The Financial Crisis, Debt, Consumer Society, Digital Advertising & a new Consumer Protection Policy Agenda

Reading a review by John Cassidy on the insightful new book by George Soros [New York Review of Books], it’s evident that we must also address our overall consumer culture. Too easy credit, deregulation, and the promotion of a `boom,’ never gloom’ ethos has contributed to the global economic mess. It’s clearly time we shift our priorities, so that spending and consumption are placed in a healthier balance. That’s why the emerging generation of interactive advertising and marketing technologies should be on a new proactive consumer protection policy agenda.

Our communications system around the world is in the midst of a crucial transition. Digital media–broadband video, social networks, mobile content–are ushering in a new set of content services. Most of new media is fueled by the forces of interactive advertising. The messages will be flowing non-stop to promote products and services. But such a new “media and marketing ecosystem,” as advertisers have termed it, must have reasonable regulatory safeguards. Digital advertising requires online privacy and other relevant consumer protection policies. We should not permit highly targeted and more precise marketing messages to permeate our lives, unless consumers/citizens are firmly in control.

Digital marketing communications promoting behaviors of consuming need to be transparent, understandable by the average person, and created in an above-board way (so the brands working on neuromarketing and even behavioral engagement strategies better take notice). The ad industry bears some responsibility here for what has happened economically. We all do–for either doing too little or not enough. But this is an important time for serious reflection to help put our lives–and the planet–in healthier balance. That’s why action is required by the next Congress and states. Here’s an excerpt from the review of the new George Soros book:

“As described by Soros, the “super-bubble” developed over the past quarter-century and is the result of three underlying trends: globalization, credit expansion, and deregulation. By globalization, he means not just expansion of trade in goods and services, and the rise of China and India, but the US’s emergence as the world’s biggest debtor. In the past couple of years, he reminds us, the United States has been running a current account deficit of more than 6 percent of GDP—a level usually associated with a developing country about to suffer a foreign exchange crisis…In 1980, the total amount of credit market debt outstanding in the United States was roughly the same as the GDP: by 2007, it had risen to about 350 percent of GDP. The bundling of residential mortgages into widely traded securities—”securitization”—played a significant role in this transformation, but so did increased federal lending resulting from large-scale budget deficits, the securitization of credit card debt and auto loans, and an expansion in corporate debt issuance.”

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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