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Copyright (c) 1999 Yale University
Yale Journal on Regulation

ARTICLE: Advertising: Not "Low Value" Speech

Winter, 1999

16 Yale J. on Reg. 85


Daniel E. Troy +



Advertising dramatically affects what we moderns say, wear, do, and believe. After all, who among us has not moaned "I can't believe I ate the whole thing," asked "Where's the beef?" or, more recently, joked, "I love you, man." For good or ill, advertising, in Bill Bennett's words, "inclines and conditions [our] views toward a particular world view," 1 inspiring us not only to "be all that [we] can be," but also to "just do it."

Advertising also fosters competitive markets and educates Americans about choices vital to their lives. In fact, as Nobel Prize winning economist George Stigler observed more than thirty years ago, advertising is "an immensely powerful instrument for the elimination of ignorance." 2 Advertising is also of intense interest to Americans. To quote the Supreme Court, "The particular consumer's interest in the free flow of commercial information . . . may be as keen, if not keener by far, than his interest in the day's most urgent political debate." 3 Justice Scalia was more concrete in quipping at an oral argument that Americans may care more about their decision to buy a house than about the war in Bosnia. 4

Furthermore, advertising is a highly visible and essential component of the modern free press. Most newspapers average a ratio of between 65-70% advertising to 30-35% editorial content. 5 Other publications, such as magazines, often have an even higher advertisement-to-editorial ratio. 6 The Washington Post reported that 80% of its income "comes from thousands of ...
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