Commercialism is the practice applied by business organizations that inappropriately emphasizes on profits from the sale of products through excessive advertising and marketing. In the United States, the spread of commercialism is a means to the growth of corporate power. The origin of commercialism was a political and ideological response by corporations to fight pressure, rising social expenses, and the successes of the environmental and consumer movements in the 1960s and 1970s. In the present day, public displays of commercialism is a common occurrence in the United States. Excessive advertising and marketing have taken the public sphere in an overwhelming capacity with corporations seeking to sell their products at all costs. Corporations have successfully countervailed institutions such as churches, for instance, through sponsoring functions, governments, schools, and colleges, as well as non-governmental organizations. The United States granted constitutional protection to commercial speech (advertising), a right that corporations have exploited by proliferating advertising in every sphere of life. Commercialism has proved dangerous to the public. This essay will discuss ways in which commercialism poses some dangers to the public.
Commercialism in schools has resulted in more harm than good over the years. Most of the twentieth century hardly had advertisements in schools. However, the trend seems to have changed with the introduction of ads in schools by Chris Whittles Channel One in 1989. The program attracted the audience of over 8 million children across 12,000 schools. This success caught the attention of soda, candy, and fast food corporations who found their way into schools. These corporations used financial incentives to entice schools into accepting them. Unfortunately, this commercialism has resulted in more harm to the children, a scenario that had not been anticipated. Marketing-related illnesses have become an epidemic in cases of obesity, diabetes type 2, and smoking-related illnesses increasing at an alarming rate. An estimated 2,000 children begin to smoke every day with a third likely to die of tobacco-related complications. The high-calorie junk foods have resulted in a predictable 15% of children aged between 6 and 19 years being obese and overweight.
The excessive commercialism is also changing the perceptions of students joining colleges. A survey conducted in 2003 showed that the number of freshmen joining colleges with the perception of developing a meaningful philosophy of life had significantly dropped with most adopting a mentality of succeeding financially. Additionally, a high involvement in the consumer culture has been shown to result in psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and psychosomatic complaints in children. These findings are similar to those of materialism in teens and adults. Financial success and material gain are being adopted as the best approach to life which is a distorted perspective. Other effects are more psychological and emotional. For instance, a 2004 poll revealed that 61% of the US public felt that the amount of advertising and, marketing was out of control, while a 65% felt that they were constantly bombarded with the excessive marketing and advertising. This means that commercialism is draining the public emotionally.
As it is, corporations make every effort to advertise their products on every platform they identify. From television advertisements, to place-based advertisements, pop-ups, and the like, advertisers use every means to market themselves. A failure in one technique leads to an establishment of another. Currently, the public is faced with coerced ads such as videos on the internet which cant be escaped. There are ads before movies, on buses and trains, on ATMs, convenience stores and everywhere that has the public attention. These ads are overwhelming and annoying and with time result in disinterest from the public. This has resulted in the narrowing of the public discourse as the advertising-driven media grow more timid. The environment appears to be an echo chamber where corporations speak, and everyone else listens. The significance of the advertisements is lost to the public, and with time, the excessive advertising may not yield much profit to the corporations.
The exposure of excessive advertising to children is risky to children. In the United States, there are few legal protections for children from corporate marketers. This leaves the American child exposed to endless advertisements especially on televisions. Some of these ads may not be appropriate for children and could impact them negatively. The European Union has enacted restrictions on television advertisements during children programs. Advertisements for children below 12 years are banned. The challenge for the local governments to control commercialism is because they have turned to advertisers as sources of revenue. Until such a time when governments can disassociate themselves with the advertisers, the problem of commercialism will continue to endanger the public.
In summary, commercialism is a danger to the public if practiced without control. The excessive advertising and marketing have resulted in harm for both children and adults. For instance, advertising of fast foods in schools has resulted in market-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes type 2, as well as smoking among teens. Additionally, it has resulted in a changed perspective of life in college joining students. The government needs to regulate commercialism to an average rate.
Gary Ruskin and Juilet Schor, Every Nook and Cranny: The Dangerous Spread of Commercialized Culture
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