Today the Mercatus Center has released a short new paper I have authored on “Unappreciated Benefits of Advertising and Commercial Speech.” I begin the piece by noting that:
Federal policy makers, state legislators, and state attorneys general have recently shown interest in regulating commercial advertising and marketing. Several new regulatory initiatives are being proposed, or are already underway, that could severely curtail or restrict advertising or marketing on a variety of platforms. The consequences of these stepped-up regulatory efforts will be profound and will hurt consumer welfare both directly and indirectly.
I go on to note that “advertising can be an easy target for politicians or regulatory activist groups who make a variety of (typically unsubstantiated) claims about its negative impact on society,” but then continue on to explain how “the role of commercial speech in a free-market economy is often misunderstood or taken for granted.” I outline how, despite regulators’ concerns, consumers actually derive three important types of benefits from advertising and marketing: (1) Informational / Educational Benefits; (2) Market Choice / Pro-Competitive Benefits; and (3) Media Promotion / Cross-Subsidization. After discussing each benefit, I conclude that:
For these reasons, a stepped-up regulatory crusade against advertising and marketing will hurt consumer welfare since it will raise prices, restrict choice, and diminish marketplace competition and innovation—both in ad-supported content and service markets, and throughout the economy at large. Simply stated, there is no free lunch.
Read the entire 1,800-word essay here. I have also embedded the document down below in a Scribd reader.