The subject of advertising is often treated with indifference by economists and disdain by the public. Indeed, from time-to-time, there have been calls to ban advertising. Though there has been no general ban, advertising has been prohibited in some sectors and further regulation in this field is continually being considered. Given the importance of advertising in political discussion and the lack of evidence regarding its role and effectiveness, Ralph Harris and Arthur Seldon published Advertising in a Free Society in the late 1950s. This seminal work provided a dispassionate and serious analysis of the subject. It concluded that advertising played a positive role in communicating information and building brand loyalty. Interestingly, some of the most dishonest forms of promotion came from politicians. Christopher Snowdon has skillfully abridged Harris and Seldon's work whilst adding important modern insights. Perhaps the most important of these is his critique of the claim that advertising coerces people into acting against their best interests.
He also finds that the modern economic literature largely supports Harris and Seldon's view that advertising facilitates competition and lowers prices. This new study is an important work for all interested in public policy as well as for those studying marketing in business schools or as part of a professional qualification.
From the mid 1950s to the late 1980s, Ralph Harris and Arthur Seldon, as general director and editorial director respectively of the IEA, battled against a conventional wisdom which was hostile to markets. Eventually, by force of argument, they overcame much of the resistance to market ideas, and in the process established the Institute's formidable influence in shaping both opinion and policy. Christopher Snowdon is an author and freelance journalist based in the UK. He writes for Spiked and other publications. He is particularly known as a vocal opponent of Government intervention in matters such as alcohol and obesity. He is a research fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs.