project in a neighbourhood for 6 months, recruiting a handful of volunteers and local organisations to help out, but during the same timeframe all the people in that neighbourhood will have been exposed to hours and hours of corporate advertising, all of which has been carefully designed to lure people into actions and behaviours that are destructive to communities and to the planet.
They’ll see it on their TV, on the radio, on buses and trains, at bus stops, on billboards, in newspapers and magazines, on the internet. It’s everywhere, and its cooked up by unscrupulous organisations who spend vast sums of money and employ dedicated teams of people night and day to change the behaviour of the population to ones that suit their needs.
That’s right, to suit their needs. Not the needs of society, not the needs of the planet, not the needs of people, just their needs. Doesn’t matter that their needs are toxic, damaging to the planet, keep people in an immature state, damage society, damage health, and generally wreak mayhem. No, none of that matters, the only thing that matters is that the company makes money. I mean it’s insane, isn’t it? What makes anyone think that such a society is ever going to be healthy, or is ever going to do anything other than destroy itself, and everything else with it?
We allow, as a society, companies with vast resources to use those resources to target us to mould our minds and our behaviours to suit their profit needs, their greed, even though we know that those behaviours and those minds that the advertising induces in us are harmful, nay dangerous, toxic even, to society and to nature. We even give them our children, and allow them to cultivate the minds of our children all the way into adulthood. Of course, those children become us, and for nearly a century now humanity has basically been moulded from infancy by these corporate advertisers, our minds literally branded to their purposes. Is it any wonder we are a mindless race blindly following a path to our own destruction?
The behaviour change projects that we as grassroots organisers run for the greater good are never going to have a chance at creating change as long as corporate advertising is not ended. Yes, ended, permanently shut down. How can we ever create a shift in car behaviour if the powerful car companies have free reign on the population through corporate advertising? How can we ever create a shift in behaviour that favours more ethical consumption if the unethical companies have free reign on the population through their advertising? At best we will be fighting an uphill battle, at worst, the game is permanently rigged in their favour and we don’t have a chance, it is game over.
Yet how many groups are campaigning for an end to corporate advertising? I don’t know of any. Not one. Yet this is perhaps the most crucial campaign of them all, the one that is most needed, and unless we end it, we will never have a chance. We as a people are never going to have any control on the direction that society takes unless we end corporate advertising as it currently exists, because we have basically gifted the power to shape and mould society to the profit-mongers, not the best of us, but the very worst and most unscrupulous among us. We have gifted the power to lead society to them, and unless we end that, we are all doomed.