Sure, as John Kenneth Galbraith argued, advertising can encourage people to buy things that may not make them happy. The solution to the advertising problem, however, is not less advertising but more. A society with a lot of advertising is a society in which advertising is not very powerful. In any case, the competitive cacophony of the market place where the very
desperateness of the advertisers is itself an advert for their
impotence is no real danger.
The real danger is not from Madison Avenue. At the very worst, when Madison Avenue tells us how white our shirts can be, we end up with lighter pockets but whiter shirts. It’s political advertising, which often creates social images that fuel the politics of hatred, where the real danger lies. Even in the best of democracies, political advertising is nowhere near as competitive as in the market for deodorant and the product being sold is much more dangerous.